Archive for June, 2011

The Sound of Modern Music

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you get fed up of hearing people say things like; “There’s no good music being made anymore.”?

I read something by a songwriter who was of the opinion that if you’re one of these people who thinks that music is over, or that there was some golden era that has been and things aren’t as good as they were then, you’re just living in a time-warp, stuck in the past, and your songwriting, art etc will reflect this.

If you have your blinkers on your style of writing will be dated, and not in a timeless way.

This idea both intrigues me, and resonates as having a lot of truth to it. you don’t hear anyone who makes their living as a musician today saying that ‘there’s nothing good anymore’.

It’s both defeatist and lazy.

Many people gravitate to music of certain eras, each formed usually by their own preferences and based around what hit them during their formative musical years, usually sometime between their early teens and up to their mid-20s – as this is when you are exposed to things for the first time, with fresh ears.

For example someone growing up in the 60s and never listening to music that was made after 1979.

As someone who views the past, present and future as one inseparable whole, I’ve never really bought into this idea that there has ever been, or will be a golden age of anything.

The point of this preamble is that in terms of view of craft, business, and competition, I think it is important to stay abreast of anything that’s going on. As a matter of military preparation, I need to know what’s going on.

It’s no good to say “everything sucks nowadays. No good music is being made…” unless you’ve gone out of your way to research and hunt down every possible musical avenue available and found nothing at all that you like.

So…..

I’m reaching out and asking for musical recommendations from the last decade or so.

  • Which bands have drawn a line in the sand between them and the past to any notable degree?
  • Which bands have done something that seems new?
  • Who has marked a turning point in modern song construction/production?
  • What are the greatest songs of the last decade by new acts?
  • What are the greatest albums of the last decade by new acts?
  • Is there anyone who has made some leap forward with music?
  • Who has really dug deep and found something dark and magical and unexpected?

For the sake of keeping on point I’m mostly interested in bands who are ‘new’ in the sense that they haven’t had anything released prior to the late 90s, but I’m always interested in musical recommendations generally.

I’ve been doing research of my own, and checking out bands that are really big but who I haven’t really listened to etc

There’s a beautiful saying:

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even for bands I don’t like, I’d like to know what people think is special and noteworthy about them.

So what do I need to hear?

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“Hey, Come to my show!”

Posted in Playing Live with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you have musician friends who only ever contact you to come and see them play? Are you one of them?

 

Here’s something a lot of musicians do wrong. I’ve done it wrong in the past, maybe still do. I’m trying to learn from it and do it differently now.

 

I have a friend who is always inviting me to see them play live.

 

The problem is I’ve lost interest, because that’s the only time I hear from this person. They don’t take the time to ask how I’m doing or what I’m up to in life, and worst of all in this scenario, have never been to see ME play even once.

 

I’ve been to a fair few shows, show support when I can, but all relationships need give and take, and when you’re getting nothing out of it in return, feeling more like a punter than a friend, your enthusiasm fails.

 

This may sound like a whine and a moan, but when I think about the relationship between myself and this other musician, I have to reflect on how I relate to the people I invite to my gigs.

 

Who wants to be like that weird family friend at the party who is always talking about selling insurance?

 

Am I being a robot? Am I ‘Mr Sell-yourself’ all the time? I hope not. I try not to be. I’ve been making the effort to speak to people, or at least more people about what’s actually going on in their lives.

 

I’m asking from a self-interested point of view, but also I want things to be enjoyable for anyone who comes to my gigs. I WANT them to feel good, I WANT them to have a good time, because a) I’m that sort of person b) If they enjoy themselves they might come back.

 

It’s in my interest to do so.

 

The last thing anyone wants surely is for their friends to start associating them with a moan or sinking feeling.

 

I had another friend tell me ages ago she stopped looking at my invites and online messages as she figured they’d all be about band stuff. I couldn’t be upset about that because she was giving me honest feedback (although I had to take it with a pinch of salt considering how flaky she is….), but regarding the story I just gave you about this friend of mine, every time I get an invite to a show, I’m not even thinking about the show, I’m just reminded of all the other points I mention, which make me groan.

