Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Self and Other in Music Composing

When you make something, anything, how much are you focused on what the audience, recipient, user expects? How much is what you want to do, and how much of the finished product reflects what you think the customer, fan, or reader wants?

I'll examine the art of music composition. I create original music, orchestrate loops and samples, process concrete sounds, add vocalizations, and mix the whole mess into what eventually become songs.

When I compose a new song, I have past examples and future potentials guiding me. I remember what I liked about my own past work, and the music of others, and I imagine how these techniques could be applied to new material, or how they could be improved.

I seek to please myself and those who have expressed satisfaction in some of my music. I remember statements they've made to me, what they liked and what they hated about my music. I think about what I dream of music becoming.

When I listen to a finished song, if I feel that a fan would not be able to tolerate some sound that is too shrill, too time-consuming, or too loud, I go in and fix or delete the offending segment. If I can listen to a tune 12 times without hating it or flinching at something wrong, then I feel that my fans might also put up with it.

I cannot judge a song just by my own feelings, which is the mistaken path most composers unfortunately tread. They traipse along with joy in their hearts, loving each new song. They don't care what anybody else thinks. They have decided their new tune is brilliant, genius, an instant classic.

Many composers make music for other musicians who despise popular music. They insist on listening to, and creating, only "difficult music". If it's difficult to understand, that's fine with me. I love music that's complex or made with instruments and methods that are not in my power to fully imagine. Mysterious music.

But if by "difficult" you mean "hard to enjoy, even after repeated attempts and painful listening sessions", I cannot go that route. No matter how strange, bizarre, and innovative your music may be, it still must be something people will want to spend time listening to.

Self and other are very much present in the composition of great music, and great products of any type.

Too much self causes the music to be self-absorbed, opaque, narcissistic, auto-euphoric, arrogant, disconnected, boring.

Too much other causes the music to be imitative, opportunistic, exploitive, standard, restrained, predictable, dull.

The right blend of self and other causes a product to shine with authenticity and community.

No comments: