How to be prolific, excitable and a great artist – while building a performance career.

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Warning: philosophy in progress. Proceed with caution

In my last post I spent a lot of time railing at what essentially you could call “The Trap™” that is the professional recording/performance/composition industry. I spoke of how creating music is an internal ambition and the motivation for Art needs to be one of un-suppressed wonder and exploration, not naked and unbridled social lust.
I wanted to get across in that blog post (mostly conversing with myself) that I was trying to express the awakening of my-self to the idea that music – for me – is inherently artistic and more than that, it is an external manifestation of complex inspirations and a development of mind, body, spirit. I cursed those who would make music for popularities sake while exalting the brave musician who pursues significance at the cost of popular cultural relevance.

Having said that…

There may come a time when you are sick of your bedroom studio or your alcove in the corner and mayhap you feel ready to express. Perhaps it is an eloquent soliloquy, a thumping beat, or perhaps an epic soaring counterpoint. Deep down it may come to you as a fever, a primary energetic urge, but mostly likely it will emerge as the need to exhort the gods of good fortune to allow you the slimmest of chances, so that you, like all the rest, will get a moment where you can deliver a climactic emotional experience through the revelry of sharing creative works with a larger audience.

I think this is a point that I am reaching and it is one that I am keen to explore. I have dwelt in the cave of deep personal exploration (not like that 😛 ) and I feel stressed at the seams, ready to explode (not like that either). I feel ready to spew forth my individualism and seek social interaction in an ecstatic orgy of human connection through distribution and performance.

Ahem… let’s just Stop. Hammer time. (Mrs Hungee – *facepalm*)

It sounds really contradictory doesn’t it? Here I was railing at the social lust of others while exhibiting a similar sentiment. Naturally I am going to defend my position but before I do, I would like to ask a question that I will get back to later in this piece.

“If there is no purpose to a piece of Art, is there value in the Art? Or is an Artwork’s value defined by its purpose and also by its relative success in fulfilling that purpose.”

Heady words… But let’s move on for the moment and consider something else.
I used to believe in the idea that “Music is only valuable once it is played to people. Music requires receiving ears to be worthwhile.” This quote seemed to me to be a very sensible and logical statement and since it was a paraphrasing of a quote by a Metallica band member it was also quite self-serving. If you are one of the most listened to bands of all time you will probably see artistic merit as an extension of that most powerful of metrics. But what else can the humble and quiet back-of-the-bus muso use to judge and refine their work?

Friends and family? Sure… If you want people that say they love it. What else? The opinion of peers, teachers and other humans can seem worthwhile but in actuality is it really that valuable to you as an artist? It might improve your craftsmanship, but is that what you are asking for? Are you wanting to improve craftsmanship, or artistic-ness? To be perfectly straight, If you are a truly great artist most of the good praise will come after you are dead and that is of no use to anyone who is trying to improve their art. What about other metrics? Maybe the way it looks, the way it sounds, different audiophile environments or emotional response in chimps? What about how it inspires or emotively touches small children or large children or adults (who are also at times… children?)
What possible metric can you personally use to judge your work objectively? It seems to me an impossible task because music is inherently a subjective item. Think about it. My old teachers would ask my classmates and I, “What is music?” and we would all say,

“Music is organised sounds.”

(Groaning as we did from the repetition) 

Yet that statement is actually very profound and not just because it opens almost any sound combination up as music. In fact let us really dig in and re-word that statement more specifically. Let us instead say,

“Works of Music are; More than one sonic impulse organised by a conscious being, in a way that conscious beings can interpret as organised and integrate into a contiguous set of sonic impulses that make sense as more than their separate parts.”

Hmmm… That is of course a very long sentence and one that my teachers would naturally have not wanted to explain / teach. I can see the hypothetical head scratching in the classroom as I write this post.  However for the sake of argument we can say that this statement is the full unabridged version of what that original statement entails and it is from this that we can draw a couple of interesting logical conclusions.

Firstly, music is subjective and so is Art. There is no objective truth inherent in these works that we create. By necessitating a subjective filter this statement defines Art itself as subjective. On this we are on solid philosophical ground. Naturally therefore, it is only in the interpretation of the Art into organized patterns that these sounds have purpose.

