How important is it to you to be original in what you do? And is it something you think should be important generally?
Napoleon IIIrd: For me the ultimate goal is to create something truly original, whether or not this is actually possible is another question entirely. I feel if I am not at least striving to create something original then there is little point in even bothering.
Laura Wolf: Originality is honestly not something I’ve thought much about. I’ve always been quite obsessed with people getting my points of reference and using ideas I like from other people’s music in what I do. Hopefully, despite this, most of the music I’ve made or collaborated on has not been particularly derivative. Perhaps if you steal ideas from enough places their original locations become untraceable and therefore what you create is original? Or it at least makes the concept of original vs unoriginal null and void because everything is made up of other borrowed things rather than a discrete thing that can be owned anyway. How postmodern.
Jeremy Warmsley: It used to be terribly important to me to have original production. Production that purposefully didn’t sound like what anyone else was doing. I used to have this maxim: everyone worth listening to has incredible lyrics & melodies. That’s the bare minimum. So really once you’re in the world of people-who-are-worth-listening-to all that really matters is production. So I worked really hard on lyrics & melodies, and then I worked just as hard at making my production & arrangements unusual and different.
What a tool! Over the years that will has been completely eroded as I’ve realised how dumb and reductive it was: of course it’s much more complicated than that. Firstly, some songs shine with less crazy production [why am I assuming that original production will necessarily be busy + exciting?] Secondly, what about originality in the song itself? Etc etc.
Hannah Miller: It depends what exactly you mean by original. I think it is important to write and play in an independant and creative manner, but I consider the Moulettes to be folk music essentially, and within this referential framework it is difficult to claim the notes as your own. The music we play is made of patterns. Bassoon, cello and drums are infrequent bedfellows, and so, perhaps writing with these instruments can bring about unusual happenings. We are also intrigued by the manipulation of sound to create unexpected occurences, and I have recently been having a lovely time with a disembowelled piano, in lieu of the hammer dulcimer that I would dearly love.
Paul Hawkins: I think originality’s important but I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to try to force it. but I also don’t think it’s a good idea to make a conscious choice to do – I think the more you try to force originality the more contrived and laboured something becomes and the less probable it becomes that you’ll do something original.
I think all that you can do is try to make sure what you write genuinely reflects you as a person and ultimately, if you really capture a sense of yourself in your songwriting, then it will be original ‘cos it’ll be something nobody else could possibly have written. And certainly what I love about most of the songwriters I love is that they’ve found a way of writing which is very unique to them and that would be very hard to imitate (at least without sounding like a parody or pastiche).
Capitol K: I don’t feel that originality should necessarily be a prime focus for music making, more focus on refining your art, your expression – developing the way you get your ideas accross, and really on a personal level to stay in love with your instrument, what ever that may be. Most people who stay true to themselves will quite naturally find they do something “original” if you like.. In essence being your self is the most original you can get..
Ill Ease: It is very important to me, probably second in importance only to writing music that I like.
Yes, I think its something that should be very important generally. I think it’s what makes creative pursuits worthwhile and interesting and fun. Breaking new ground, creating new landscapes and different ways of seeing the world — I see it as being like a spiritual pursuit, reaching out into the unknown.
Spencer McGarry: If we take originality to be the novel combining of disparate influences or the combining of obvious influences in an interesting way, I don’t think currently I could say that I am original. What I am in the process of doing though may be original in hindsight depending on the individual looking at the project in its totality. A musical career encompassing a rock album and an album influenced by musicals and orchestral pop for example, does not sound too outré to me and certainly has been done by a few of my favourite artists; but quite a few have unfortunately seen these as mutually antagonising bedfellows.
So by doing exactly what I think is normal, I am being seen by some as being schizophrenic, and unfocussed and by others as perhaps doing nothing outside of the boundaries of popular music, maybe even repeating history. I think it is more important to just do whatever it is you want to do and not worry about what others are up to, and in some quarters one will be seen as being ‘original’ and in others just run of the mill.
