A Bricoleur Refelcts On The Creative Process

I’ve now been putting together guitar-based popular music for a good 18 years, if not longer–in fact, if one counts my various high school bands, it has been at least two decades (which is not to say I am “good” at it). Although I made some attempts at lyrics in this time, I almost never made any public, nor attempted to generate a finished product. I stuck primarily to the music and allowed others to write the words.

I say “putting together” intentionally, rather than “composing,” because I was recently reflecting on the music I have created and I realized that I approach the craft from a very practical point of view. While I know how to write well and enjoy being creative, I am in no way a poet, nor (I realize) do I have a poet’s mind. I take a critical approach, which is probably what took me into the academic world professionally. At any rate, I create music the way a builder puts together a building. That is, I create various musical parts, or movements, out of already existing (one might say engineered) components, such as keys, scales, modes, progressions, and then I fit them together in a pleasing way, almost like a child putting together a puzzle to create a picture. The music almost always “works,” because it is designed to work, but I wonder if my method isn’t inherently limited because the music doesn’t emerge from an idea organically, but rather mechanically.

I suppose this also means I’m no troubadour; I’m a bricoleur. I work with available materials, rather than fashioning something new. But if I were to try something new, would it be “rock” or popular music, which is almost always highly structured according to recognized patterns that are simply reorganized to fit a particular idea?

This reflection prompts me to consider creating a piece of music that breaks the bounds of structure and genre, but two things stop me, one practical the other ethical: 1) Where to begin? and 2) Would such an attempt merely be an expression of arrogance?

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13 Responses to “A Bricoleur Refelcts On The Creative Process”

  1. Interesting. If you wanted to try experimenting with composition, I would be up for collaborating…ie, adding my two cents. However, my guess would be that you would want full control over such an endeavor.

  2. But of course! But, where to begin? I tried experimenting with whole tones last eve on the classical guitar, but I don’t really get them. Could there be a whole tone rock song? I doubt it. Do I want to do a rock song anyway? I don’t know. Just thinking.

    Alex Lifeson typically plays Chromatic guitar solos, which just proves that he is better than just about everybody else out there in the rock world. So, there’s hardly anything new to work with.

  3. Could you send me just a few guitar snippets of what you might be thinking of?

  4. I don’t have anything. According to my theory I have to have an idea first and I don’t have any ideas.

  5. I have an idea…but I don’t want to use profanity on the blog…

  6. Well, you develop it, then. But why no profanity? Who cares?

  7. choppernewt Says:

    You guys are gay.

  8. That’s a half-truth.

  9. Yeah, Sir Pent is gay.

  10. Well, half of a half of a half.
    About 1/16th gay.

  11. Boy, mention Gene Simmons and we get 25 hits yesterday.

    Speaking of gay, I began an experimental composition in D, 7/8 time, using some scale called Egyptian: D E G A C D. I tried to let it emerge organically. I picked some notes I liked and then typed them into a very cool website I found that will do “reverse scales,” in other words telling you which scale your notes fit into. I came up with Egyptian. It was then a matter of finding the best chords for this scale: Dsus4, Dsus2, Gsus4, Gsus2, Am, Am7, Asus4, Cadd9, Csus2, etc.

    So now I have some new chords to learn….

  12. You guys underestimate the powerful love a lot of people have for KISS.

    I’d love to hear a little taste. If I had more time in my life, I’d like to try some percussion compositions. Building an entire song with merely percussion instruments. I have a few ideas but have just never done it.

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