“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
Before this project was named Tunes and Tales, there was another T-word to make a trilogy of Ts for the title: 'Gambit - Tunes, Tales and Trepidation'. Used not solely to satisfy my tendency to twist text toward alliteration, the word Trepidation encapsulated my feelings towards releasing my music into the big bad world for all to see.
Where do these fears and insecurities come from and why are some musicians so attached to their music?
Music & Identity
“Music may be thought of as an object we act towards in order to clarify values and our actual position in culture.”
In Rudd’s article that discusses Music and Identity, the focus is primarily on the listening of music and its impact on forming our identity, but the performance of music is mentioned as well where they state that, “Listening to, performing and talking about music is not as much a reflection of identity as a way of performing our sense of ourselves, our identity” (Rudd, 3). This distinction of performing a sense of ourselves is one that resonates with myself and my connection to the music I have written. Even with instrumental music (and sometimes even more so) that has no lyrical expression, I have found a cathartic release in performing some of my compositions. This ability to express emotion or myself is far more explicit when it comes to the songs I have written that have accompanying lyrics. For myself, I often find - especially in the popular music industry model where music acts as a commodity and will often be written with a compositional common denominator to maximise widespread consumption and subsequent sales - that lyrics are often used as melodic syllables where the focus is on opening a can of ear worms to pour into the minds of the masses. My personal gripe with this is that they are missing a great opportunity to incorporate other art forms on top of their music, whether that be storytelling, poetry or a combination of both that express the artist’s emotions through metaphor and imaginary.
This might seem rather tangential to musical identity, but the point I am trying to hammer home is that when musicians are writing music as an expression of the self, a cathartic release and not for commercial gain - writing music for the music itself, not for a targeted audience - they are pouring part of their identity into their art so it is no great leap to understand why sharing their music can be a daunting prospect. There is a strong link between the musician and their music, and this attachment can be difficult to let go of; look at my compositional history - I’ve been writing music since I was teenager, accumulated over eighty pieces of music and at the age of thirty one (or twenty nine plus two as I prefer to frame it since we lost two years to the plague), I have released six of them.
I chose to undertake this project as an individual; I will be doing all the work and retain complete creative control. There are several reasons for this, but firstly I’d like to acknowledge the associated ambivalence of using the term individual. The ambiguity here is that there are many different ways to categorise the term; “such as person, self, ego, individual, self-concept and ego-ideal” (Rudd, 5). The individual, and their identity, are not the sole result of internal rumination, but rather a combination of introspection that is influenced and tempered by many external factors, but that’s a discussion for another day (future blog My, My Music & I forthcoming).
By approaching this as an individual effort, it has proven to be a double edged sworded. On the one hand it’s great that I have complete creative control since I am the creator, the source, or to put it another way, I get to raise my kids how I want to. On the other hand, my attachment to my compositions could not be any higher under these conditions; for some of these songs it is the equivalent of never letting my kids fly the nest and leave home (looking at my music this way, No Doubt is effectively middle-aged and living in my basement with no prospect of going out into the world).
As I mentioned in The Story So Far, I see my music as an extension of myself so this attachment is rooted within reason and overcoming this fear of exposure has been a source of great personal development, but not without some growing pains since, “man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor" (Alexis Carrell). Admittedly this is perhaps bit of a wishy washy quote to end such a rich topic for exploration, but I will be revisiting the discussion of the self in the near future.
It’s Not Just Me!
So far I’ve focussed on myself and my music, and by taking a step back I can see how neurotic and almost holier than thou it may have come across, especially when I’m making statements such as, 'writing music for the music itself' (and we wonder why some musicians are considered pretentious). To cleanse this potentially pompously perceived perspective, lets take a hard left away from myself and academia, and take a look at how a well-known top line songwriter, who is arguably a lot less attached to their music since they write only a part of the whole song (lets not get back into subscendence for now), can have feelings of seller’s remorse when handing over their creative contribution.
From season 3 of Ron Burgundy’s podcast (I did say that we’d be steering away from both my own views and academic sources), he interviews Sia and during a rather hilarious back and forth, Ron brings up the astronomical success of the track Chandelier:
Ron - “Did you know when you were recording that song that it was just going to be gigantic?”
Sia - “I didn’t, I recorded it and then I sat down and I was like, aw I think this one I like it too much to give away, but then I was like nah, so I sent it over to Rhianna and then Rhianna rejected it and I was like good, because I had seller’s remorse as soon as I pressed send so I kept it and I was really pleased.”
Even when the musician is this far removed from the multi-faceted process of producing a record and in a commercial setting - where the goal is often the commodification of music - a musician has an attachment to the music they have contributed to. Now I am aware that this isn’t quite the same situation for my project since one of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome is more closely related to letting go of my music and letting it loose in the world, whereas in Sia’s situation, where her music is released, but the association/writer’s credit for her contribution is understated, the main focus is on the artist who the record label is releasing the song under. The point I'm trying to get across is that regardless of the creative input to a song, us artsy folk can get rather attached to our creations and from my experience, this is often to do with it being tied up with our identity.
I feel the insecurities and attachments musician’s have over their music are a major factor in determining when it is finished or ready to be released. As will be discussed in a future blog entitled Parameters of Completion - that focusses heavily on Patrick Grafton-Cardwell’s expansive exploration on the topic of art completion - they seem to lay their emphasis elsewhere so I felt the need to add this factor to the apparently unsolvable equation for finishing a piece of music.
As for how I was able to alleviate my fear of releasing my music, stay tuned for my future post entitled, “Is This Thing On?”