My sometimes terrible habit: Creativity?
I have this terrible habit of blowing up every project into a much more complicated version of itself. This is because I think I’m going with the flow of my creativity to make something better. Is this true? Or am I lying to myself? I suppose this is a great time to give you a nerd warning. This is a tech post. Maybe you shouldn’t read it. Maybe its me being afraid.
In one afternoon, last summer, I decided that a tuna can could become an experimental noise instrument. So I built it. I had ordered some springs and piezo mics that were meant for a much larger project. Truly a better one than this mere ‘thing’. I stalled on that idea (called The Anything Box FYI) because the complexity of the project became daunting. Has this ever happened to you? Did you ever complicate something only to sabotage yourself? How do you overcome it?
Let me describe how the idea for my “Abox” started. I wanted to build a home-made spring reverb out of a slinky and some contact mics. The idea was that I would send a signal to a portable speaker that would ‘excite’ the springs, and the contact mics would then output the result. Easy.
You take a big plastic container or box, fasten the slinky end to end, with a contact mic at one end, and at the other, you put the can on top of a speaker where the signal will come from. Sound runs up the spring, and then you feed the mic’s output to the mixer. Done. But wait… I had another idea. Why not make it into the ultimate instrument/effect unit instead?
My design now involves two music boxes whose notes have been altered placed in a wooden box (with a third that is wound by hand). There’s contact mics end to end, for different pickup positions inside the box (maybe for percussion). The portable speaker was replaced by having an actual amplifier in the box, so I could amplify signals through the springs (yes now there are many more) while I also “play” the thing. It became an instrument as well as processor, stereo of course.
There are two thumb pianos on each end of the box, each with its own set of contact mics, and the top of the box has a resonator (that I built) that would sit dead center. And various metal objects. So I need two speakers now. It’s a real Anything Box. Reverb, amplifier, instrument, noise maker, ambient generator. Sounds great right? Here’s what it looks like right now.
Yeah. Not pretty, is it? Believe me, all the parts are there (speakers on the way, so not in video). I drew out the plans and made extensive notes. I just cannot seem to make time to actually build the thing. Why? Because I bloated the project. I made it complicated. Look, I will get to it. I mean it. I’m committed to it for the next album, or singles, whatever. I want to use it. Until then…
In one afternoon, I made this stupid tuna can thing and had fun with it by the end of the day. The key words are ‘stupid’ and ‘fun’. As in, I am not caring about the outcome as much as the fun of saying to my creative self, “What if I take a tuna can…” and as I am thinking it, it is happening, I’m building it. How can this be? Why does this work for stupid things and not ‘the great serious stuff’? I’ll get to that.
I can make excuses until I’m blue. Here are a few; It will take time to order all the parts. I will have to test various ways of mounting the speakers. I need to figure out how to cut the top of the box. I need to set a good time because of all the noise I might make. I have shows, releases, artwork to think about before I entertain this… And so on and on we go.
But the truth is much simpler. It’s “resistance” hiding under the guise of creativity. And believe me, that is a vile form of it. Truly. While I am being creative in the process of designing the thing and imagining it, I am also sabotaging the reality of it by adding to the project without starting. I am getting parts, but not soldering. My hands, as it were, are not getting dirty. My muse is giving me ideas, and I’m not listening to her because I am seemingly running away when its time to work.
The instrument sounds amazing in my mind. The creative uses are endless. I can make samples galore with it, do live performances at open mic nights, live ambient works, and more. So I need to make some sort of time for it. Besides, it will be a great way to create new sounds for Abox. It’s not a dumb idea. And as you can see, the parts are there, more or less.
Will you help me? Can I report back to you, and you will hold me accountable? I believe that this could be a great way to finish the thing. Let’s figure this out together. I’m laying down my guard to let you into my world. All I need is a little push.
As I prepared for this post, I had no inkling that I’d film the video that’s above, nor adding the soundtrack (a song from The Diary’s third album). All that was intended was a simple drawing. But then I blew up that idea. The argument is that the video was a better way to convey the idea. For sure. But where do I draw the line? That’s the question I guess. I am asking myself/you. Where do we draw a line?