Since, like many creative types, I am an introvert, I have had to figure out for myself that I wanted to publish my music, and then – of course – I had explain to myself why I wanted to publish my music. Everyone at some point does. I had to justify it because two things are for sure – it’s not cheap and it’s not easy. I listened to an online talk recently by a music publisher and it was all about rights and contracts. I realized I’m far away from having to make that decision – like, opposite-side-of-the-earth far away. I’m still at the stage of: OK, got an idea, wrote this piece of music, sounds good, now what??
TO EXIST IT MUST BE HEARD
The answer lies in what music is. A painting is a physical thing on canvas. A book is a digital file or a printed thing. It is exists in and of itself. Not so with music. Hearing is not a purely mechanical phenomenon of wave propagation, but is also a sensory and perceptual event; in other words, when a person hears something, that something arrives at the ear as a mechanical sound wave traveling through the air, but within the ear it is transformed into neural action potentials. You have a mental and a physical reaction to what you hear.
Ever felt your eyes tearing up when you heard a particular song? That’s it. Or felt the hairs on your arms stand up when a specific piece played? There you go.
In the case of digital audio, that sound file is a long piece of code. It does not exist until someone hears it. You know that old philosophy question of: if a tree falls in the forest and there is no-one to hear, it does it make a sound? The answer is, it doesn’t. Although the tree falling sends off air waves, it does not produce sound if no human is within the distance that the air waves extend to.
OK, so obviously the music exists because I hear it. But then it exists only to me, to my husband (I’m not sure that he has actually listened to all of the songs – I don’t think they are to his taste) or to Luke the sound engineer. That is not enough. Until a sound gets into someone else’s head it has no meaning other than the meaning that the person who made it intended it to have.
So, for the music that I have made to exist, I have to put it somewhere where other people can hear it. I do not want to know who hears it or what they think. But in existential terms, it is something I have to do.
I may be strange but I’m not an outsider artist
Outsider artists are those people who create things entirely by themselves, alone, for one reason or another, like the photographer Vivian Maier, or Mark Hogencamp, who creates Marwencol. They do not fit into an art establishment and in most cases, their work is only discovered after they have died. In many cases, they had psychological or physical problems.
I asked myself, am I an outsider artist? Do I only want to have my music to be heard after I’m dead and someone checks out my iMac?
My answer, after a long time of thinking, was no. Saying no is an acknowledgement that I have managed to confront my demons and that I have things under control. And there is perhaps a little, tiny smidgen of pride in me for what I’ve made. I sometimes think: hey, this is not bad, someone else might enjoy it. My husband might enjoy it. The people who, in ways they do not even know of, helped me on this long journey, might enjoy it.
For this reason, and the fact that I agree with the theory that something, and some sensory stimuli in particular, cannot exist without being perceived by someone’s consciousness, I started publishing my music. Learning about publishing is a whole different ballgame, but that’s another story.
You might be like me
This blog is also for others like me. I believe there are many people like me, old people (let’s call a spade a spade) who are sitting at home, staring at their screens, trying to make music. Or write poetry or make paintings, or films, or a sculpture, or write a novel, or whatever.
I can do it, you can do it. Believe me, it’s do-able. Just keep trying.
I would have appreciated someone out there actually telling me this, or proving this to me, when I started out.
Don’t worry about the profitability or the relevance of what you (and present company included, me) make. Do it for the sake of your self, your soul and your sanity. Do it for the sake of the art. If you can at all afford the time and the materials, do it.
This is where I store my memories
The blog also serves as a reminder to myself. I tend to forget how painful it all has been. I need to remind myself every so often: oh, that’s how I did it! Now I remember what I meant by that thing. I need to relive the happiness that I felt when the penny dropped or the mixed file came back from the sound studio and it was good. Making music is like that children’s rhyme: “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. / When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid.”
When it is good, it is very, very good and very, very wonderful and makes me extraordinarily happy. (And vice versa.)
Here I am, 60 years old, cranky and creaky, but when a recording comes back from Luke and I hear it, I am so happy (almost every time) that I dance all over the house, I am lightheaded with delight. One moment like that can last me a whole week!
And that, as far as I am concerned, is the most compelling reason to get out of my mental lockdown and go public with my music.