Furthermore, it is only in the complex process of pattern recognition and interpretation that these artworks create meaning for the listener. (Pattern recognition, which is defined by a person’s experience)
In a very real way you can say;

Experience = Brain filtering = Response to stimuli = Experience = Ad Infinitum

Secondly, of great interest is the idea that due to the individual nature of each mind (itself a unique creation), the work of Art is, due to the very nature of the thing created anew in every single individual as it is filtered through a unique set of processes and memories to create an emotional response. In effect we can then take a leap and say:

“The art is not the work, but rather the individual response.”

Let that sink in for a moment… Fucking deep, isn’t it?

.

……

Ok, take a moment and a deep breath and adjust your brain pants from stretching due to (what Mrs Hungee calls) a “thought boner” that I just gave you.

At this stage it is now important to return to my earlier seemingly random and isolated statement and also to conclude my opening statements.

“If there is no purpose to a piece of Art, is there value in the Art? Or is an Artwork’s value defined by its purpose and also by its relative success in fulfilling that purpose?”

To answer this, please indulge me in a final thought experiment.
Imagine that you create a piece of music, a single tune that has no overt craftsmanship or style, the order which the sounds play is chosen by throwing darts at a board covered in pitch symbols so that even though it may appear chaotic, it was in fact organized (via your throwing arm) by a conscious being and is therefore by our earlier definition, “music. You were not inspired, it has no perceivable social value and it has no specific meaning to you. Does this piece of music have purpose?

My answer is No. (except for the added value of throwing pointy things at a wall)
The question therefore is now,

“Does it have value?”

My answer here is, yes.

Why?

Earlier, I stated that “The art is not the work, but rather the response.” – which may be taken to infer that in the case of purposeless music that may produce indifference, is still at some point in your life filtering through your conscious, informing every other work you will ever hear in your life and also creating stimuli that inspires emotion and thought. It has meaning because it creates a subjective response. Not because it is defining an objective truth or because it is a killer dance track.

It has value without having purpose because the Art is the response not the object that causes it.

To conclude this post I must finish by addressing my opening statement:

Am I a total sell-out to want to perform my music live, to desire the opportunity to express my creative works to a crowd larger than one?

After all this philosophizing and thought experimentation the answer I arrive at is no, I don’t think it is vanity, or social yearning that drives me. I think it is the natural urge to create again and again, and to yearn for my Art to create a multitude of responses, each unique, different and more wonderful than the last. Perhaps it is my Egoic self, lying to drive me towards the dark places of my soul. However I think I can balance that argument by thinking about the juicy tantalising thought that;

“Art is never finished as long as there are more conscious filters to process the Artist’s creations.”

 

So there it is. A delicious thought with much potential and one I personally intend to pursue… Cautiously.

Editor’s note: And a final thought boner for you Mr Hungee, the Art is also in the creating. The beauty is in the creator’s expression as well. You yourself(Hungee) have experienced this – Mrs Hungee

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The art of being satisfied.

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For a long time, (it feels) I pursued a dream, a dream of greatness. I wanted so much to validate my existence through doing something so great that I would live on in people’s minds past the point of natural relevance. We are here on this world for such a short time, the blink of an eye in the terms of human history, that to have an effect on the world as a whole felt (to me) like a goal worth achieving. Something that would make the gifts I have been given a worthwhile investment by society and family. As one of the lucky few to be born in a country that is imbued with such wealth and opportunity it seemed imperative that I live up to my potential. That is the worst kind of thing to live up to and a problem I have faced continually (a first world problem at least). I have been told my entire life that I have great potential, which becomes a burden when you look around and see bongs and beers and not much in the way of forward progress standing in the way. Oh, if only my teachers and elders has said, “He seems like the kind of guy that will find his level with bongs and beers and god knows what else.” .. how my life would have been different.

It would have been so easy…

Enough whingeing and moaning and to the point you say? Oh dear, what hubris – that I have a point to be made, oh dear.

I decided to write this post, though many will not see it, because I feel it is best for my soul if I come clean to the greater mind of humanity. Maybe through my extolling the failing nature of reaching for the stars will another unwitting and naive soul realise the truth that is laden in my heavy words. That potential is limitless, and you can always live up to more of it… but enough I have given you the beginning and the end yet not the middle. Let’s continue to there.

