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  • Writer's pictureJamie McCarthy

Process Thoughts 1st March 2024 

Like a lot of other people in ‘the arts’ right now I’ve not got any work at the moment. Nothing since December and nothing on the horizon until the end of May. It a fuckin’ awful state of affairs right now. To keep myself from getting depressed at not being an ‘employable artist’ I’ve set myself the task this week to make a sketch every day that could be the basis for a piece. It’s going OK. Four sketches done and another day of it today to wrap up the week.


A few things I’m noticing this week:


First off, the truth of the fact that you just have to start. Just that. Even if you have no idea where to, just start anywhere. This week I could feel those usual feelings of being at a loss of where to start, but I made myself go with whatever came into my head. On the first day it was making sounds using the grille part of our oven grill pan. Yesterday I had an idea of using the makeshift zither I have in the cupboard in ways I hadn’t used it before. The day before I thought about an old shruti drone box I bought back from India in the nineties and using that in a layered way to make sliding sounds and the day before that I started with the sounds I could make with my skin.


Some other ideas fed in: I had a drawing I’d made for possible use as a visual score. I had a plainchant-like melody I’d written lying around on a sheet of manuscript paper. I thought of ideas like … ‘make a container and put something in it’, the phrase ‘luddite teens’, the writer Samuel R. Delany’s idea of ‘contact rather than networking’ …


Everything had to be held lightly I found, and let go of if it didn’t feel relevant.


It’s the old thing of starting, making a mark as it were, observing what happens as / when you make / once the sound is made and allowing new things to flow from that. Again and again, I have to remind myself that for me at least, I can’t start off thinking I’m going to do something original in some way.


I do get really tired of my starting points – they seem to remain pretty much the same and I can notice myself getting pissed off with myself for not coming up with something new, more original, more clever etc. I’m sure there are people who can do that being clever and original at the beginning thing, but it just doesn’t work for me. The newness and any originality that might arise comes later in the process. I have to find a pretext for doing something and get me over that starting bit where I’m frustrated with myself for being so predictable, uninspired, uncreative, boring etc.


The ’make a container and put something in it’ idea is a really useful idea for me. It makes making music a work-like thing: I’ve just got to make something that can hold some sound. A structure – a span of time – sections of a span of time – some approaches – some tools – some materials – some tasks to do. I often say that I don’t get inspired. I guess what I mean by that, is that inspiration is the thing that just sort of comes of itself to fill the ‘container’ I’ve made and inspiration is very much under the surface for me. I can’t call on it. I can make the conditions for it to arrive, I can make something that might catch it should it arrive, but it’s mysterious and beyond my will. It creeps up on me when I think I’m not doing anything of much importance.


It seems to me I have to work pretty quickly before my head gets too involved in what I’m doing and starts suggesting stuff like ‘why don’t you do this or that clever thing? What you’re doing is really too basic’ … blah, blah, blah.


Time and again I find that it’s the observation of what I’ve produced that is perhaps the most creative part for me. What does it seem like it is – wants to be? What can I do to help it become more itself?


I find weirdly, that what comes out of the sound reveals what I’m actually interested in, rather than what I thought I was interested in.

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