Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Writing behaviour

No this is not following on thematically from the previous post, though there's plenty of food for thought there. But this is a sidestep since there's only so much discussion I can have about such topics without starting to feel like I'm bringing my work home with me. I do intend (he says) to follow it up with some related thoughts, but not right now.

Given the various postings and discussions about music (and photographs, such as the post before last), much of which has been taking place at avantgardening, I was thinking about my own approach to the creative process, with particular reference to writing and recording music. This then is a summary:

1. I get a brilliant or interesting idea (or at least that's how it seems), which may be triggered off by something I've seen or heard during the day. It stays in my head and I find myself working on fully-formed arrangements - still all in my head - to the point of preoccupation. These arrangements sound startling, vivid and original, whether involving layers of guitars, computer-generated sounds, beats, samples, whatever.

2. The process described at point 1 always happens at an inopportune moment, namely when I'm nowhere near my laptop or guitar or whatever.

3. By the time I do get to my laptop, one of three things usually happens:

a. I've forgotten the idea, so I go and do something else.

b. I make a start with playing and recording. In this case, the process of translating the epic/brilliant/bombastic nonsense into something tangible, invariably runs into problems. It doesn't sound the same, in fact it sounds a bit crap. I leave it for a while and go away to think about how I wanted it to sound in the first place. Then it all starts to fall into place again, it's clear in my mind and I know what to do! This moment of clarity is once again at an inopportune moment though and so I go through the pattern detailed in points 1 -3 inclusive.

c. I make a start with playing and recording. It might not sound exactly like the original idea, but it sounds alright and I'm onto something. I listen back, like what I've heard and start to get precious about it so I'm scared to do any more.

4. I then leave it alone for a while and work on something else as a displacement activity: sometimes, this is another piece of music developed from just tinkering around with no pressure or grand designs unlike the kind of thing described in points 1-3. In fact, it's usually a completely stupid idea that seems so ridiculous that I'm happy to work on it since it makes me laugh and it's of no possible consequence.

5. Eventually I come back to the piece described in points 1-3 (this may be within a couple of days or weeks or even months, sometimes it's been literally years) and having lost the preciousness of the original idea, I'm quite happy to rip it to pieces and change it into something radically and brutally different. Sometime after it's started to finally take its own shape, I start to listen back to it objectively and realise it's pretty much what I was trying to do in the first place: it's just taken a hell of a long time getting there.

6. The music done as a displacement activity in point 4, since it involves no pressure or contrivance, almost invariably ends up being the better, more interesting piece of music.


Merkin said...

I don't know if this is off-thread, Moderator.

I was about 20 and was on the floor with the beautiful, and rather hirsute, Lesley, 'yodelling up the canyon', when I was seized by a flash of inspiration.

Looking up, I said :

'Lesley, do you think I would suit a beard?'

She slapped me pretty hard.

lavenderblue said...


As you were, trousers..
I would love to hear it all........

Merkin said...

Apologies trousers.
I was just trying to emphasise that there are often flashes of genius amongst musicians.
Flashes are sometimes ok, sometimes not.

zola a social thing said...

Bald headed men with beards?
Sounds like a cinema audience in Soho to me.

Anyway Trousers : why not always have a small notebook in your nack pocket and a pen always at hand.
Old fashioned I know but it works.

Pixie said...

explains so much about you trousers!

trousers said...

I did see what you were getting at, merk: I just didn't want to think about it too much :)

zola, I do tend to jot down ideas and reminders for myself: it IS a useful thing to do, I agree..but it still leaves the discrepancy between how things sound in my head, and how things sound once you try and translate them into something real.

pixie, reading the subtexts as always, I see :)

zola a social thing said...

Capitalism was never good for memory, was it?