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Re: Tactics for Circumventing Musical Ruts

tEd kiLLiAn wrote:
*I know it currently may not be very PC in some circles
to look at art/music making in such a "hierarchical" fashion
and acknowledge that there actually are "betters" in art.*
I've also noted that that 'hierarchy' of appreciation as "betters" wraps around in cases. Looped like an Esscher staircase.
Here are some tactics I've actively used in the recent past. I never feel 'on a roll' except when working within the bounds of a single new piece; I.e. I could safely define any period between any of my humble compositional efforts as a (relative or absolute) rut. The positive side to that is that any finished composition actually feels especially rewarding (triumphant, even) as being meaningful and unique.
- Learn a new scale / system / modality, and practice scales, arpeggios, chords across it. If uncertain as to which is still available as unexplored system (there is always one more btw), invent one. It could be arbitrary / based on what sounds interesting, or as I frequently resort to, based on a construct involving number sequences. Possibly, when sufficiently matured / lodged in the brain, compose a piece or etude in it.
- Go do the boring stuff I'm supposed to do, most notably practicing darn scales. Sometimes a rut just is what it is, and needs to be waited out. Why not supplant the wait with an auxiliary activity. Creativity is a different energy than that which goes into the acquisition of increased technical mastery, and is not exhausted by immersion in a practice regimen but rather refreshed after coming out of it. Anything that helps the immediacy of linkage between the musical brain and one's motor system is good in my book (if I had one, .. book that is).
- Shut off external musical stimuli. Be as radical or tolerant as you wish to be. Declare temporary embargo on radio, CD, your own catalog, and if possible, identified artifacts / evidence of such in your current playing. The blockage may need to be mental where physical exposure is unavoidable (malls, traffic, work, other artists on the bill : - ) but in any case it focuses an attention to discerning what is merely conveniently available and ambient, and what needs to come out from within. (This reads like true drivel, but perhaps some here may recognize the general idea...)
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 9:00 AM
Subject: Re: Tactics for Circumventing Musical Ruts

Hi all,

This is probably the most challenging thing for an
artist to do. Because it involves risk and a certain
discipline . . . usually. However, it is probably also
a little easier for musicians in general and maybe
even guitarists in particular.

The way I see it there are basically two ways to go

1. Disrupt. Place limits. Close down options. Restrict
yourself to an "underexplored" area of your current
work or a technique or "roots" area of that work. Turn
off favorite effects. Play only on one (or two) strings
or tune all of the strings to the same note. If you use
a pick, play with your fingers, if you play with your fingers
use a pick. Limit yourself to playing in a single mode.
Write a song with only one chord. Write a song in a
foreign language. Set boundaries. This is probably the
easier of the two options.

2. Open options up. Try something totally new. Pick
up a new instrument and schedule a gig to play it in
public in a week or two (or a month or a year). Learn
to play (and hopefully appreciate) a musical style you
currently HATE. Play with other musicians who play a
different musical style than you would ordinarily feel
comfortable or competent at. And (of course), my
personal favorite: play with people who are much better
than you. There's no better way of getting a good kick
in the pants than playing and hanging out (and picking
the brains of) your betters. This is risky and will
demand discipline but it's always a sure bet.

I know it currently may not be very PC in some circles
to look at art/music making in such a "hierarchical" fashion
and acknowledge that there actually are "betters" in art.
But most of us know it's really true and behave very
much accordingly -- even if we sometimes say otherwise.
Heck, one of the greatest benefits of going to "Loopfest"
type gatherings is the vast array of experience present
that can be learned from. It's like a crash course for me
every time I go. Plus seeing so many performers -- good,
bad, indifferent, and (as often as not) even great -- is a
wonderful opportunity to meet, talk to and get your creative
butt kicked really thoroughly.


tEd kiLLiAn


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