September 20, 2006

If I Had Some Words, This Is the Way I'd Sing Them

Well. Since the subject's gone and come up now, I might as well lay this out plainly - the closest thing to a manifesto I'm likely to do on my own tastes and on my philosophy of composition. I figure it's all going to be out there at some point, so I might as well go ahead and own it now.

I like music with solid, simple, repeating chord structures on which you can layer other things, and maybe improvise around, that's appealing enough to keep the attention but instinctive to jam to. I enjoy writing that kind of music; I'll no doubt do lots more of the kind.

I like music with the utterly straightforward three-chord phrases that have been used by folksingers for centuries - the progressions that get used time and again because they work, and provide the kind of melody that doesn't need to go anywhere unexpected to say what it has to say. I enjoy writing that kind of music, even if I've moved somewhat away from it more recently, and I'm sure that approach will always be one I eventually return to.

I like music that's complex and intricate, with strange and unorthodox chords and lots of little movements that add up to a cohesive whole. I'd like to write some music like that, though I'm only now starting to feel like I have the tools at my disposal to even begin to make it properly.

I like spare, stark, minimalist music that does what it needs to do in a few well-placed strokes. I'd like to write some music like that, if I can ever get myself to the point where I have the confidence to stop embellishing what doesn't need it.

I like shimmery, swirly, ambient music - the kind that's usually built around a couple of very basic pieces but piles on as many layers of sound as it needs to create its atmosphere. I'd like to write some music like that, especially if I can get comfortable enough with the requisite technology to really make it self-indulgent.

I like dissonant, difficult, experimental music that pushes the boundary of being just plain noise. Gods help me, I'd like to write some music like that too.

I like pretty music and creepy music, and the places where the two intersect. I like straightforward, sincere music and pretentious music. I like subtle, understated music and over-the-top, bombastic music. I like music that builds on ancient traditions and music that's so cutting-edge it still has fresh blood on it. I like, to use a favorite metaphor stolen from Tony, music that's been aged and corked and music with a screw-off cap. And if you want to know what music I'm interested in creating, I'm afraid my answer is going to have to be the same one I approach almost everything in life with: "A small slice of each, please."

What I'm not interested in is One-True-Wayism, or worrying about what's already been done ('cause it all has, kids), or limiting my palette out of fear that the Comic Book Guys of armchair criticism will sit around and say "Worst chord progression ever." I'm not interested in making happy either the proverbial masses (whoever they are, besides me and thee) or the self-appointed elite; indeed, I'm not interested in catering to anyone's aesthetic except mine and that of Folks Who Might Like the Kind of Thing I Do. And I'm really, really not interested in kowtowing to the opinions of anyone who clearly wishes I'd made something other than the work that's on the table. I am more than happy to accept that what I do will, inevitably, not be everyone's thing. At the same time, I have a reasonably good picture of the level of my own talent and skill, and feel confident in saying that if you don't like what I create, the problem is not mine.

Two more things bear saying now, so hopefully I don't need to say them again.

First: if you feel inclined to pass judgment on everything I've ever done, or contributed to, or indeed am capable of, based solely on the handful of pieces I've made available for free on the Interwebs: You are under the impression that an elephant is some variety of rope. This is understandable, under the circumstances, but you are not in possession of anything like enough knowledge. Please refrain from acting as if you are.

And second: Having an opinion does not entitle you to set aside all standards of discourse; that is to say, while your tastes are entirely your own business, all attitudes are not of equal merit. Or, to put it as plainly and unequivocally as I can: If you can't think of anything nice to say, go on and fuck yourself.

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