Mat Riviere: I don’t think the music I make is very original. I’m very influenced by what I’ve been listening to and the songs are representative of this. I think what’s interesting is that even if I’m really into a particular artist and I’m trying to emulate them in my music it basically just ends up sounding like me. I’d struggle to call this original, it’s more like a bad photocopy with an interesting pattern in it. Or something…
Capitol K: As music is one of the best communicators of ideas then lots of people with ideas get involved in music in many ways, be it as an instigator or a player or a producer or a curator of events… they all help make things different, keep it fresh and it all evolves naturally..
In the right context anything can seem refreshing…
Jeremy Warmsley: Is originality important? Good fucking question. I did a module on philosophy of art at uni and I can exclusively reveal here for your benefit that, no it isn’t. It’s a side note. File it alongside “the lead singer used to go out with Madonna” and “they recorded the whole thing on 19th century photographic plates!” It might be a reason to get excited by/interested in the music but it’s not the reason the music is good.
That said, if something is a total rip, that’s just boring. It gets in the way of listening to the music. I can’t listen to the tune without thinking about how much of a rip it is.
Mind you. What the hell is originality anyway? Is it just sounding different? Or is it the way you go about things? Can you make original music without trying to?
Spencer McGarry: I think it’s more important to be aware of the past not so much in that we won’t repeat it, more in the way that we can utilize it to create something else. I was reticent about starting a venture full of just my own songs for years because I was stifled by the notion that everything I did had been done and I was not doing anything interesting, after I stopped worrying about that, I could start making albums etc.
I don’t think of art in terms of originality, more of in terms of what order an artist has combined influences in order to make something. Occasionally we see massive jumps in creativity that appear to be original such as Kraftwerk or the Beatles, but nothing comes form a vacuum we only have to go back to their sources to ascertain their origin, be that Stockhausen, Tangerine Dream and the industrial sounds of their environment in the former and Motown, country and Western, Music hall, skiffle and rock and roll in the later.
Being aware of the influences of so-called ‘original’ artists can help in 2 ways-
– It can help one understand the music of the artist in greater depth
– It can free up the mysticism and intimidation surrounding a body of work allowing others to be inspired by it and not intimidated into inactivity.
Hannah Miller: So far, in terms of recordings, The Moulettes have two live E.P.s and a studio album in progress, and it has been interesting to discover the advantages and constraints of both. A musician such as Laijko Felix, a serbian-born violinist, zither player and composer, has made live, mostly improvised records that are enthralling and compelling for their seemingly accidental quality and the sense that a moment has been visited that would never happen the same again. To be a really good studio band is a different discipline, one that allows scope for the creation of other-worldly soundscapes.The Knife is a good example of a band who have collected and created a really unusual bag of sounds.
Songs are born out of improvisation and experimentation, and where there is a beauty and purity to those that spontaneously and quickly come in to being, there is also a place for the song that is periodically revised, added to and crafted. It is easy to thrive and to develop your craft when you are amongst a musical community where there are many splendid players to bounce ideas off, and opportunities to learn from those with different styles or approaches.
In short, it is important to look back at the origins of things as well as to be original and innovative.
Paul Hawkins: I think a lot of people are scared of actually revealing themselves through their work so they instead try to be original by being “random” and what they’re doing descends into quirkiness and, in the worst case scenarios, wackiness. But ultimately any competent musician can sit with an instrument and make a series of random noises that have never been made before and any competent songwriter can write songs about subject matter never covered before if he or she wants to be deliberately obscure. And that kind of originality quickly stops sounding so original at all as it’s basically a set of tics that are easy to replicate So certainly to me the best way to go about things is to work on creating a way of writing songs that comes from your own personality and is very much your own.
What’s this all about?
links to other questions in this conversation are here
Tags: capitol k, hannah miller, ill ease, internet forever, jeremy warmsley, laura wolf, mass interview, mat riviere, modernaire, napoleon iiird, pagan wanderer lu, paul hawkins, spencer mcgarry season, the moulettes