Let me start by saying this: the most important part to remember is that the blaringly obvious needs to be identified first. Blaring Obviousness, most commonly referred to as Common Sense, is only evident in hindsight.
As I was working through a new song I began to perform the arduous task of phrase repetition. The object of this was to consider the placement of the words in the phrase and melody. It’s a very repetitive, draining and uninspiring task. Fortunately, repetitive tasks free up this ridiculously worldly and oh so elusive part of the brain and on this occasion that sub-conscious psyche began a chain reaction, toppling a couple of walls to point out the blaringly obvious.
Two years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Van Gogh Museum in all its glory. As I strolled through the cavernous gallery ogling and admiring century old artworks, I reached a section which focused on a single piece of art, “The Potato Eaters”. An entire section was dedicated to it. Along with the artwork itself, this section included minor studies, sketches of the most miniscule details painstakingly worked until they eventually made it to the final piece. At the time, I was appreciating the impressive lengths Vincent Van Gogh went to (he studied the heads and hands for a whole winter) and how they looked in the final artwork.
Personally, this is my favourite aspect of art: that doodles and small sketches are the cornerstone for all artists. Something I didn’t realise is how much it correlates with abso-fucking-lutely everything. Art, your work, your hobbies, driving, cooking, everything.
So, there is little ole oblivious me, toiling through my own artwork when something clicks: Pieces of art, are pieces of art. As Eleanor Shellstrop would say "Holy forking shirtballs". Where Gogh studied heads and hands, I was working through rhythm and phrasing.
There are so many factors in art and music that create images for the observer. In art there is colour, brush and stroke, placement of characters, tables, trees, windows, light and shade and everything in between. In music we have chords, all their inversions, 7ths, 4ths and more, there’s the melody and how it interacts with the sound of the music. Alongside melody is rhythm, word placement, length of phrases and narrative. Then we have the verse and chorus, perhaps a refrain, maybe a pre-chorus and a bridge. AND THEN we also have the individual instrumentation. Each instrument and how it’s played or studied, broken down into utter basics and combined to create its own sound.
If you were to consciously write a song you would need to consider:
· The order the chords are in
· What instrument plays the chords
· How loud or softly they play
· What rhythm they use in each section
· How long they play for
· When they stop playing
· Are there more instruments
· What do they play
· How to they interact with the original chords
· Do they play the same chords
· Is there a vocal line
· What is the melody
· What are the words
· Where do the words sit
· What is the tone of the vocalists voice
· How does the vocalist choose to sing it
· What are the drums doing
· Why is my head hurting
· Is my nose bleeding
· I’ve gone too deep
· Make it stop
This split-second idea of the correlation between art and music dropped me for ten. That singular moment gave me such an appreciation for singing a line over and over, practicing an entry or experimenting with the million-and-one factors which shape the image of the song. Every individual piece has such an understated impact, an effect which makes it seem so insignificant and creating the illusion of effortlessness (which IS an illusion). Taking the time to work with these factors by pushing through trial and error are what help artists create their masterpiece and all it takes is self-discipline.
So, down the rabbit hole we go.