Album concept development: initial written exploration
I'm aiming to go into developing the concept behind my album without knowing the end result, to give myself over to a process of mystery and discovery. Stepping into the unknown is always edgy but it feels like the only place to begin to make art.
Saying that, it's impossible to take action without some kind of initial form or structure. To that end, I created a process to tap into the undercurrents behind each song and articulate my relationship with it. I decided to start with a written exercise because I'm comfortable with writing and seeing where the words that come take me. The process consists of:
1. Stream of consciousness writing using the questions below as prompts
2. Writing in a single sitting until I feel empty or until it feels done
3. Answering either every question and subquestion or only the questions that strike me as most interesting
Exploring the voice of the song...
- What is my deepest truth behind this song? What is true in my experience at this time? What do I currently understand, knowing there’s always more to learn?
- What is the invitation in this song?
- What does living the truth of this song look like and mean to me?
- Who am I creating for?
Exploring memory & the story of the song...
- What is the situation that led to this song?
- What does this song remind me of?
- Is there a specific memory associated with this song?
Exploring the poetics of the song...
- Describe the story or the song as a room.
- What is the poetry, the sensuality of this song and story?
- If the song were an archetypal character, who would it be? Describe their outward appearance, inside information and what they're doing or thinking.
- This song is a metaphor for… unpack this
Exploring the visual expression song...
- If this song had an image, what would it be?
- If this song were an abstract painting, what would it look like?
- If this song were an artwork, what would it be made of?
Because I don't yet know what songs are going to be on the album, I chose to take a recently finished song through this process, Sweet Rain. I did a brain and heart dump and wrote for an hour. A few excerpts from my stream of consciousness writing are below (paragraphs and punctuation added for readability).
"Sweet Rain's deepest truth is about shame and guilt brought on by the experience of feeling. It's not aimed at a specific loss, more about feeling trapped or constrained and not free to feel what's here to be felt... like there's a measuring of sadness and life experience that yes, yes, if you've had this experience, if you've suffered in this way, then you have a right to cry, you have a right to fall apart. But if you're privileged, if you have first world problems, then no, your pain is proof ingratitude, narcissism and failure. A lifetime of societal stories and addiction to competence and independence. Also, displays of emotion make people feel uncomfortable so it's better to shove it down, suppress it, shut the curtains and withdraw. I don't want to offend anyone. Sweet Rain is a prayer. I don't know how to let go of control. Please help me surrender."
"The invitation of the song is self-compassion. It's an attempt to reach out to something bigger and acknowledge my fragility and limitations. It's also a message for my grandchildren: to identify the gender-bias, media influence and cultural stories that dictate what is seen to be acceptable when it comes to emotional expression."
"If Sweet Rain were a room it would be all soft lighting and snuggly velvet textures and fur and silk and sinking into rich carpet under bare feet. It would feel like a warm hug from someone you trust absolutely. If Sweet Rain were a person the song would be a wise and gently quiet old woman who's learned not to seek her validation from the world around her. She wears her invisibility like a slinky cocktail dress. She draws her power from other sources and no longer needs permission or approval to be as she is. She no longer wears her acquiescence like earrings."
"If the song had an image, what would it be? Black and white streaks falling into an infinite pools, thousands of tears shed by the sky. A triangle falling down. Water balloons full to bursting, thin skinned and vulnerable, suspended over an upright rusty nail. A pop-up book with hidden images you have to look behind (suppression, hiding). I need to hide vulnerability."