Big Picture Before Tiny Technicalities

This week has been a bit of a drag when it comes to music production. A couple weeks back, I realized that if I didn’t pick up the pace and start planning out deadlines for the pieces I wanted in Cloudland Connections, it would be the only major music project I’d release in 2017, and even then, that’s being optimistic. So far, though, sticking to it has not been going well—not because of procrastination, but because of something I’m going to be touching on in this post.

Roughly a week ago, I tweeted that I was to release a brand new track (titled Shadow Across the Earth) on Monday, March 3rd.

If you read the tweets that followed, you’d know that I ended up working really hard on a section that I eventually scrapped, and it’s that section that I’ve been stuck on since. Why this section, though? Well, there are a couple of reasons, but for the sake of sparing you from details that you won’t really understand since you haven’t heard the piece yet, I’ll boil it down to one major reason: I had no idea where the piece was going. In fact, as I’m writing this, I still don’t know where it’s going, but that’s where this post comes in. I always write about my problems in order to try and make sense of them.

Some people (including one of my professors at USM) may argue that this is a good thing. Serendipity can sometimes be more powerful and interesting than having a set idea when going into a project, as I’ve learn through countless past instances when brainstorming. However, herein lies the problem that’s been playing me. Subconsciously, I’ve known for a while had no idea where this piece was going, but instead of trying to answer that question, I ended up instead drilling down and focusing on every little detail of that one section I mentioned before. How long should it be? Should I expand the instrumentation from the simple synth pad and piano I’ve been using up until this point? How do I keep it harmonically and rhythmically interesting without being so stringent that it no longer sounds like ambient music? What comes after this section?

All these questions are perfectly valid and will need to be answered before the piece is complete, but it’s become the compositional equivalent of someone’s car tires spinning uselessly within the pit of snow or mud or whatever they’re stuck in. The driver’s so frustrated about his situation that he’s just trying to brute force his way out rather than stop and look for a better solution, and all it’s doing is irritating him more and more.

Also, when I find myself in this sort of scenario, I realize that I tend to overthink things, which further feeds my tunnel vision and need to perfect this one part, as if I’m doing it out of spite for making me feel like a hostage for so long. Whenever I mention frustration about my work, my dad always tells me to, “just keep at it”. That’s definitely a good point, and I don’t want to make it seem like it isn’t, because constant discipline is absolutely necessary if you’re going to make your creative endeavors into a living. However, there’s only so many times that you can throw yourself at a brick wall before you have to accept the fact that you may need to find another way through or around it, and that’s what I hope to do.

Here’s hoping that things work out and I can post Shadow Across the Earth to SoundCloud by this Monday. In the meantime, I hope this helps anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. Thanks for tuning in.

Featured image credit: Kevin Dooley on Flickr | CC 2.0 | Cropped

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