the muse is a harsh mistress

my muse wakes me at times somewhere between too late and too early. it interrupts conversations. it makes me hum strange melodies to my voicemail. it gives me a vacant look while walking down the street. it has ruined my life. it has made my life worth living.

it even has fights with itself. one idea can barely be finished or even started before another comes along to challenge the first for my attention.

i try to focus, but it glamors me, tarnishing the skin of the creations it deems unworthy. what was once a work of great promise becomes yesterday's dirty laundry. i'm faced with the choice of choosing to toil away at cleaning it, or turning my gaze to the shiny new object. both approaches have their pitfalls.

one theory is that if something gestates too long, it loses its immediacy and life. that can be countered with the idea that if something doesn't die, it has more potential longevity. i tend to gravitate toward the latter concept.

another side effect of the muse delaying completion of the music is, the longer it takes, the more angry i become. which means i'm less likely to feel like crooning sweet melodies in my head voice. this ends up skewing the muse of course.

fortunately, the muse can make a quick turnaround. what was once out of favor will suddenly be attractive again due to a change of instrument in my head. when that happens, it's best to give in and act on its impulses. before they change again.


through the haze

if a recording of a tree falling in a forest is out of phase, will anyone hear it?

i spend a lot of time fixing things i perceive as problems. the more i learn about why some recordings sound better than others, the more problems i discover. however, with bryin's help, i'm also able to solve or work around them, which makes the music better.

if we had an engineer working with us, we could just point out our concerns and they'd be fixed. or they might not even be a problem in the first place, because we'd have been stopped from causing one in the throes of creativity. unfortunately that's not the case. so we make a lot of interim mixes of songs to listen to on different systems and decide what needs to be added, subtracted, or modified.

i'm gratified that anyone wants to listen to our music. it's not for everyone. this is not being elitist, but realistic about the appeal of the types of sounds we make and the emotions and subject matter we deal with. having said that, ultimately we make music to satisfy ourselves. we have something inside us that drives us to create, to say what we want to say. this isn't driven by trends, marketing, sales, or focus groups. it's driven by the desire to hear something that doesn't exist until we bring it into this world.

however, we do need to consider the final form our creations will take, which is subject to at least some of those very things i just mentioned. the current prevalence of mp3 players and cheap earbuds has thrown another wrench into the gears working towards good sound. certain instruments, or just parts of instruments, end up creating an irritating noise or losing their volume or character when experienced those ways. then there is the recent resurgence of vinyl, which can't contain as much bass, treble, or volume as CD's or even mp3's. this means at nearly every stage of music-making process, we have to consider if a sound will come out as intended.

in a sense, this is nothing new. there have always been poor quality playback systems, and each one presents a different sonic challenge to musicians and producers. the goal is to make the music sound as good as possible on as wide a range of listening devices as possible.

people who think that's too contrived, or only for audiophiles, would be shocked at how much of the power and excitement can be lost from even a straight-ahead punk record if none of these things are considered. on the other hand, there is such a thing as tweaking the life out of a recording. it all depends on the musician's goals.

my goal is to make recordings that aren't dated; that i'd want to listen to over and over; to embed little accents and layers of sound and meaning that reveal themselves with more listens; to create instrumental noises that defy easy description. and, in the end, if all that and more is done correctly, i'd like them to connect with people and become a part of their lives. so maybe ultimately not purely for ourselves after all.