The creative process is at times, a balancing act of instilling control and allowing it to slip away. Wearing the lens of discernment to see how to balance the two forces is a practice that I feel I will probably spend the rest of my life refining. And so the story goes.
The second half of 2015 has been disorientating for me. I completed paradigm shifting senior concert in late April, graduated from an excellent music education in May, and performed at a concert that I produced in late August. Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way how an “inner artist child” lives within an artist and how artists are to take care of that child. The intensity of these three events that happened within close proximity to each other have given my poor little artist child a nice roughing that I think was necessary for its growth. September was a great month to catch up on sleep and digest everything that had just happened.
Since, I’ve been left asking, Where the hell do I go from here?? Yes, playing more shows needs to happen. Yes, recording needs to happen too. And yes, exercising creativity needs to happen. Which leads me to the next step: writing and recording an album over the next few months.
Part of the reason for this blog’s existence is to document the creative process that I’m in the midst of and hopefully gather some interest around it. Normally I try to keep this part of the process as elusive as possible, making sure that the first mention of anything I have been working on is upon its release. Now I want to experiment. Not only with my creative process, but also with the mode under which I operate. I want to experiment with vulnerability. I want any insights or knots to be completely laid out on the table. So go ahead, make yourself at home, and be my guest.
One different approach I’m taking this time around in putting together an album is breathing life into some older songs of mine. I have this bad habit of completely disregarding the work I’ve done in the past. Oh, you didn’t fully dive into Stravinsky’s work or learn that Led Zeppelin song when you wrote this! How can this song possibly be representative of who you are now?? Yet, during the show I played in August, I performed a 5 year old song of mine. Performing the song, “Lullaby,” was like reading an old journal entry; I remembered the emotion and thought behind the song, but was also able to bring new experiences to it. This process of making something old new and exciting again allowed me to use creativity in a different way. I was no longer trying to create something from scratch, but rather I was taking something that had already existed and making it sound as if it was entirely new. When I met Steve Reich a few years ago at Stanford University, he told me to “write a piece of music, listen to it, figure out how it could be improved, fix it, then start writing your next piece.” Self pedagogy. Not the most comfortable or easiest practice to do.
It is unfair to not give my younger self a chance at laying down the foundations for a song that is worth revisiting. If I were to never dip my toes into the swimming pool of five years ago, how am I to tread through today’s river before me?
After this thought, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and make a tally mark of every song I have recorded since 2010 (with the exception of two songs from 2009). I tallied up a total of 105 songs recorded! Not to mention, songs that I probably never recorded and have forgotten about. Now I’m not saying that I will rewrite all 105 of these songs; some of them have little or no interest to me anymore. Nor am I saying that I refuse to write anything new. However, out of these 105 songs, there are at least 30 of them that are worth traveling to again, even if for one last trip.
The next step is to make an intentional list of older songs that I would be willing to learn and work on again. From there, I can get to know them more again and relearn why I wrote them in the first place.
I do have other thoughts about how I will be recording this album, which will be a bit unusual for today’s techy standards, but I’ll save that for the next post. Stay tuned, my friends!