Archive for August, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week 3

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 7/7

 

Artist Date: Yes. I went to my Aunt’s house to play their piano for a couple of hours. I’ve only got a busted old electric one which is no fun to play. I killed two birds with one stone because the piano playing was something on my list of things to do from last week that I didn’t get round to doing. It was good to make the time to sit down properly instead of stealing a few minutes here and there to twinkle away on the pieces that are already part of my repertoire. I would love to start taking lessons again.

Overall this week has been really good and quite busy. A little intense at times too. It’s funny sitting here and going over it: I played an open mic and gave one song a live debut, finished (I think) a song which has been evading me for a loooong time, spent a day in the studio mixing my songs (not quite right yet – everything is in it’s place and audible, but some of the power that the rough mixes had has been lost. Restoration time is on Wednesday).

I’d been listening to the rough mixes of the songs I’ve recorded and this week, for the first time really, I stared feeling really good about them. I had a sense of achievement about them, feeling that I’d worked really hard on them and that I had at least done them justice. It’s a great feeling.

On top of that I went all the way to Aylesbury last Monday for an audition with a band looking for a bass player and had a great time playing with really good musicians. I love solid drummers, they put a smile in my bones. I’m heading back there tonight actually seeing as they asked me back and seemed to like me. It’s a very small world – I got asked to try out because the guitarist knows my little sister somehow through a work placement, and it turns out the woman who runs the studio is an old friend of my mate’s dad who is also a producer.

Which brings me onto the next thing: Synchronicity.

They always go on about it in the book, and I’ve always had some sort of sense of it. It directly relates to my philosophy about buying instruments.

But this week alone I’ve had a few funny examples of synchronicity which make me think that this phenomenon is always happening but we either don’t always notice, or we tend to ignore it.

This week:

I was thinking about looking for more sessioning work now that I’ve finished recording my own tracks for the moment. My mate Steve told me that his flat mate (now ex-flatmate) was a producer who was looking for a guitarist to work with on recordings. I got the guy’s number and got in touch and we’ve agreed to talk further when he’s back in London.

I was thinking about generally being broke and how even when working it takes a while between every pay package, too long sometimes. – I found out I had been given a premium bond by my uncle when I was 13 that was just sitting there doing nothing interest-wise and so once cashed in I’ll have a spare few quid in my pocket. Much needed and very welcome thank you.

I thought it was really cold out last night when I was out and was thinking about how I should start getting ready for winter by buying some new warm clothes so that I don’t freeze my ass off.

This morning my mum asks me if I need anything from M&S because she’s got loads of points on her card from buying things there over the last few years, and would I like to use any of them.

That has been a cool development and I’m looking forward to much more of it in the near future.

The artist pages have been great. They say if you’re doing them then they are working for you. I just need to get up earlier or do them quicker and stop being late for work.

One thing I haven’t been doing so well with is the artists dates. I’ve been doing them, ok, but I don’t feel like I’ve been REALLY treating my inner artist, spoiling him the way the book seems to suggest. It’s not just a money thing because I have plenty of ideas that I could be doing that don’t cost any money. I’m not tight with money, but I am with time it seems.

I’m really glad I gave myself the time to just sit and play piano. I’m going to be doing a lot more of that sort of thing from now on.

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The Artist’s Way: Week 2

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 7/7

 

Artist Date: Yes, but I’m not saying what it was – it’s personal. But it was good, helpful, and filled up the well a little bit.

 

 

One of the things I have noticed since I started the course, and talking about it with other people, is that I keep finding out people I know who have either done the course or are fascinated by it. It has been interesting talking to people about this. They either say that the period they were doing the course was a very productive and creative time for them, or that rather than create, it forced them to deal with a lot of inner issues.

 

Either way, it seems everyone who has done it or dipped into it has taken something positive from it.

