We all heard that playing music is a way people use to free their emotions, express their feelings, and basically feel good with themselves. We have also heard of the joys of performing in front of an audience, and of the enormous satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that comes with the realization that we have touched others with our music. This is all very true, and definitely sounds great. But what we don't really hear about is the painful process of creation, and the fact that the joys of music have a price. Unfortunately, you need to get through Hell, in order to get to Heaven. Why would I want to write about such unpleasant news? Because the emotional stress of creation is key in the understanding of the processes that link our soul to our instrument.
I have received a lot of emails concerning the creative process, and many questions on how I write songs. Especially if you are new to composition, but even if you are an experienced writer, here you will find some insights that might be of use to you in your musical adventure.
I believe that, as a general rule, the creative process is a painful one. Composing and writing require that we detach from everything else. This detachment, if not only for practical purposes, is stressful. The compositional process, when moved by true inspiration, does not allow for distractions, and takes control of the mind and the body. At the risk of offending somebody, I would go as far as to say that if, for example, you have never lost the sense of time (forgot to eat, sleep, etc.) while writing, I find it doubtful that you have ever experienced true inspiration. If music never took over your life, disrupting whatever emotional and functional equilibrium you have, I suggest you pay attention to what follows. Personally, when I write, I can't even have a reasonable conversation for at least an hour after I put down the guitar. Inspiration takes you to a different place, quite literally, and that's where the process of creation is in the conditions to happen. Going back to normality can be hard.
This is not to say that this "other place" is necessarily a bad one. It can be beautiful, but it cannot be controlled. Writing is discovery, not direction. Inspiration will take you places that are out of your control; the second you direct it, you destroy it with rationality. If you allow yourself to follow your inspiration long enough, you will reach emotional places that are beyond what you ever imagined possible.
The stress and sometimes plain pain you will experience will open doors you didn't even know existed. On the long run, your level of emotional awareness will increase so much that you will start wondering if you were even a musician before. And don't be discouraged if you find this hard in the beginning. It is hard, and it can be painful. The good news is that it will take your music to a much higher level. As you might have heard before, nothing's free. Great music is no exception, and the rewards will be proportional to your effort. It's up to you.
Of course you can apply this concepts to performance as well. Do you just play, or do you allow inspiration and emotions to shape your sound? You hear all the time that your body is only the means, that you should never let your fingers be faster than you emotions nice words, but what do they mean? Next time you pick up your guitar, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and play a familiar piece. Let your emotions shape every note, determine its attack, its length, the dynamics Allow yourself to go places you have never been, and let these places be described by your emotions, through the notes. Be one with the music.
I realize this sounds very abstract, and I am expecting mixed reactions to these ideas. I welcome all comments, so feel free to contact me. I do try to reply to all emails. For quicker responses, please email me at email@example.com.
Born in Italy in 1979, Andre Tonelli moved to California in 1998, where he plays guitar. You can visit his website at http://www.andretonelli.com