I spend a lot of time looking out of my studio window when I’m working. There is a large North-facing window in the room at roughly eye-height. I love seeing the sky and the clouds moving across it and how the view changes over the seasons.
My trusty Sony R1 powers on very quickly, so I can capture something interesting when I see it.
Here’s a small selection of July 2012 views.
An Embarrassment of Riches
I’ve just bought Native Instrument’s software Kontakt sampler and have spent the last few days starting to get to grips with what it can do and it made me reflect on how much time I’ve spent doing the same thing with numerous other music software programs. I like to think that I work ‘lean’ and I use as few programs as I require, but I don’t think that is really the case these days. I don’t have any hardware kit to speak of, but I have lots of music software. I made a mental list of all the DAWS (Digital Audio Workstations), synths, effects, sample libraries and other various audio esoterica and it’s quite exhaustive !
Quite often I spend a fair bit of time learning something which ends up getting very little use (if any) in my music. The positive thing to say is that its part of the lifelong learning thing that we are told is good for our brains and keeps the creative juices flowing. Eno said something to the effect that its a good thing to keep working, even though we may not be producing anything as it keeps our creativeness ‘alive’, so that when a great idea comes along we are able to act upon it. I feel the same about guitar playing, I try to play for an hour a day, just to keep ‘in shape’ so to speak, in case anything comes along. I tend to forget the specific details of a particular program as I move from one to another, but I feel there’s an over-riding memory of what it can do that is planted deeper in the brain that comes to the surface when needed.
So, I think I need to prioritise somewhat and concentrate on the potentially useful stuff. Saying that, experimentation is a big part of what I do and I do love to experiment with all these musical tools and sound producing thingies to broaden my musical palette as much as possible. These exotic and esoteric sounds inspire me and I don’t feel that time is wasted searching to discover the small but select sound ‘gems’ that I stumble across / refine.
Artistic Success and Failure
I think it’s fair to say that our expectations (realistic or otherwise) form the basis of what we think is an artistic success or a failure. In terms of any artistic endeavour, self-expression is in itself a ‘success’ in my view. It certainly beats a lot of things that people do with their lives, for sure ! From the desire simply to create a piece of music to wanting to work with (say) Brian Eno or some other musical hero, differing aspirations determine how far an artist desires to strive toward. Of course this can lead to ‘failure’ on these terms and disappointment is certainly possible with lofty aspirations.
Failure isn’t an entirely negative thing, I’ve found that there has only been a very small number of projects I’ve been involved in that I can’t recall learning anything useful from, even when the projects that haven’t met my expectations, I could take some ‘positives’ from them. I have an electronica side-project called ‘Formbank’, in terms of lack of airplay, reviews and sales it is something of a failure, but I use a completely different approach for that project than my Igneous Flame work and it actually helps that side of things a lot in terms of composition and structuring a track.
On the other hand, I feel there can be a danger of classifying every artistic venture as a ‘success’. Without the analysis and self critique to see that some projects didn’t really work, there’s no incentive to try to improve future work. Being self-satisfied with one’s work is a tricky one – I veer to the side of self-criticism as opposed to self-satisfaction. I’m not wild about hearing other artists avidly praising their efforts, for sure trying one’s best is a requisite, but the work should stand up on its own irregardless of promotional wordings. On that subject, ‘Press releases’ – now there’s another (future) topic ! I’m reasonably happy with the way my ambient music project has gone and I love the fact that people are listening to it and it is resonating with them, but I want to do more – create better work, that more people listen to.
Lastly, someone asked me what I wanted to do when I was young and I said I’d like to make strange sounds all day, so in that sense, I’ve achieved success !
So, Is this a deeply oppressive gloom or a subtly beautiful skyscape ?