Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
re:dream
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Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by re:dream » Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:21 pm

This has been doing my head in for a while now.

I am consistently aware of the deep divergence between the music I want to make / feel called to make ... and the music that comes out.

For a while I was happy just to experiment and to learn how to make sounds. If anything came out that was halfway cool, I was happy. (Then I spent a long time frozen into immobility by a sense that I did not know where I wanted to go or how to get there.)

For the last two years I have just been following my fingers, as it were - following inspiration, choosing sounds and tunes that please me, and letting the music emerge. My feeling was that I should just trust the creative process and not try to second guess it. That has been surprisingly interesting, and I have certainly from time to time enjoyed what got to be created.

But increasingly I am aware that the music that is coming is not the music that I want to make. The music I hear in my head sometimes, the music that I created the re:dream musical persona for; the music that I want to make is... fairly hypnotic and driving. The music that I actually make is... surprisingly lyrical and emotional. And it is nice enough, but it is not where I want to be going.

What is really strange is that I don't really understand the reason for the disjuncture. I start with one set of musical intentions and I end up elsewhere. I am not sure whether it is lack of technical expertise... or just unfamiliarity with the sound palettes that I need to be using.... or a lack of understanding of how the musical effects I strive for are created.

I'd be interested in whether other people have had a similar experience, and what the ways and means are of getting where one wants to go...

TomViolenz
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by TomViolenz » Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:30 pm

IMO you are doing it right.
I too was surprised in the beginning about the huge gulf between what my little head planned to make and what came out in the end.
This confused me in a metaphysical sense: So, where does the music come from then???

But I decided to just embrace the fact that I'm as much just the first listener of my music as I am the creator of it and I have been much happier since.

Now strirring your music into a more emotional direction might come from knowing your tools better. And I mean much better. The way from your heart to the resulting music must come so naturaly that it can bypass the brain.
This can only be achieved with practice. Lots of it.

Matt_Quinn
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by Matt_Quinn » Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:43 pm

I have the same problem, ALL the time. The only solution I've found to it is to start with only my mouth and brain. The instant I put any kind of intermediary between my brain and the audio output, things change. So what I do is keep a mic right in front of me, and *diligently* try to sing/hum/whistle/whatever to get those parts out into reality *unchanged*. I will build a whole basic skeleton of a track like this, and it will sound like shit, basically, but the important thing is it is getting down *enough* of what was in my head to then remember, and go back and fill in. If I just open Live and get cracking with a synth or drum loop or whatever, things still get done, but always end like you described in the OP. And that's fun too, but does leave you with a bit of a feeling of 'where the hell did this come from?'. And honestly, to do everything with your mouth and brain is kind of exhausting, but very rewarding, I think.
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jbw
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by jbw » Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:54 pm

I'm not nearly skilled enough in music to aim for any sort of vision, but I am well trained in drawing and in that medium I am able to see it on the page beforehand. I don't know how that might be translated into music, but I imagine with enough practice and familiarity with the tools you are using you could get to a similar point in music production.

All that being said, I still enjoy and even prefer more experimental approaches to drawing.

jbw
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by jbw » Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:24 pm

jbw wrote:I'm not nearly skilled enough in music to aim for any sort of vision, but I am well trained in drawing and in that medium I am able to see it on the page beforehand. I don't know how that might be translated into music...
If you've ever seen that movie "Amadeus" there's that scene where Mozart ia talking about his latest piece and the person he is talking to asks to see it, and Mozart replies that while it is written he can't show it yet. The person asks why not and he tells him that it's already done in his head.

Not sure how accurate that scene is and if it's based on real life, but I imagine if you were as trained as Mozart it wouldn't be that big of stretch to have an entire piece of music already in your mind.

stringtapper
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by stringtapper » Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:38 pm

In university sight singing and ear training classes we train students to be able to hear what's on the page and to be able to write down what they here. Basically the same skill going in opposite directions.

The second way, dictation, can be useful in other contexts. So if you can hear music and write it down then that skill can conceivably be redirected into writing down, or in this case programming into the sequencer, what you're hearing in your head.

If you're wanting to write pitch-based music then this would involve being able to identify melodic and harmonic structures that you're hearing and get them out by playing or drawing into the piano roll.

If you're hearing different types of music in your head, like things involving spectral transformations, then it's all about learning how certain sounds are created using the technology you have.

I'm really good at the pitch-based part but still learning when it comes to the Electroacoustic ear training.
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doghouse
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by doghouse » Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:48 pm

If you want it to be "hypnotic and driving" instead of "lyrical and emotional", go pick out some recordings that are "hypnotic and driving" and try to recreate them, note for note, beat for beat. Do that a few times and you will better understand how that effect is created.

