The holidays are a time of creative renewal for me – the free time, mental relaxation, and annual introspection always result in fresh ideas, perspective, and initiative. Writing and recording music is the equivalent of an emotional work out: It keeps my soul in shape. And so I look forward to the holiday break and the annual influx of imagination it brings.
That said, for me the problem with music (and writing and work and life) has never been a lack of ideas. Rather, that problem is bringing those ideas to completion. Just finish it. That's hard for this tinkering perfectionist to do.
Over the last few days I've been reminded of the admonitions of Stravinsky, who famously wrote about the creative process:
My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit.
This week I've been recording with Propellerheads Reason, a program that I've had on my hard drive for years but never really taken seriously. When compared to an installation of Logic Pro fully outfitted with plugins from Waves, Native Instruments, and Spectrasonics, Reason has always seemed to me to be, well, limited. And the rack-based system is cute but not very practical.
But over the last couple of days I've decided to take the advice of Stravinsky and use Reason as a way of forcing some constraints. I have to say, I've loved it. The very things I never liked about Reason – a closed system, limited expansion options, a restricted soundset – have tapped directly into my composition nerve. Plus, the program has dramatically evolved over the last several releases; the mixer and the rack extensions are fantastic. And, Reason doesn't seem to crash. Ever. I can't say the same about Logic, ahem...
It is almost unseemly to suggest that using a program with dozens of built-in effects and instruments, hundreds of tracks, 64-bit processing, and incredibly complex routing options constitutes "imposing limits," particularly when I recorded an entire CD years ago on a system with only eight audio tracks. Still, in the modern world of computer processing that far exceeds most practical uses, I've found Reason to be a nice ecosystem. I hope to post some completed files in the next few weeks.
More than that, I hope that in the new year I remember that the obstacles in front of me are only fuel for creative solutions.