“I discovered my true love for music only when I discovered I could connect with any of it if I just got myself out of the way.”
– Stuart Muller, August 2011
Stuart is an old friend from ‘varsity, and when he muttered these wise words the other day, they really hit home with me. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I experience music, how I listen to it, how I watch it… I ANALYSE. And it’s very much a case of me, the musician, being in the way of the music.
When you – the audience – hear a song, you hear the song. You don’t hear the parts that make up that song. Not at first anyway. The melodies, the beat, the sneaky hooks, they all mould into one unified piece of magic that you hear in one glorious entirety. When you watch live music, you don’t notice the brown notes here and there, the small glitches given away by that look on a musicians face that only a musician knows, you won’t think the sound guy must be deaf or wonder why on earth the lights were set like that. If something is wrong with the sound, the musicians in the audience will notice it first, and very often they’re the only ones who do… And you’ll watch your favourite artists on stage just being awesome.
Musicians don’t hear music like other people do, like their audiences do. They hear the elements that make it up. When I hear a new song, generally the vocals stand out first because I’m a vocalist, the hooks will grab me, and then I’ll hear each layer of instruments that carefully sits one on top of the other and I’ll carefully dissect where and how each one fits. But I never hear the song. Just the song. Listening back to my new album, I wish I could hear it as a whole so that I could hear it the way my audience will. I hear every note of every instrument so clearly but so separately. It’s the one thing about what I do that frustrates me. I will never hear my music like you do. I hear it like it felt, I hear each thought, each separate layer of sound, but never the whole song..
Chatting to a friend recently about a pretty epic show that we had watched together last year, he noted how critical I’d been on the night of each element that made up the show. I was blown away by the show, but there were so many elements that still needed work and the musician in me couldn’t see past that at the time and just enjoy what he experienced as perfectly awesome. I really wish I could just enjoy a show for the show’s sake without constantly over-analysing the elements.
But it comes with the territory, and being able to translate feeling into sound is worth any small frustration it may carry. And every so often there is a seamless show that truly blows your mind, a song that sneaks up on you and takes hold of everything you are and you forget for a second the elements that make it up and hear just the song. Every so often you forget the elements that make up who you are and you just are, you just listen, you get out of the way of yourself. I’m going to try to do that more often. In more than just music…