On Beginning Music Not With Silence 

Consider an idea: 

begin a piece of music not with silence, 
but with a soundscape from nature 
playing through your speakers or headphones. 

Use this soundscape not as a part of your piece or the piece itself
but as a springboard for the first sounds you’ll make or use, 
the first first chords you’ll play, 
the first beat you’ll drum. 

Beginning with wind or water reorientates your thinking about music 
as something connected to sounds already happening around you 
via your speakers or headphones. 

This reorientation asks you to consider:
How will my sounds “get along” with nature’s mix? 

I often use this approach to sort of ease into a piece—
to move from feeling as if I’m outside to being inside 
yet with an outside frame of mind. 

I’ll listen to wind and water 
and choose sounds that accompany them—
almost like a soundtrack underscore for a film. 

Once the musical ideas get going, I turn off the nature sounds, 
but sometimes I forget they’re there, 
which shows the work they’re doing. 

Now the music is foreground
and the wind and water
—the sounds that got me here—
recede to the background.   

Resonant Thoughts: Ira Glass On Taste And Work

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.”

– Ira Glass

Curating The Week: DAWs, The Creator Economy, How To mix

An article about DAWs (digital audio workstation software).

“In some ways, the DAW replaced the piano as the primary site of solitary musical expression, retreating from living rooms to glowing screens in share house bedrooms. Music creation ever since has never been so lonely.”

An article on the creator economy

“When I imagine a cultural renaissance that inspires me, I think about working together to address unsolved questions, tugging on threads in conversations that need unraveling, creating enduring artifacts for generations to pore over and iterate upon. The ‘publish or perish’ model that nudges people to rack up more followers is not the pinnacle of creative freedom; it’s indentured spiritual servitude.”

A video about mixing

“You can’t have a fixed method for every mix…Every change you make is provisional: you make the best guess at the correct settings, based on the context you have at that time. Here’s my suggested methodology:

1 Start with the volume faders and set a rough balance for all elements of the mix, before you do anything else. 

2 Whatever is bothering you most about the current mix, attack that next. Keep fixing the most egregious problems you can hear, and those problems will naturally get smaller and more subtle, until all of a sudden you realize your mix is cooking and you’re nearly done.

3 Get to that stage as quickly as possible. 

It’s not enough to learn the technique: your ears need to be able to recognize situations where that technique might help.” 

Resonant Thoughts: Edward Tatnall Canby’s “Synthesized Music” (1955)

[The writer is referring to the recording, The Sounds and Music of the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer, 1955]

“The fancy music that is here synthesized is absolutely astonishing. Few of us would have imagined that so much progress had been made. But most listeners won’t be able to suppress a snicker or two, in the midst of their amazement—for this music, in all its variety, still has a grotesquely inhuman quality that comically defies the very meaning of music […]

The machine, having no composer-of-the-future and no new musical language to operate upon, is forced to use present stock and, absurdly, to go about imitating the very instruments and performers that it is supposed eventually to supersede. A fine contradiction!”

– Edward Tatnall Canby, “Synthesized Music”, Harper’s (September 1955)