Creative honesty & putting yourself into your music

There are some genres of music that I enjoy listening to, but if I try to make music in that style, it feels like an imitation. Imitation techno, imitation chiptune, imitation powernoise, etc.

I don’t know if he means the same thing that I do, but I like Todd Barton’s phrase “follow the sound.” I start making sounds, noodling etc. and when I like what I hear, I have a pretty good sense of what to do with it next. The piece of music evolves that way, growing from its roots so to speak. If I try to fit it to a particular shape decided in advance, I often get into this “imitation” territory and have to walk it back and try something else. It’s bonsai, not topiary.


This is true for me. For the last 25-30 years I have written, and recorded, and toured, etc. on material that was wholly derivative in my mind and I told myself they sound like so and so because so and so were my influences. Nothing wrong with that but after a while, I simply got bored with that kind of music and wanted to learn new things (especially synthesis, sampling, hardware et al.) so now I do feel like I’m making the music I want to make and for the first time ever, not concerning myself with what people might think of it. People close to me find it downright unlistenable. And again, that’s okay. Why else what I put out a YouTube video consisting of 10 minutes of me manipulating the sound of a solenoid hitting a tin cup? Because that’s what brought me enjoyment at the time. So I guess I fall into the category of documenting experiments at this point. Personally, I find this way more interesting than playing guitar and singing in a band. If I could put together a band that let me do those types of things, that would be perfect. Great thread and a lot of good questions.


Not to be in anyway annoying, I hope, but other than Covid, what’s stopping you from doing exactly what you want to do? That sounds amazing, I’m sure there are many people here who would be very interested in hearing it! I know I would be. :+1::+1::+1:


I like that - the idea of letting the music become what it wants to become and go wherever it wants to go. It’s similar to the sculptor anecdote that I’ve heard in various forms. When the final piece is presented a stunned onlooker asks: “How on Earth do you make something like that?” to which the sculptor replies: “I start with a marble block and I just take away all the bits that aren’t part of the sculpture.”

So much this! Not to get all Marie Kondo about it, but there’s an extent to which I want to embrace the things that spark joy and jettison the rest because: why not? To refer back to the Kerouac I read many years ago: “be crazy dumbsaint of the mind” (but do it with a Koma Elektronik Field Kit/FX because those things are joyboxes!)

Like @eblomquist I would very much be interested in hearing whatever a band that explored anything you felt like exploring would sound like - and, in a nod to @disquiet I’d like to read about the process too


I don’t think I mean that I have been inauthentic. I’ve certainly never consciously tried to sound like anyone else, anyway - in that sense it has always been authentically my voice, just not all of my voice.

Defying expected norms is good. But I suppose I’d say that framing it in terms of authenticity and honestly expressing who you are rather than thinking in terms of ‘what do I want to do?’ makes the whole matter needlessly murky (and can lead to anxieties about one’s identity, for those so inclined).

I’ve never thought there was or needed to be a 1:1 relationship between the work and the person who makes it. That you get some but not all, and what that allows for, is one of the best things about “the arts.”


It’s interesting that some art forms seem to be more oriented towards these kinds of questions than others.

No one asks if an actor is authentically themselves when playing a character, or a novelist when writing from the perspective of a fictional person.

David Bowie is a great example of a musician who blatantly adopted personas that were fictitious in varying degrees, and that was quite confusing at the time, as rock musicians were “supposed” to be telling it like it is, and doing their own thing, in keeping with the general ethos of the era…

In retrospect that’s clearly nonsense. Even Jerry Garcia was playing a role on some levels…

We’re in an interesting time now as the concept of identity is morphing into potentially more fluid and user-selected forms, unleashing both great creativity and confusion.

As the zen koan asks, “who am I?”


I completely agree. I don’t mean to say that the work I’ve done before (that I feel falls short on honesty - which, I concede, is an incredibly problematic term) is bad or inferior in any way. I would hope to some extent that it is inferior, as I imagine all creators hope that their best work is still ahead of them, but the honesty or lack thereof has no bearing on that. To re-frame your suggestion slightly, I think most appropriate to me in this context is perhaps the question “what do I want to express?”

