This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: Beginnings Part 1d
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [Bowie 2016].
As I continued on my Project 1 Doctoral Pilot Study, I took the next step to return to explore my practice.
Working in my practice
Once I had established the methods and tools to assist me in my research study as outlined in the previous blog, I was ready to again engage in practice. I believe I was now organised in terms of how I was going to gather and host the recorded data from my pilot study, ensuring reliability, transparency and in preparation for later synthesis and analysis.
As I re-engaged in practice, I started at the beginning – the creative stage. This is the stage where I needed to clearly establish what creative work I was going to produce; what creative work I was inspired to produce. As outlined in Chapter 2, my original study problem was stated as:
why I felt connected to my music-making when using physical instruments, and why I largely had never felt connected to my music-making when using digital virtual technologies.
I therefore thought a good starting point for my Project 1 Research Pilot Study was to consider the six (6) elements of Praxis in turn:
Numerous questions arose, some of which were:
· what was I going to create?
· what style of music would I make?
· in which of the varied locations I have access to, would I choose for this Project 1 Pilot Study to be conducted?
The elements, and the relationship of the elements
In going through this process, I realised I was already starting to form an opinion about the interrelationships of these six (6) elements. For example, if I wanted to create a particular organic style of music – folk for example – this music style choice would suggest the types of locations to be able to satisfactorily capture the acoustic tones in an appropriate manner (for example, in a controlled studio environment). This location would then suggest what technology options may be available (for example, condenser or tube microphones, a range of pre-amps, equalisers, dynamic and time-domain processing I could have access to); which would in turn suggest a workflow. If I was to change any of these variables – for example the location – to for example a small club, and plan to record folk music in a live environment – then I would more than likely, need to reconsider the options of technology I employed, which may in turn suggest an alternative workflow.
In going through this initial process, I highlighted an additional four (4) elements that needed to be considered in greater detail:
global song composition (process vs product), and
likely specific song composition style workflow
The first of these – reference track – is something that I introduce to my HE audio students, beginning from Trimester 1. The reference track represents (see reference track blogs in mixing) the plan – the agreement as to what style of music I am to create, the instruments likely to be used, the arrangement and the tempo. The reference track would also suggest a mood of the song. Is it a love song? Is it a song about loss or longing? Or, is it a song about hope or victory?
I then considered what my approach to the composition process may be – that of product or process. Was I going to write to a pre-confirmed brief: an end-product approach? Or was I going to allow the song to organically develop: a process approach?
Finally, how was I going to commence the songs? Was I going to start with an instrument – the rhythm, the harmony, or the melody? Or was I going to start with the lyrics? (see specific song composition blog 2010).
Again, I realised that as I changed any of these elements, it had a flow on effect to what discrtiminatory choices I would make regarding the other elements within my developing praxis. In my mind, I was now gathering evidence of one of my initial questions regarding the relationships of the elements of praxis. There was increasingly evidence that there was an interrelationship between the now ten (10) elements of praxis.
The focus of my creative practice
In these early stages of creative process, it is important to develop clarity as to what the Project 1 Doctoral Pilot Study EP was to be about. In going through this consideration, I observed my self leaving the technical parameters of my music-making practice, in order to consider my motive for practice. What was my motive for making this particular EP? Yes – as I had stated in my Project brief – the Project 1 doctoral pilot study five (5) track EP was primarily to be both a discovery and educational process, allowing me to investigate to discover what I actually did in my music-making practice. However, it was the creative motive that I was most focussed on now: the creative motive. I had decided within my Project Brief that this Project 1 Research Pilot Study EP was to be ‘representative of some aspect of my life: past, present or future envisioning’. However, as it was now time to create, what specifically was this to mean in terms of a composition?
Connecting to my creativity
This part of the creative stage requires me to go into a state, which is quite uncomfortable for me. This is not a new process to me to go through. It is a usual step that I take to arrive at a place where I begin to engage in creative practice. I have learnt over years to be able to consciously place my self into this state. I start by turning my focus inward, and becoming very introspective. As I drop my self deeper into this state, I become more aware – firstly of my surroundings, and then progressively I realise a connection to memories – past events and emotions. Whilst in this internalised state I focus in on an issue or topic that I feel connected to – a personal or social issue or topic that resonates with my self. In order to maximise an authentic connection, I take my self deeper, and become progressively more introspective. I am looking for a place where I feel in tune with my self. In this place – in this state – I have clarity of thought, and am in touch with my feeling and emotions. From this place, I can access a range of life experiences and emotional states. This is my starting point in creative practice. I start to practice, streaming ideas surrounding these issues or topics, consciously onto a page (physical or virtual). I find in this state I can write furiously, and for long periods of time. I connect to my guitar from this place, whether in the writing stage, or literally, on a stage performing. I find in this state, my emotions are aligned with my motivational intent. It is almost as if the world slows down, and I can play what I need to play in order to express my self. Again, it can be a fast and furious expression, or a really slow and delicate expression. It depends upon the emotion I need to express. As mentioned, it is not uncommon for such states to last long periods of time. I also sing from this place – in this state – whether in the shower, at rehearsal, or on a stage performing. Once I arrive in this place – in this state – I realise a connection to an inner place: an inner space where authentic connection exists between what it is I want to express; and the creative expression.
Creative streaming – aka Creative Flow
This was not a new process to me to go through, nor a new state for me to be in. I have placed my self here hundreds – possibly thousands – of times before over the past three (3) to four (4) decades. Csikszentmihalyi & Robinson refers to such a phenomenon as creative flow. Creative flow is said to hold the following criteria:
The practitioner’s attention is solely focussed on the creative practice;
the practitioner has “no awareness of past and future” – they are in the moment;
the practitioner has a “loss of self-consciousness and transcendence of ego boundaries”;
the practitioner requires “skills adequate to overcome challenges”;
the practitioner is intrinsically motivated, not requiring extrinsic rewards (1990, pp6-8)
From this place – in this state – I have demonstrated I can creatively stream prolifically, and for hours on end. When in an intensely prolific creative period, I have been known to remain in this type of state for three (3) to four (4) days at a time. I have become quite adept at dropping my self into this state, and when required, consciously pulling my self out of this state. However, it still did not minimise the discomfort I feel when in this state. My discomfort is revisiting and re-experiencing certain life experiences and emotional states. Sometimes the depth and rawness of those times and emotional states are more than I would have hoped to re-experience, at the time.
As a music-maker I have learnt that I need to be respectful of the creative energy process – be grateful for the ongoing opportunity to create – embracing the opportunity, allowing such creative energy to flow when it was ready to. I am well aware of times when I have not had the opportunity to creatively express – at times when I am starved for creative energy: when my ‘creative mojo’ evaporates. As a music-maker I feel this evaporation of creative energy is the equivalence of creative death. It is perhaps one of my greatest fears: to lose touch with my creative energy. For that reason, I embrace each and every opportunity for creative practice when creative energy avails itself. Even if that means experiencing discomfort in revisiting past events, or facing personal insecurities such as:
what is the message that I want to communicate in this composition?;
how am I going to realise the dual roles of subject (music-maker) and observer (pilot study researcher) effectively and efficiently?
will I be able to connect creatively within this pilot study situation, within the time frame?
what happens if I don’t connect creatively, effectively experiencing starvation of creative energy (ie writer’s block)?
what is it that I am trying to realise?
what is it that I trying to create?
what is it that I am trying to express?
who is it that wants to express?
that is, who am I as a music-maker?
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study – Part 1e (Page 2016b). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.