 

One of the things I need to sort out is making sure I get enough sleep. I’ve been working part-time and almost full-time for the last couple of weeks and although I’ve been getting up early for that, and earlier so that I can do my pages, I have not been going to bed any earlier most nights. Apart from not being sustainable, I’m breaking one of the points of my agreement I signed at the start of the course about taking care of myself which includes getting enough sleep. Up til the first half of this week I’ve not been doing well on the sleep front. Burning the candle at both ends, and taking a blow-torch to the middle…

 

On Thursday I tried two new things; I woke up later than intended, and simply did not have time to do morning pages at the more leisurely pace I have been thus far. I realised it was time to try pure stream of consciousness and to see just how fast I could get though the 3 pages. I think this is a step forward in some way as the effect was that pretty much the same sort of things came out, but faster, and with the odd random brain-flash in there for texture. Only my writing was less legible, but so what?

I will definitely be doing more of that. Still took me the better part of 25 mins from start to finish. I’m going to race myself and see how fast I can do the pages – just to keep it interesting.

 

Also later on that day, when reading through the basic principles and specifically about God creating through me as an artist I had a reactionary train of thought. I’d always imagined my muse as a group of lesser angels – grumpy and moody like me, a little reluctant that they got lumped with me – why couldn’t they have been assigned to one of the big boys? My tongue is not far from my cheek here, but this idea filled me with grit and determination to always prove them wrong. The spirit of ‘fuck you’ has guided me to many places. Even so, I realised that no matter how detached, devolved, demoted or delegated I may think my muse might be, it still comes from God as the source. And both realising and accepting this, I feel closer to it. No matter how close I might be to god, I’m ready for an upgrade. These angels of mine better earn their wings where I’m going. I’m ready, and I’m moving up the food chain.

 

I have had interesting changes of consciousness. It’s only been a week since last Sunday but it feels a lot longer than that. With the morning pages I find that towards the end of the second page I have cleared out any thoughts that were just blocking me, and by the third page I start surprising myself with realisations and clarity of thought regarding things that had remained mysterious up until then.

I am becoming more positive, convinced of the righteousness of the creative path and closer to something divine almost. It’s as if music is my religion, and I’m becoming much more religious.

 

I like it.

Metaphor, Images and Songs as Teachers….

Posted in Songwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by Gideon K

I was posting a comment about this on another blog, and seeing as how I wrote so much about it, I thought I’d post some of it up here in it’s own right.

The post I was commenting on was about the use of metaphor in song, and how it can be done well or badly.

Basically, I think the effective use of metaphor in song comes down to images.

Something like the Bob Dylan song ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ when he’s talking about pain and says ‘Like a corkscrew to my heart…’ – you FEEL it. He doesn’t try to tell you how bad his pain is, he shows it. And he does so with that striking image.

The human mind or imagination does not respond as well to ideas or abstract concepts, as it does to solid images. I mean the word ‘Imagination’ gives it away.

There’s an excellent section in John Braheny‘s equally excellent book ‘The Craft and Business of Songwriting’ called ‘The Imagination of the Listener’ which discusses this in great detail.

It’s due to this natural instinct for our minds to wrap themselves around images that the great songwriters and their songs are lauded for the intricately small details that point to much larger things.

Tom Waits is an absolute master at this. The song ‘Soldier’s Things’ is a case in point for very specific physical details pointing to much larger concepts and feelings.

However, just piling your songs with great images isn’t enough.

The way I look at this, and what really stands out for me about songs is realising that by design, the narration and the pace of great songs never gives you EVERYTHING in terms of information – they give you just enough to kick start your own imagination and let you do the rest.

It’s almost identical to the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher:

A bad teacher will just tell the students what they need to know and try to force the information in.

A good teacher asks their pupils questions, giving them SOME information, just enough, and forcing their minds to do the rest.

It’s by leaving the space there for our minds to fill that we are drawn into these songs. Our minds don’t like the vacuum created by the open images and are forced to fill them.

Good writers always say ‘Show, don’t tell’.

It’s a beautiful trick they play on us.