 

I liked the quote Fugazi gave in their film ‘Instrument’ which was something like “It’s not important that everyone comes to our show, but it’s important that everyone is invited”.

 

I agree with that, but then it’s also how you go about inviting people to things.

 

So how does one go about it?

What The People May Say…

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by Gideon K

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve hardly been writing the past month besides the scribbling of ideas and fiddling around with loose verses etc and instead have been focusing on making use of the backlog of somewhat orphaned and homeless songs I’ve built up.

 

This morning I was thinking about a certain song of mine and how in the chorus I rhyme ‘dance’ with ‘chance’, but not the ‘Southern way’ – I phrase it so that it rhymes with ‘romance’.

 

This made me laugh a little to myself. Why?

 

It reminded me of an early experience in primary school. In North West London, people speak in a certain way, saying bath as if it was spelt ‘barth’. Both my parents are from ‘up north’ so we grew up in a house saying it without the ‘r’.

 

Anyway, in school somewhere around the age of 4, when reading out loud or putting my hand up to ‘ask’ a question, I spoke with a northern inflection and the WHOLE class, teacher included turned around to correct me on my phrasing and speech.

 

“It’s ARSK, not ASK!!”

 

My immediate reaction was – “No, it’s not”. Some innate part of me knew that they were all silly.

 

I wondered if there would be more situations like this in life.

 

In that moment, at age 4, I could see a gap between the place they were all coming from, and the world I saw, where one can say things however they damn well want, and all forms were acceptable.

 

Of course, I couldn’t have put it in to words like that then, but that seed stayed with me.

 

Two decades on, I’m sure you all know that these encounters never end, and if it’s not one thing it’s another.

 

Going back to that song, I guess I figured that

  • a) people might question or make an issue about my phrasing
  • b) It makes no difference whatsoever.

 

It’s the same now as it was then and always will be – people will try to correct you to make you more like them and less like yourself.

 

But you don’t need to take any action around it, just laugh and stay on course.

 

“If life has taught me anything it’s that 95% of the people are always wrong.” – Jack Nicholson, The Bucket List

 

The world is bigger, richer and more diverse than the school classroom.

 

Vive la difference.

 

 

 

Clearing The Deck

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you ever find you try to write but mentally have too many distractions? Too many other things your brain thinks you should be doing?

Sometimes it’s just a case of taking a deep breath and casting extraneous thoughts aside, and concentrating.

But sometimes I think those other thoughts are there for a good reason. They are telling you what needs doing first before you get started on the work.

I call this ‘Clearing the Deck‘.

In the same way that it makes sense to wash dishes between meals, before you start cooking another one, you have to tidy away your old project and clear up the dust and tools etc so that you have a clean workplace ready for the next.

This is true for me at least, I can’t work in chaos.

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”Gustave Flaubert

In the case of songwriting, I can’t sit and churn out songs one after another. It does not flow naturally for me that way no matter how much work I put into it, and comes out forced and short of breath if I hammer this method home.

There are other factors in the equation, such as playing the song, getting to know it, finding out what key and tempo works best for me, demoing the song and getting all of my ideas about it straight so that I can clear my head and leave the work alone. Then I can move on – and that’s just the creative side.

It’s a bit like the Muse story. I need to take care of the songs otherwise what’s the point?

So the past month I have been demoing old songs, making that pile smaller, digging through old notebooks for rough posts I’ve written, poems I’ve left untouched and uncared for – tidying them and even went to a poetry open mic to read a few of them out.

I’m trying to empty myself out to let new things flow in.

This might seem illogical – getting better at writing songs by not writing, but I’ve gotten one step further along in my path. I have found a way to banish extraneous notions and concepts of how and when, where and what a songwriter should be doing, and instead know more about what works for me, and of equal importance, eliminating some of the things that don’t work for me.

I’ve cleared my horizons somewhat and had a breather, so that I can start writing again with renewed focus and vigour. It might be toughter initially, but maybe I’ve just followed the natural ebb and flow of my creativity, or at least tried to correct it, suffering as it was from improper use and partial neglect.

Most of all, I’m feeling less clogged up.