reposted from My Musical Journey

Every now and then I start on a piece, inspired by some idea or some process. And like many pieces it grows from there. And it grows and grows. 

The ideas come fast and furious and just pile on.

Pretty soon it's a big blob of swirling, gurgling sound.

And I change from an artist with a blank sketch pad to a sculptor attempting to find beauty in a large hunk of rock.

Sometimes I despair that there is no beauty in the mound of sound.

Should I leave it behind, move on to the next piece? Will I be able to find this place again? Is this place even worth revisiting?

I have no answers. Only similar, perhaps more naive, questions that many, much wiser before me have asked.


Views: 457

Tags: angst, artistic, musing

Comment by Steve Brand on November 28, 2011 at 11:29am

Great question and subject matter, Georg.

I learned from a professor years ago that you have to be willing to "over-work" something...whatever it is...visual art, sound, whatever. You have to be willing to make what seems at the time to be "mistakes." Having gone too far, over-worked the piece, you now know that feeling, you know where "too much" is. You now can avoid it in the future, or can begin to erase, to over-paint, whipe-out...or know how to start deleting to get it back to a less cluttered and clearer state. Of course, this depends on how you record: I do "live" improvisations, but I usually make sure to create them in layers so elements can be added and subtracted. Some people record live all in one go...they might have more to add in this area.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow of the ideas as they come. To do anything less is blocking, efforting, forcing, thinking too much (which will always block your creativity). You never know which of those apparently useless ideas will lead to a new thing that will be that you can use elsewhere in something new and that you might not have arrived at had you not just let it all come.

I personally always have 4-5 projects going at the same time. This allows me lots of room for experimentation and cross-polination. Weirdly, projects retain the distinct character of the idea that began them, but techniques, "goofs," outtakes, leftovers can carry from one to the other and inform them all. I think working on several at once also liberates me from treating them as precious, like the one and only thing I'm working on that HAS to go right.

Oh, I always find that after a crazy session of just getting ideas down, it's always good to back off for some time, come back to it later, listen objectively as possible, and start deleting or turning off layers (making sure to save them!).

Comment by Georg Nikodym on November 28, 2011 at 11:51am

Heartfelt thanks for your generous response.  Has me looking forward to the end of my "back off" time.


Comment by Steve Brand on November 28, 2011 at 12:31pm

It's a great subject, Georg...and I personally feel that this sort of thing is where rM.ning can really be such a powerful resource.

As I've written before, when I first started working in sound in the early 90's, there were no blogs that I was aware of, or had access to, for this kind of feedback and information. That's why I'm more than happy to share my thoughts and experiences, and why I reached out to some of my favorite artists in the form of packages and letters...then eventually get their feedback and ideas. I also just did a lot of trial and error on my own, which was the best thing I could have done, because this allowed me to become very familiar with what I liked, what I was drawn to, what methods allowed me the most freedom, and those that didn't. I take a lot of pleasure in learning new ideas, techniques, thinking, approaches that I can apply to existing and new projects.

Comment by John K-N on November 28, 2011 at 1:31pm

Same with any creative project...  sometimes I get stuck, sometimes I over-indulge, sometimes I over-engineer, sometimes I under-engineer...  I follow my instincts, switch off my brain when "creating" and turn it back on when "engineering".  (or a healthy balance between off and on...)


Connections... definitely - finding people to discuss music techniques or creative approaches... a small circle until the internet opened up all these possibilities of communicating with people around the world on a regular basis.  :-)


When I'm actually writing music - I always have multiple projects going.   At some point one of the projects 'takes over' and becomes the primary one for awhile.   This allows me to pursue different ideas and not worry so much about what's right or wrong and to just go with the flow.


Right now - I'm not recording at all.  

Comment by Georg Nikodym on November 28, 2011 at 1:45pm

Hmm, multiple open projects... that seems to be the biggest hint here.  Hmmm.  When I started my journey, I insisted on finishing things.  There were a bunch of good reasons for that (one being using a new technique in a track just as a child is encouraged to use new words in complete sentences) but I think it might be time to relax a little on that.


Comment by John K-N on November 28, 2011 at 1:56pm

I like to create rules for projects... but I always reserve the right to break my rules.  ;-)


I think you've reached the point where it's time to break your rule!   


Not every idea needs to be (or should be) "finished".  When you get stuck... move on for awhile.  Some tracks need to sit and just "be" for awhile.  You'll know when it's time to come back to them and revisit those ideas.

Comment by Bill Fox on November 29, 2011 at 8:58am

When you've piled on "too much" is the time to mute certain tracks at certain times to allow the essence of the piece to come through without having to fight its way.  I like what Steve's professor said about over working a piece.  Just remember that music is about contrasts.  Whenever you have a fast section, consider having a slow one.  Whenever you have a loud section, consider having a soft one.  Whenever you have a dense section, consider having one that has only one or two instruments.  Contrasting ideas give dynamics to a piece which hold the listener's interest.

Comment by John K-N on November 29, 2011 at 9:06am

Excellent advice, Bill!   Dynamics...  Contrasts...  Variations... Differences...  soft loud hard gentle thin fat dense singular analog digital nature synthetic field recording acoustic electric repetitive chaotic cluster melody counterpoint harmony discord happy sad dark light deep fluffy subterranean outer space inner space muted silent.

Comment by Tomorrow's Man on November 29, 2011 at 9:15am

Fantastic post, eloquently put -- I absolutely feel that same frustration.  I think I have 20 projects half-way complete right now, none of which want to 'sing' to me and tell me what they want to be.  Hmm, maybe we need a project swap forum on here....!

Comment by The Next Commuter on November 29, 2011 at 9:16am

It happens all the time I guees, with lots of musicians (and others). I haven't started making ambient music only about 11 months ago, but I can tell you this (kinda like Bill Fox already said) : don't be afraid to cut ! In the beginning, I was very much unwilling to cut out or mute parts that I thought sounded good. But now I can be rather rough in this, and completely mangle up parts or complete tracks if the whole doesn't sound the way I want it to. What's the worst that can happen? That you lose a part coz you didn't save it? Well, record it again, it 9 chances out of 10 it even will be better :-)

And not finishing every single project is good! Néver finishing a project not so. It's very nice to dig up older, forgotten recordings, take out of it what you like, and build further on it. Can be very refreshing.


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