Or maybe accept that your real gift is in making lyrical and emotional music :idea:

Angstrom
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by Angstrom » Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:39 pm

I think the most interesting stuff happens when you fall weirdly short of what you thought you were trying to make to whatever else is washing around in your subconcious turns the music into something else. It's like collaborating with a ghost.

What people feel compelled to make is usually a bit derivative, it's what they like to listen to. "I like Funk, so I'm going to make Funk just like James Brown even though I'm a 19 year old Swiss white man" . Now even if we could achieve that aim 100% accurately would it really be objectively better than what we produce when we "fail". Derivative work is pretty boring. Sometimes it's better if that Swiss gentleman accidentally includes some yodelling, because he cannot prevent it.

Some of the most interesting music has a strong outside influence which deviates the original intention. Just own the outcome.

"yeah. that's how I invented yodelfunk"

mholloway
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by mholloway » Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:50 pm

The thing is... if your goal is to create anything, you will always succeed, because you just created something. If your goal is to create something specific -- e.g. that music in your head -- then suddenly achieving your goal just got a hell of a lot harder. And that's a good thing. That challenge is what will push you to work harder, learn new things, discard things that aren't working, or, to sum all that up: to improve.

How do you 'improve' if your only goal is to create whatever comes out on its own? You're already there, doing it. I think striving to learn how to create the music in your head is a constructive challenge and generally far more rewarding than simply choosing to be content with whatever plops out the other end regardless of your original intentions. And lets be honest, with the state of the technology, anybody can hit some keys and make something sparkly plop out the other end. But sculpting and revealing that sound in your head involves a process beyond the technology alone.
Last edited by mholloway on Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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JoshG567
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by JoshG567 » Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:51 pm

We're the conduits of creation, not the causal agents. All the music that you love that other people created was created because of your (and everyone else's) love for it. Weird retrocausality shit, I know. You were in more control than they were over their creative process, and you weren't even trying! Let the music come through you.

If you find yourself constantly winding up in the same place, examine your methods. Each song of mine I've worked on is quite different from the other in terms of instrumentation and process, and I find myself getting very different (to me, at least) results each time. My sole intention, though, has less to do with a sound than a feeling.

re:dream
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by re:dream » Fri Oct 24, 2014 5:34 pm

stringtapper wrote:
If you're hearing different types of music in your head, like things involving spectral transformations, then it's all about learning how certain sounds are created using the technology you have.

I'm really good at the pitch-based part but still learning when it comes to the Electroacoustic ear training.
This is a big part of the problem for me... If I had a year I would sit and do nothing but learn about this aspect of audio. Training my ears & learning the machines.

re:dream
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by re:dream » Fri Oct 24, 2014 5:41 pm

mholloway wrote: I think striving to learn how to create the music in your head is a constructive challenge and generally far more rewarding than simply choosing to be content with whatever plops out the other end regardless of your original intentions.
Yes. It is. And I fully accept that i can't and won't 'render' what is in my head, because the process of creation is a process of interacting with the sounds that exist in the world. And I accept that there will always be a divergence between what is created and whatever has 'inspired' me.

But right now the divergence is so deep and systematic that I think there is something wrong the the process, the tools, or my understanding of the rules of the genres I am trying to work in.

So. A mix of practicing more, learning more about sound sculpting, and listening carefully to the different tracks that have an impact or sound similar to what I am striving for.

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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by H20nly » Fri Oct 24, 2014 5:42 pm

re:dream wrote: If I had a year I would sit and do nothing but learn about this aspect of audio. Training my ears & learning the machines.
you have the rest of your life.

i hope it is long and musical.

cheers.

re:dream
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by re:dream » Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:00 pm

8)

jbw
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Re: Musical intentions versus musical outcomes

Post by jbw » Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:16 pm

I think today's tools make the process of achieving a vision much more challenging. I used the Mozart example above, and while his music certainly has a certain level of complexity to it, it also had a specific method in which notes were transcribed to a page. With today's tools having that type of vision becomes a little more complex, like say for example working with a sample and or a complex sampler. In that instance there are no real notes per se. Same thing with effects and automation. Yes it's true those things can follow the same type of transcription that Mozart used, in which they follow a melody and a tempo, etc. But they also add another layer of expanded possibility which makes it harder to envision the outcome.

One thing I think that can be done is aiming instead for a looser goal, like a mood or a tone or a atmosphere, or whatever you want to call it. The next step would be finding a set of tools which are conducive to that mood/tone/atmosphere. Maybe that would be using a certain handful of effects, or a certain handful of instruments, and then working within that parameter.

It's fascinating, all the possibilities! 8)

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