I remember clearly the moment I decided I wanted to be a musician. It was back in my early 20’s (i started late) and I had been through one of my inevitable bouts of depression which was linked to the listlessness and vague yearning of a youth without direction. I had lost all hope and in pure desperation reached out for the only thing that I knew to help in such times. Hard uplifting trance (I was young and had no direction, OK!)

As Cosmic Gate blared a refrain about yesterday or tomorrow (i cannot remember which) through distorting computer speakers it occurred to me that music is such a wonderful and magnificent force for biological, intellectual and social good. In that moment it was the perfect mood changer that lifted my darkened vision to a high peak of clarity, of an untroubled calm that only a few moments before had seemed impossible.

That revelation changed the course of my life. I came to realise in one naive and fateful moment a desire that would encompass my very being for the next 6 years. I had found my calling. I would find a way to learn music, (I had been told that i had the dreaded ‘potential’ some years before) to broadcast it to the world and for the many I would touch (there goes that hubris), they would know a moments peace, joy or enthusiasm for this world which up until moment’s past had been bleak and desolate. (but if I was honest was not really that bad).

If I could change anything about that moment, it would be some of the assumptions that I made, assumptions that in hindsight appear very foolish. These hindsight revelations naturally have come after hard lessons and tough emotional crises, fraught with all the good things an artist needs like overcompensating from self doubt, overt and ignorant rejection of other artists, and a deep and abiding disgust of my own work. I have been through it all. I regret nothing, but I do wish I had learnt my lessons easier and without such stubborn adherence to an idiotic ideology that (though warned away from) I had stuck to out of sheer determination to see it through.

Assumption 1 – Popularity = significance

I have been lucky enough to be taught by some great teachers. One, who it turns out was quite influential in mid and late 20th century experimental compostional electronic music, and was a pivotal figure in the minimalist movement way back when, opened my eyes to the nature of music evolution and how the most important thing an ‘artist’ can do is understand that to be “significant” one must by the very nature of the thing, be irrelevant. Tipper, is not Tipper because he copied what everyone else was doing. Tipper is Tipper because he understood what everyone else was doing and then took a tangental turn and expanded our cultural understanding of what ‘dance’ and ‘IDM’ and ‘experimental’ really means. By its very nature Tipper’s music, like many innovators before him, broached a new topic and waited for us to catch up. That is why he was significant, while at the same time being completely irrelevant to what his contemporaries were up to. You do not need to be relevant to be significant and to be honest, most of the people that are trying to be relevant… do not create significant works of music. Not to say they aren’t fun or great pieces of music, The just don’t stand out. They don’t inspire generations. They don’t fulfill the artistic drive to be extra special and unique.

Assumption 2 – One person is not enough.

One person is enough. That one person can even be you and that is enough. Trying to create a world movement is fruitless. No-one creates a world movement. A world movement happens because people are already moving. Trying to become a hit musician is a recipe for waking up in a hotel room in your 50’s strung out and full of disappointment. It is recipe for sleepless nights and missed opportunities. The best musician is one who reaches out and touches you in your soul. The best music wasn’t written by someone thinking of grand crowds. It was written by a person who was desperate to be moved, deep inside. Someone who wanted to feel something magnificent and in doing so used craftsmanship to capture that moment. By the way, great craftsmanship begets great works. Great works do not come from a special understanding or using special harmonics or using the ‘right’ drugs.
Sure, if you are going to make psy-trance it is probably a good idea to be taking a lot of acid.. which is one reason I don’t make psy-trance. My acid days are long in the past

Assumption 3 – Happiness is at the end of the road, and so is fulfillment.

