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The Magical Approach

I grew up enamored of science and rational thought, assumed that the “answers” were out there waiting to be found by some form of logical empirical(ish) analysis.

These days I cultivate a naive, unknowing attitude toward the world and my activities in it: a kind of magical approach. The scientific method, for all its obvious power, tends to leave me cold. This is especially true in music. I used to plan out pieces in great detail then work to realize the plan in notes/sounds, like an architect drafting a blueprint and realizing it in the physical structure.

Now I am much more of a creative groper. I do lots of soundcombing, wandering up and down audio beaches gathering found sound objects, like driftwood, and then arranging them at some later date into “pieces.” I often begin with a sprawl and chip away to find the form hiding within it. I know i’m on the right track when I feel moved, but somewhat confused and off-balance by what I’ve done. My attitude towards software instruments tends to be the same: I dive in, without knowing what I’m doing (analytically, DSPly), fumble around until I come up with something — or, often more accurately: until something comes up — and then I go with it. This is one of the main reasons I love randomization so much: It’s non-rational.

Am I trying to say that one approach is somehow “better” than the other? I hope not. Rather: that the naive, magical approach works more effectively for me, now. It lets me frame the world in mystery, which in turn gets my musical (and other creative) juices flowing.

Do you see the world more in scientific or magical terms? Or perhaps neither … ? Please share. :-)

Posted on November 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm by rachmiel · Permalink

12 Responses

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  1. Written by JP
    on November 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I like to think I’m split right about down the middle in this respect. My love of science and technology has led me to more digital methods of creating and manipulating sound, but it’s also my background in studying metaphysics that has served as motivation for getting involved in music in the first place; that concept of sound being the language of abstract and mysterious ideas.

    In most cases, I’ve found the combination of the two to make for surprisingly effortless inspiriation. Fractals for example, are IMO scientific and magical in nature and lend themselves to creating interesting sources of modulation.

    Best of luck to you on your journeys!

  2. Written by mr. tunes
    on November 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    oh so cool! i dont think we ever give enough credence to the idea of magic. and sometimes, magic just isn’t there either. we just need to accept these things.

  3. Written by vurt
    on November 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    archaic forms, pagan ritual chants and ideas.
    while science has its place, i personally have seen things science cannot explain (yet)
    however i do not view magick with naiveity, it can be dangerous, tread carefully.

  4. Written by Inara
    on November 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Can you leave a link to where we can listen to your compositions?

  5. Written by rachmiel
    on November 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    if you dare: http://rachmiel.org/music/. ;-)

  6. Written by rachmiel
    on November 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

    jp, hi. :-) my teachers used to talk (a lot!) about investing pieces with both the Apollonian (thought, reason) and the Dionysian (feeling, ekstase). a piece with just one of these could be effective; think: cheap but rousing dance music (Dionysian) or cold-as-ice serial music (Apollonian). but, only when both were (compellingly) present could a piece be FULL: dance music with a strong/intelligent underlying structure, serial music that sings. sounds like you, by your own nature, are drawn to the combination of Apollo and Dionysus in your music. :-)

  7. Written by rachmiel
    on November 19, 2011 at 8:46 am

    mr. tunes, hi. :-) i think magic is always there. (not the woo-woo kind, rather: the real-world kind.) but it’s sometimes very difficult to see/live it.

  8. Written by rachmiel
    on November 19, 2011 at 8:47 am

    vurt: hey dude! :-) when i think of (what i know about) your life, from your music and kvr postings, it seems pretty steeped in magic(k) to me. i think that, like me, you often do your best work from a position of not-knowing. yes?

  9. Written by Psyclapse
    on November 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I think Ive always had a science-arts split brain. ;) I see it as yin and yang in a way. But I think going with intuition rather than formula in composition is positive and I find myself doing more of that. Eg I used to be very prescriptive and dogmatic about 12 bars of this followed by 8 bars of that etc etc. Now I’m more inclined to let stuff happen. I think DAWs are great for that – being able to move parts around means not having to define the song structure up front as I was more inclined to do with tape.

  10. Written by JP
    on November 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Rachmiel, while I’ve never thought of it in terms of specific dieties, the attributes are definitely there, yes. Thinking more on it, I believe my preference to meld these seemingly opposing “forces” comes from my parents – which makes perfect sense to me now. My father representing the male energy has always been very analytical, logical…the planner. My mother on the other hand has always been a “let’s wing it and see what happens” type of person. Thanks for giving me something to think about. :)

  11. Written by mrblitz
    on November 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    In my experience, music is the most magical thing there is. It’s an interesting idea; looking at the Dionysus/Apollo aspects.

    Anyway, so many ‘songs’ have ‘moved my consciousness into another realm.’ These pieces of music have always been the largest part of the inspiration which first caused me to pick up an instrument, or sing.

    Perhaps more importantly; more than anything else; music is what gives life its ‘meaning.’

  12. Written by Greg
    on December 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

    As unfortunate it is for me to hear of people’s horrible school band experiences turning them off from creating later in life, it pains me even more to read that people are left “cold” by science. The scientific method isn’t a matter of following memorized rules, but it is a method of gaining an objective, testable idea of how our universe works. Getting to that idea is a creative and exciting journey and you’d be surprised by how many scientists are naively fumbling about. So, I would say that I use neither paradigm to view the world, because I reject your disjunct entirely :)

    It has been my experience that fear is what leaves people cold. When comfort and confidence reign, then creativity flows to any domain the will desires – music, science, writing, dancing, just to name a few – completely unbiased. Uncertainty and the fear of failure are what stymie my musical output, not my scientific training.

    Perhaps, instead of being non-rational, the reason randomization is so freeing is that it takes some responsibility away from the creator to create (or at least be inspired) and thus the anxiety of failing to produce?

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