Another way of looking at it is akin to presenting the carefully curated social media version of my musical output rather than the length and breadth of it, not because the various different elements aren’t important to me, but because I imagine that they may be problematic to some imagined audience. “I won’t put this and that together because they’re too dissimilar. I’ll wait until I have enough this and enough that to make an entire release of this and an entire release of that

Thanks to having sampled him for a track several years ago, I can’t read that without Alan Watts continuing “and who are you?”

It’s a little bit of an aside but through the course of my thesis I’ve found myself distracted by contemplation of the manifold nature of the word “stream” and the way it relates to the consumption of music. The notion of never being able to step into the same stream twice sticks in my head and I can’t help but think of those instances when you recommend music to friend and have an instant twinge of jealousy, knowing that they are about to experience it for the first time. Regardless of how many times we may hear it (stream it) it always a different stream and we are always a different us.

It makes me also wonder whether the imagined audience idea isn’t also negated by the imagined idea of reception. In my mind, I create releases that I intend to be listened to in a single sitting, start to finish, but logic suggests that this is increasingly unlikely to be the case and in fact listeners will more commonly step into (and out of) the stream instead


Who’s to say
Like a Pokémon
Saying our own name over and over…

I’m confident my best work is behind me but I carry on, regardless. Albert Camus would be proud.


Amen, brother!

20 characters :sunglasses:


After 30+ years of making music, I feel like I’m just getting started. :slight_smile:


I agree with this completely. What on Earth have I been doing all this time?! So much left to explore!

Just in case that isn’t so, though, I also intend to embrace the sentiments of @donnachacostello and carry on defiantly nonetheless!


Nonetheless, he persisted :+1:


I have been buying stuff aka (for me) thinking about making music for around 18 months now. I know! The first album will be along shortly.

Anyhoo, I took on a tutor because I kinda felt like I was at an impasse. My feeling was that he would help me to understand the gear and get into a work flow that produced works of high quality art. I know! The first album… etc etc.

He actually only said one thing that stuck with me and I will grant you access to that nugget of wisdom for a one time payment of 99.99.

He said that learning ‘how’ is the easy part, the skill, the part that I will try to help you unearth, is ‘what’.

So I sacked him.


Interesting thread.

I’ve just found this site and will need to spend some time catching up - but this discussion certainly covers a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about myself over the last few months …


Tales from the valley of damaged artist personalities. I feel it.


Ha! Perfect! I feel as though there a stream of other tutors out there waiting to unearth “why…?” but the ones that will bankrupt you want to unearth “who…”

I’ve had some interesting realisations recently whilst exploring this territory and one of my most recent discoveries is that my worst experiences with GAS (some of which I have actually acted upon and regretted) involve seeing another workflow and thinking that it might be for me, when it actually contradicts everything I have done - and want to do! It’s akin to a career track runner seeing the swimming events and thinking “I’ve always done this running thing, maybe it’s time I ditched that and swam instead…” Sure, I get the compulsion - and why not try different things - but if you get to the pool and suddenly think “wait - one of things I like best is how my running shoes feel on the track and the idea of not doing that kills my interest completely” then maybe buying a “sampler” that lacks the ability to actually sample sounds (never mind resample them) is a REALLY STUPID IDEA :man_facepalming:


Oh. My. God. Can I say that here? Yes, I’m saying it because you have precisely described the Journey of the Noob. Loads of reverb on the voice, tiny bit of delay. Ooh, shiny! Ooh, Techno! Oooh, sampling! Oooh, midi! Ooh, beats! Oooh, operaaaaa? And so on until I know lots of tiny bits about not enough.

In the words of Bros, when will I, will I be famous? That is a whole nother journey I’ve been on that completely messed with my musical one. Just writing that makes me feel defensive. I’m not really bothered about it (yes I am). No I’m not. I make music for myself, dude.


Ha! That raises another excellent point: if I genuinely do make music for myself - which is something I’ve said and believed to a greater or lesser extent over the years - why am I not my own most listened-to artist?