Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do The Right Thing

There's a bit of a crisis going on in my brain right now, though to be fair it's always been a crisis- just one that only rears its ugly head every now and then. It's the crisis of knowing that the things I create aren't even remotely "good enough." Surely this is something every artist (note: I'm not yet ready to apply this label to myself, but who is, really?) struggles with at some point in their career, but knowing that doesn't make me feel any better about it. I'm enthusiastic about my projects as I'm working on them, and a lot of the time I'm pleasantly surprised when I go back and listen later with fresh ears, but for some reason I can't ever imagine them truly appealing to anyone else in a serious way. I know it's a psychological thing, but it's tough to be an effective therapist when you're trapped in the head of your patient 24/7.

I did a bit of listening to some of my favorite non-me produced music today (analyzing song structure if you must know), and I couldn't shake the feeling that I would never be able to live up to the achievements of those artists. My music could never be as moving, as complex (or as simple), as poignant, as [adjective] as theirs, and it really was disheartening. Thinking back it's always been this way for me. Friends tell me they like what I'm working on, but I can never take them seriously, no matter how much they reassure me. How can you trust your friends to be critical? Then again, how can you trust yourself NOT to be critical I guess.

I read an interview with Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields a while ago, where he mentioned that when he listens to his albums he only hears the flaws. I guess that's comforting in some ways. And really I know that this kind of insecurity has got to be a pretty normal thing when it comes to putting yourself "out there" creatively. I just wish I knew of a way to build up my music self-esteem. I wish I had a mentor who would tell me if I was on the right track. Sometimes I wish the music I make sounded more like the music I listen to, because at least I know that I like that! Oh, the struggles we face.

Not much fun without a little struggle though, right? And on that note, a clip of something new I'm working on. Take it as you will.

Clip 5


the-way said...

Unrequested critique:
a bit mechanical... i'd change the high hat sample to something a little more organic, i like the clicky percussion, where's the melody?

How's THAT for music esteem building? That said, keep at it... don't think of it as such a rigid process. Song structure is important but it should almost be an afterthought. The piece should dictate the structure, not the other way around. You're approaching it in a very computer science way :)

Where are my remixes yo!

Kyle said...

My dad always used to say do the right thing. It makes me happy to remember that.

And re: never being able to make anything as beautiful as someone else, I used to feel the same way. I don't mean I overcame that feeling, I just stopped writing songs... Ack! Ok that's not what I wanted to say, what I wanted to say is nothing will ever be any good unless you're doing it for yourself. Only be self-critical enough to make it what you want.

David said...

I wanted to chime-in about song structure. I think one of the major roles of song-structure can be to help flesh-out partially developed musical material. If you know you're writing in a 16-bar blues form, a lot of decisions have been made already; but there's still enough to creatively express ideas.

Even without deciding on a specific top-down organization in advance, I've found it can be productive alternate thinking top-down and bottom-up; consider what larger-scale structures would best contain or relate your specific musical material, but also adjust and generate more of that material so that it will fit within larger-scale structures. Usually I'd switch back and forth whenever I'd get stuck, or feel like I wasn't getting anything new.

I feel like it's really common for electronic music to either borrow forms from pop music, or to use a linear approach to layering or developing the material. I'd really love to hear some new ways to organize electronic music. I think there's a lot of structural ideas that could be adapted from classical music. You could use the Sonata form, or write canonic structures, for example. I've been liking the idea of starkly contrasting blocks with little to no transition (as in Stravinky's Rite of Spring)...

Anyway, I definitely endorse the keep-at-it sentiment!