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The limitlessness of Reason.

The limitlessness of Reason.

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.
Powerful limits.

Powerful limits.

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.

Slow and Steady

Some of you know that I occasionally dabble in music — or rather, I constantly dabble in music but only occasionally finish anything I think is worth sharing. It’s been about nine months since I posted anything, but I put something up earlier today.

I’m not sure where I come down on the debate about art, whether it exists in and of itself or if it is only present upon being received by someone else, but it does seem like there’s some imperative to let it out to the world, warts and all. 

So with that, here’s a new song, Freedom II. (There was an original Freedom, and I ended up shelving it. My naming certainly hasn’t gotten any more original.) I don’t claim it to be anything special, but it is mine, and I’m happy to claim it as that. hope you enjoy it.

Sing, sing a new song

Some of you know that for months and months and years and years I’ve been trying to find the time, inspiration, and fortitude to get back into writing and recording music. For the last decade it seemed that every time I sat down to write or play, a voice would go off in my head that said “You don’t do that anymore…” Well, the thing about voices is if you hear them long enough, you believe what they say.

Fast forward to last November and the death of my dad — all of a sudden the thoughts piling up in my laundry basket of a brain started falling onto the floor. First a sock here, a t-shirt there, but more and more as time passed.

About a month ago I was fiddling around on the keyboard and came up with a very simple riff and decided “I will finish this, regardless of where it leads.” No censoring, no judgment, just finishing something.

Here it is — aptly named “Something Simple,” a short song about songwriting, relationships, and how the two may or may not be the same thing. The mix is shrill and the compression irritating, but you know what? It’s a start. Check it out.