Process vs Outcome?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own practice lately… and realized through some reflection that I’m primarily driven by concept and process, with the actual outcome a bit secondary. Although I still care about the finished piece, it usually comes down to making some decisions and polishing the results of the process, which is usually derived from a conceptual starting point.

I often can’t even imagine what the finished work will be like until I’ve started some sort of process, or have a clear core concept… Once the process is underway I shift a bit to thinking about the form of the piece, but it almost never comes first.

In your own work, music or other art making, do you feel like you’re more focused on process? outcome? concept? Is one of these more central to your approach?


I’m much more interested in process than outcome, however, my process is usually (but not always) guided more by feel than by concept.

That said, I do like making recordings that I enjoy listening to, so I am not completely agnostic as to outcome…


It’s a combo of concept and process for me.

It’s always process. I can’t really distinguish my process from another big word: practice.

Concept only occasionally enters. That’s when my craft starts getting high falutin aspirations of art.

I do have an outcome in mind but it’s usually literally just a desire to experience an emotion. That’s usually a very achievable goal. Other goals that are also easy to achieve through practice are related to discovery and learning.

I have a hard time with “art” as a profession because galleries freeze moments in time and my process/practice is intentionally ephemeral. Had to be there. Sucks that venues for performance are narrowing and also sucks that I’ve grown introverted in middle age. Perhaps concerts would be a more frequent than zero outcome if it were otherwise.

Really enjoying which is a few hundred pages on the topic of practice

Edit: also, a lot of the time, I’m just facking around


I’ve also been digging into what practice means to me lately and the Fripp book is great (I’m also a guitar player so it’s nice to have something less traditional to read). Structure and Synthesis by Mark Fell is another book I’ve started reading as well about the topic.

In my own experiences, process is important as a starting point. I reflect on the outcome + decide whether or not it is something I want to share. Practice is the consistent daily/weekly pursuit, which is hard to maintain.


It’s such a great book and really made me think about the nature of practice/process. One of the main things that resonated with me was his point against thinking of music creation as having a preconceived concept in mind and then creating it using tools. I think he calls it the Cartesian/linear approach. Rather he proposed a way of thinking where it’s about the feedback loops between you, your tools, your environment - JTK (Just Turning Knobs) as a valid mode of creation - all super relevant to this topic. And definitely means I’m now more tempted to reply with “process” as what’s my main motivation - if I happen to be recording at the same time, all the better, but the WAV as an artefact is by the by


It’s a combination for me too. My goal is usually to make something I want to listen to later. Projects like Jamuary are a bit of a relaxation of that, but not 100%.

But process is important to me too – I feel like I have to enjoy the process to get a good result, and sometimes I just patch/jam without recording.


I’ve always wanted to work conceptually, preferrably almost comically rigorously so (not too comically maybe, but I often find the edge between humor and seriousness there a fruitful one to skirt).

And I’ve never been able to do it.

Whenever I make music I find my intuition (musical or unmusical as it may be) and aural, I guess, desire takes over entirely. But I get a lot of joy and inspiration from the ideas and ways of old school conceptual artists of the 60s and 70s and also writers who work, or worked, conceptually.

To start with a simple, and maybe strong but maybe also not so strong, concept, which perhaps also lays down very clear directions for how to proceed, and then you just follow. And the outcome is whatever the outcome is. And you’re in a way part of the world then. Just doing, following, playing (and not judging, at least hopefully not very much).


First of all, thank you for starting this discussion, which I really enjoy. Very interesting to hear, how others approach this.

In the 90s, when I started making electronic music, it was all about outcome. I usually had a specific idea what I wanted to achieve and approached this in a rather straightforward manner with tools I understood and could - after a while - somewhat skillfully apply. This changed, when I discovered Reaktor. With Reaktor, process was everything. Trying out modules I did not fully understand and connecting them in nonsensical ways rarely led to recordable masterpieces. Still loved it. At some point, maybe 10 years ago, I stopped producing tracks in trackers/DAWs

Today, making music for me is mainly about trying out tools and instruments, without any clear goal or expectation of a result. Mostly, I start by choosing one or two tools and see where they lead me. What I enjoy is the unpredictability of this process, therefore I prefer tools that are difficult to control or that I don’t fully understand (think Soma). Outcome is not relevant (but of course I have nothing against positive surprises). An exception is maybe playing sheet music, which is an entirely different category of making music.


To some extent, sheet music is primarily about an outcome which is predetermined in some parameters. Of course, the closer one gets to the present day, the more indeterminate the outcomes anticipated by the composers become, which is great…


I’ve read that people are happier when they focus on consistently achieving small, regular goals than occasionally achieving large ones, and I think that maps quite well to process vs outcome.

But happiness aside, I find I also achieve more interesting outcomes when I focus on the process, as it’s much easier to end up an interesting place when you don’t care where you end up



I am reminded of the Situationist Dérive

I love this stuff!


I think I’m often motivated by the broadest strokes outline of the outcome of a project (“I’d like to write an album”, “I’m making a gig poster”, “I’d like to prove xyz theorem”) but have learned over time to really expect the thing to break and shatter and fail to emerge into the world in the way I maybe imagined it in my head going in. Having made my peace with that, I’m almost more interested to see what I learn in the process of making it.


As Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”


Not getting punched in the mouth is an outcome I do try to plan for.


As an audience member or listener, I generally appreciate when the artist has some intention regarding outcome. I’ve been to enough avant garde performances where the description of process was way more engaging than actually living through the performance.

For me, it’s both. I need to enjoy the process, and I want an outcome that I like musically. Otoh, for Jamuary, it’s more about just making something and not evaluating too much.


Yep. Or descriptions of music that seems really fascinating in text, and then I go and look for it and… it’s too dull, too random, not that engaging, or just too long without enough to say.

I feel like with a live performance, when there’s real risk and spontaneity and live experimentation happening, that’s one thing. But if I record something where the process was more interesting than the outcome, I’m not inclined to share the outcome as a piece of music.


I totally agree with you. Often I have a lot of fun riding on the waves of this or that conceptual approach - and the recorded outcome is nothing anyone else should have to suffer through. Except maybe when it is “Jamuary” and you want to document an experiment gone wrong.


What happens in Jamuary stays in Jamuary.


I try to keep both out when I make music, no hope, no fear. It feels more like being guided by the music…well that may be regarded as a process… :slightly_smiling_face:


My take. More descriptive of my own psychology than fact.

The best comes from sway.

Orienting by process gives pleasure.
Orienting by outcome gives aim.

Pleasure is entertainment without aim.
Aim is discipline without pleasure.

Vision of outcome can emerge from love of process.
Vision of process can emerge from desire of outcome.

Process repeats.
Outcome points.

Wish for outcome comes from a wish to separate, collect, and join, a wish to take – it’s the joy of value and focus. It’s about the accepted.
Wish for process comes from a wish to employ the body and stumble upon, a wish to go – it’s the joy of movement and accident. It’s about the accepting.

I think concept is not a good pivot to orient ourselves by. It’s the accept that drives and pulls.
Concept means that with which it’s taken. What takes. It is I + that + it.
Accept means that by which it’s taken. What’s taking. It is I + it.
In the sway of a concept, a product is a by-product.
In the sway of an accept, a product the not-quite-accessible me.

By the process of separating out the product from the concept, the product can come out to cast its chains. Dealing through the accept is the only way we have.