This is the worst one. One which I still struggle with and I see others struggle with every day. It is hard to be a musician/artist and see others do great work and seem happy if you have never let you be there yourself. Happiness and fulfillment should occur at the beginning, during and after the act of creation of art. Art is in of itself an act of fulfillment. If you are waiting for your Skrillex moment, or your “breakaway” success story, give up now because even if it comes you have missed the whole point of the thing and that means you are wasting your time. I doubt I will ever make it “big”, industry recognition no longer has any flavour for me (which is easy to say cause i never had any). If a friend of mine likes the track that is a happy moment but even then, that is not the satisfaction that I crave.
The satisfaction, the fulfillment, the joy (whatever it is for you) comes when you begin to lay down some basics. It is when you feel in your soul a story worth telling and it takes shape in front of your eyes, It is in the moment when you sit back and smile… click save and go and find a beer/jebus/bong/glass of water. It is in these moment’s that I believe a good artist finds his place in the world. If I had known that sooner I would have saved myself so much angst. Everything else is hollow. But that act of creation, of manifestation is pure and is only brought about by effort and direct inspiration. It is a magical moment that only craftsman know and everyone else envies and it is yours every moment you create…. If you would but hear it in your soul.

I have maybe 150 followers on Soundcloud. My fb page has no more than 23 likes, which is not great for the world spanning career that I had previously dreamt so fervently about. It has taken me so long to admit intellectually to my overweening pride and excessive need for praise. I am not even sure I truly know it in my heart yet. But I can guarantee you that though the music industry is fraught with ignorant fools and socially starved wannabes, that does not have to be you. Fame is at best a tool to be used, and at worst the driver of a lot of insignificant and irrelevant pieces of… work… – do not let a desire to be greater or “live up to your potential” distract you from the key element of creating music and art. Instead let the deep satisfaction of creation drive your work, let it drive you to better technical understanding, greater composition and exceptional performance because at the end of the day you must always remember this one thing.

If it is that fucking good, people will listen.

Lots of love,

Hungee

http://www.soundcloud.com/hungee

Electro-acoustic History – Futurism

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So, one of the  great things about a formal education in electronic/electro-acoustic  music is the background history you get. Behind every filter, every synth, every piano roll is hours, days, years of experimentation in which that particular style was conceived to be the best. This EA history series will look at some of the Major contributors to synthesis, DAWs and the roots of Electronic music starting in the 20th century. Hopefully I will be able to make it interesting, unlike any history class… ever.  🙂

 

So this journey begins in the earliest moments of the 20th century. As Orchestral music hits its peak and blues and roots music starts to take… root? *facepalm*  in America. Half way across the world, a small collective of mostly visual and (a few) musical artists smoke pipes, drink a suitably cheap alchoholic beverage in great quantity and most of all, consider loftily the world which they lived in. They took note of the fact that as the Industrial Revolution took hold, the natural world is being replaced by machinery and noise, sharp edges and grime. They (being a bunch of alchoholic artists… not much has changed, right???) go on a bender one night and think outloud.. very out loudly to themselves… Why is it that the music of the day reflects a natural environment rather than the mechanical and edgy world of the industrial landscape. Then they crash their car. This has no relevance. They are just that drunk.

In some ways you could say they created the first truly “urban” music. 😉 no. Actually. You can’t. But you are welcome to think it.

What they created was well… awful. It was an instrument called the “Intonarumori”

check it out here if you like ->
http://www.thereminvox.com/article/articleview/116/1/31/

if you don’t like, (many didn’t) please sit back and use your mind to imagine this picture that I will paint with less than one thousand words.
Imagine an electric grinder, or drill, or a circular saw. (sounds lovely right?) It is next to a string strung horizontally front to back in a box (this string vibrates with sympathetic resonance when the circular saw turns. Then the string is connected to an old school horn speaker. It has a lever on the side of the box which can be set to two speeds. It sounds terrible. It was terrible. check it out here if you like, or more to the point.. you hate your ears.

Now, All aesthetic considerations aside it was a monumental moment in Electro-Acoustic music and one that should not be missed as it set up the ideas later expressed by the likes of John Cage or even Mr Bill. It is the idea that a sound can be harsh and yet be musical, it can not be derived from a string or a stretched hide and can be musical.. It can not be a specific “pitch’ AND STILL BE MUSICAL. From this we can see Electro-Acoustic music begin to define itself, especially once brilliant and slightly less “sauced” musicians start to explore the rich tapestry of sound that we now take for granted on a daily basis.

Yep. And there you go. Lesson 1 over. I hope you enjoyed my rambling recollections…

Hungee