Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fear in the Critique - My Reluctance to Write Critical Journalism

I feel somewhat reluctant to start this, an exploration into why I am reluctant to start something else. It could be perceived to be a lengthy, overly dramatic excuse but I'm sure expressing it serves some sort of purpose. I'm not sure if I should write music reviews and I can't work out whether this is because I am fearful or lazy, or whether it because I am morally opposed to the critical breakdown of art. I don't want artists to be discouraged by my silly, stupid words. I don't want to point out all the moments that are hackneyed, that don't quite work out, but again there is little I can say to stress those perfect aspects, those moments that enchant me completely.

I fear that term, "mindless hyperbole". I've used it to dismiss so much of my work. I know that venturing into this kind of journalism will make me susceptible to that kind of reproach - both from others and from myself. This is because I have to describe the music for others, to evaluate its sound, to place it in some sort of a context. Who am I to draw out these analogies anyway? Who am I to accept or dismiss those who have the creativity to play their music for others, it's all I could ever wish for.

Maybe it's just not for me, not yet anyway. I acknowledge its value to others but perhaps I don't have enough conviction in my taste to do this just yet. I am more drawn to articles about musical culture - why do we love what we love. I love stumbling upon an article which debunks the mystery and motivation behind my musical self. It is something that I long to validate. It is like with every essay, every article, every podcast, I am saying this is valuable. My taste is valuable. All I ever mean to say is value your passion and be careful not to dismiss the valued passions of others.

Everything's Gone Green

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I Can't Write a Song

When I think about writing a song, constructing lyrics, a melody, chord structures and a hook, I feel physically sick. It's been this way for a very long time. But now, in my attempt to cure my writer's block, Julia Cameron stylee, I'm compelled to write the story of how it came to be such a grotty, apologetic mess. If, for no other reason than to satisfy my own vanity, it may give my reader(s) cause to think about the nature of their own creativity and why we are sometimes discouraged from doing the things we truly want to do.

There was a time when I used to write "songs". I used to write them a lot, actually. I once boasted that I wrote 80 songs in one (particularly melancholy) winter. They weren't real songs, not in the strictest use of the term. They were more like loose leaf poems, folded and bound together by hair-ties, living in disused Walkman boxes. They were typically about adolescent anxieties, very emo in nature. At that time, I felt it was a legitimate, very private way to express my loneliness and frustration. I never reproached myself for it, although now I could never bring myself to read those words again - perhaps out of sheer embarrassment but most likely because anything more than a vague recollection of that time is simply too painful.

I can't deny that I had outrageous daydreams of being a "rockstar", in the true sensationalist meaning of the word. This was long before meeting Gordy who promptly asserted that the correct term was "musician". It makes me chortle, after all "musician" has so much more gravitas than "rockstar". Anyway, I had these preposterous ideas of somehow staging a concert on the construction site opposite my house and covering Don't Let Me Down. I harboured such an obsession over that song that I even took up bass in anticipation this concert would actually happen. Unfortunately, the house was built before anything eventuated. The annoying neighbours moved in who, in time, would come to reproach me for not earning enough money.

It's so easy but I can't do it, so risky but I gotta chance it, so funny there's nothing to laugh about, my money that's all you want to talk about...

I stopped writing my poems for one reason or another. I think I might have fallen in love, or else I might have shelved my emo tendencies and started being happy. Who the hell can remember anyway, it's hardly important. The fact of the matter is that I stopped writing these poems. For a little while, at least.

The second songwriting era occurred in first year university. I had actually sat down at the piano and composed songs about midnight adventures, lust and human delicacy. They were slightly more developed songs, perhaps by virtue of the fact that there was a musical accompaniment. But I have to say it, the piano parts were rarely very sophisticated. I was surprised by how awfully poor it was, given the years and years of music lessons I had to endure. Again, I feel embarrassed at the thought of those songs now. I feel embarrassed that we actually recorded demos for them in Bundoora. The piano drags and the pitch is slightly off and the lyrics are so derivative. It was clear I was trying to sound like Morrissey or Dave Gahan or maybe even Neil Tennant, but I didn't sound like any of them. It was just awful.

Yet in spite of my negativity, Laur encouraged me a great deal. As my best friend, she allowed me to record demos on her Minidisc. She would subsequently listen to the "album" repeatedly and tell me which songs she liked. I still have a text message from her from six years ago: "Your album has gone straight to my no 1 most listened spot! It's like you're always with me when I listen to it!" Her support didn't reflect any kind of musical quality, moreso a delirious breed of wholehearted loyalty. It's funny how we can never accept their compliments, no matter how emphatic.

The last song I officially wrote was "The Lost Weeks End". It was a play on words, relating to John Lennon's period of hedonistic inactivity. It detailed my period of depression after discovering my crush didn't feel the same way. I slept for up to 19 hours a day. I did it to numb the pain, to get through the hurt. I don't think I ever recorded it, the subject matter was just far too grim. After that, I stopped for good. I got involved with radio, fashion illustration and awkward romantic scenarios.

I never lost the yearning to sing or to write songs, but I was just so totally appalled at my prior efforts that I had no idea how to legitimately do it. I'm too afraid I'll make something hideously self-indulgent or infantile or plain fucking stupid. I'm too afraid that people are going to be able to identify what I'm singing about, who I'm singing about. I'm too afraid that I'm somehow going to drift into a genre of music that I quite simply hate, just because I don't have the creative intelligence to do what I want to do.

I must allow myself to bypass these fears and start again. Afresh. This can be the third era. This can be great.