Silence is Golden

Lately I have been on a new music buying kick. I can’t seem to stop! With the iTunes store mainly DRM-free and all the instant gratification, I can’t help myself. It seems I’m constantly surrounded by brilliant music. It occurs to me that this is a stark contrast to the copious silence I enjoyed in past years…

As I was pondering my sudden urge to consume — I couldn’t help but ask where that urge was hiding before. Cause it really retreated for a while. I really didn’t feel like hanging around a record store, or scouring the interwebs… I didn’t even really turn on my stereo much. Normally, this would be my default state: tunes blasting, always finding something new and tasty. Gorging myself on fresh tunes. It’s almost like I went on an accidental music diet. I wanted silence, silence and more silence.

Maybe it’s because I had mixyhead a lot. This is what my BFF Keith G calls the state of mind that follows a long and arduous mixing session. It’s kind of a weird aural soup, sort of a heightened ear sensitivity or insensitivity with lots of musical phrases jangling around your head. Senses buzzing. Usually I can’t sleep in this state. I don’t think Keith can either. Normally I find the cure is silence… So it stands to reason that I didn’t want to binge.

I’ve also considered another factor. Composing and producing music: maybe I need silence to receive the music in my head? Sometimes the ideas come in the strangest place. It’s rarely convenient. In the shower, in bed, out for a walk in the forest… It’s often when I’m spacing out that a little phrase, or a little nugget, will spark my imagination. When listening to the radio, it seems my head is full of someone else’s nuggets.

If I’m really honest,could it be even more subtle than that? Maybe I don’t want to compare. Maybe my Artist Goblins will come out to play if I hear something that truly blows me away. Maybe I will worry too much about how I fit into the landscape. Is it trendy? Is it cool? Does it sound current and hot?

Truth be told, I’ve usually found these thoughts to have the opposite effect than what I desire. I start to feel like I’m suffocating, boxed in by the pressure to be cool. Trying to be cool isn’t cool. Cool is as cool is. They say you either follow trends, or you make them. I suspect most of the trend-setters I admire didn’t give a rat’s ass about trends. I very much doubt they were sitting around with their calculator, calibrating all their flavours of awesomeness to make something so fresh and hot that people hailed it as “seminal” or “groundbreaking”.

I dunno. Maybe that is naive. Idealistic. Maybe they did have a calculator.

My only salvation from the Goblins seems to be to ignore the trends altogether and go hang out in a land where the only comparison is what I’ve done before. Is this better than before? If yes, then proceed. Any other comparing is mere foolishness. Let someone else do that for you.

This isn’t to say that I think I’m breaking any ground this way. I just need some silence — in my mind.

Also, this isn’t to say that artists aren’t all inspired by each other. I don’t write in a vacuum. I try not to be self-centered. I do pay attention. I ask people what they think. I just try not to be anybody else — no matter how much I would like to be. I have to build on the strengths I have and work with what I’ve got. See where the chips fall. Let it go.

This being said, I don’t think I’ll ever really answer the question of why I went on an accidental music diet. I didn’t even notice until I started getting mystery music cravings again lately, so the real cause may always evade me.

Thankfully, right now, I am all about everybody else’s nuggets. My ears can relax. And it’s really sincerely delicious.

2 thoughts on “Silence is Golden

  1. As a drummer I tend to play the same beats everyone else plays, at
    least from a technical perspective. There are things I play that I
    think I’ve come up with myself and that I haven’t heard before, and
    I really enjoy playing those kinds of things, exploring the little
    accidents that occurs as I discover them. Saying “create” is a bit
    weird for me, because I’ve come by the unique things I play mostly
    by accident. So I think of the process as “discovery” instead of
    “creating” or “composing”. Often the unique things are a reaction
    to what one of my bandmates is doing, and so they’re things that I
    don’t think I would have discovered by myself, without the context
    someone else is part of.

    But even though I play the basic rock beat just like everyone else,
    I like to think that the thing that makes it special is the feeling
    I have when I play it. The feel may not differ very much from other
    drummers, but it’s my feeling and my criteria for whether or not
    it’s good is whether or not I feel connected to it, whether or not
    is makes me feel good and whether or not it lifts the people around
    me to do something bigger and better than I can even imagine.
    Sometimes I find myself playing and everything is good technically,
    but that connection isn’t there, and even though all the notes are
    in the right place it just has a flat mechanical nature that is
    boring.

    I think it’s okay not to be super unique, and that even if you do
    something many have done before you, the experience you have of
    doing it is what is interesting and new and fresh. The journey is
    more important than the destination, kind of thing. Cliché, I know,
    but I really do think it’s true. But I don’t think it’s so inward.
    I think whatever it is that happens when we, as instigators of
    sound, connect to what we’re doing that other people pick up on it
    and that that is what excites them.

    • Thanks for your insightful reply Jamu! I often try to think of the process of creating as discovery as well. If i narrow the focus too much, sometimes I miss the fun accidents that can create some magic. If I try too hard, I forget to experiment. On the other hand, it took me a long time to realize that some of the magic is just plan old hard work.

      What do they say? 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration?

      I think you are right though, staying present, especially in performance — really makes the difference.

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