When I was writing this website I decided to have a separate “Projects” section. The idea was to motivate myself do more things, try and finish at least some of the ideas and half-done side projects that collect dust on my mental shelves (ooh that was a nice metaphor). The plan turned out to be not so hot, weeks went by and the projects section still wasn’t getting any action. So, to improve the sad state of affairs I’m resorting to the favourite trick of bloggers who suddenly find their current life too boring to talk about - The Throwback.
Yes, I’m posting something that I’ve done 6 years ago. And to justify it, I’m going to write a thoughtful post to go with it. And it’s about doing things.
But first, about the project itself. 6 years ago I was studying Music Technology at the University of Edinburgh and was pretty into metalcore music. A Russian band “Change of Loyalty” just released a new album “Freethinker”, which I listened on repeat for a few days. I started playing some riffs on piano and recorded a full piano arrangement for one of the tracks. Playing it on the piano gave the piece a completely new feel - taken away from the heavy metal arrangement it brought all the focus back to the melody. Free from aggressive bass and drums, the piano version highlighted all the flows and turns of melodic phrases. I wanted to do more with it so I asked my music circle if anyone would be interested in recording a full cover of a metal track using orchestra instruments. Several weeks later, we got this:
Now the thoughtful bit and why I like thinking about that time. If I’m being honest looking back at the result now, I’m not sure I love it. But that doesn’t matter. When I think about this project I rarely think about the piece itself. I think about the process, how natural it was and how completely immersed I was when writing it. Everything just happened by itself, and at no point I had a master plan. I was messing around on the piano, then caught myself thinking it would be cool to add a flute, talked to a couple of people and boom - it happened. To me, that was real creativity - being completely consumed by an idea and just losing yourself in doing. It was one of the few times when I can genuinely say that I enjoyed the process more than the result.
I also think about confidence, or rather, lack of self-doubt I had. All of the people in the video played their instruments better than me. All of them were undoubtedly better musicians than I was. A couple were professional musicians playing in professional orchestras for money. Yet, they all just agreed to help me because I had an idea I was excited about and never for a second questioned whether it was any good. Today’s Ivan would cringe at the thought of standing in front of these people and telling them how to play music, but there and then I just went for it. They listened and took notes. And it’s not that back then I thought I was good. I just didn’t think about it at all.
Finally, I think about what would’ve happened if I had given up on it. As I said, I’m not overly excited about how the cover turned out, now that I look back at it. But no matter the result, I gained a lot simply from going through with it. If I had started doubting the idea and realised that it was “meh”, I probably would’ve ended up never writing anything. And I would never get better either. Only by actually going through the experience of writing and recording that piece of music I learnt what could be done better. And there can be no other way.
I hesitate to make the slogan of this post an uncompromising “Don’t Think, Just Do It”, although it’s something along those lines. It’s probably a good idea to stop once in a while and assess whether you are not making some shite. In most cases though, when I stop mulling over what the best realisation of an idea might look like and just do what feels natural - that’s when I can get into the creative flow, that’s where the money is. The perfect dream never actually exists.
P.S. Here is the original for the curious.