The Artist’s Way: Week 1

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by Gideon K

Should’ve posted this on Sunday night or Monday given that I’m now on my third day of week 2, but better late than never.

Days I did my morning pages: 7/7

Artist Date: Yes – I was going to go and see Mark Kozelek play on Thursday, but I brought a friend with me so that didn’t count. Instead I gave myself an hour of upright bass lessons via youtube. Like they say, you don’t need money to spend time indulging your inner artist.

Doing the pages was and has been very useful. My way of doing them is as soon as I wake up. I don’t get out of bed until I’ve done three pages. This is really interesting to me because I start writing while my mind is still waking up and thus go a little slower than I might otherwise.

I haven’t been doing stream of consciousness in the strictest sort of way, just writing about the thoughts occupying my mind as they come and putting them on the page as they are. I never think beyond the sentence I’m writing and the thought I am thinking then. It is a good exercise for staying present with your thoughts, a kind of meditation almost.

The effect this has been having on me is interesting. Once I’ve done my pages I can get up out of bed and wash, brush my teeth etc, but now when I do these things, all that is in my mind is the task in hand. I don’t have any swirling thoughts running background noise in my head – it’s a clear breeze. There is nothing going on except for whatever it is I am doing, and the world feels calm and quiet.

Like I mentioned in the previous entry, I’m still full of the optimism, determination and sense of purpose that starting a course of action brings. I’m curious to see how long that lasts for and if or how that changes.

I haven’t been doing the affirmations every day, simply because I haven’t remembered to do them. I have done them a couple of times as well as some others specific to me.

One interesting effect that I think is to do with the course even if it might not be the only cause; on Thursday, the whole day I was experiencing everything and acting in a hyper-sensitive, child-like state. I completely lost any sense of cool or composure, and was either very withdrawn and inactive, or manic, super-smiley, and enthusiastic about everything, and motor-mouthing beyond the speed-limit. Felt weird, but kinda cool too.

I was just thinking about how much detail I should go into about the things I have been working through because there is a degree of privacy needed for this sort of course to work – I can’t just blurt out all my personal issues in the middle of working on them and expect any good to come of them. I’ll see how the course goes and perhaps at the end I can go into more specifics about them.

All in all, I’m enjoying the course, and the effects it is having. I even got some actual songwriting done this week, which is the whole point of it.

The Artist’s Way

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , on August 10, 2011 by Gideon K

I’m always interested in new ways of looking at and refining creativity and challenging myself. Somehow or other along my adventures I heard about a book by Julia Cameron called ‘The Artist’s Way’ which intrigued me. It is supposed to help you clear out all of the things you have that you hold in your own way of creating, all the useless inner chattering and help you open up to new levels of creativity and clarity as well as general well-being.

 

Of course it intrigued me and I decided I wanted to find out for myself if any of it works.

 

Well in an exact case of the kind of synchronicity they describe in the book, I was at my friend Anna’s place and she had it on the shelf. I asked her about it and she suggested I borrow it as it had just been lying there. So I did.

 

That was last week. I’m just reporting in that I read the introduction on Friday and was debating when would be a good time to start doing the 12-week course prescribed in the book. I realised that procrastination was pointless and that there is never a convenient time for anything in life. If I didn’t start straight away I’d only be holding myself back. In fact, now was the best time of all to start because I’ve just finished a month-long intensive recording schedule with David ‘The Producer’ Ezra, so I’m relatively free.

 

Well, Monday was the day I officially started my course, which means I’m due to finish the process on Sunday 30th October. I’ve been doing the things prescribed in the book since then, doing morning pages each day, and working through each week’s tasks.

 

It’s going good and I feel good about it, but it has only been 3 days now, so there’s not really anything to write home about. I’m going to write a brief weekly report about it here, so if you’re curious about the book and/or my progress with it – stay tuned.

 

I’m actually off right now to go check out Anna’s band Shotgun Venus. They’re great – check em out.