SONGS AS PROCESS / PRACTICE AS MOVEMENT
At the very heart of this practice research project is an effort in valuing, interrogating and affirming of process in song-based music. It is a clear outset from which process, that I recognise as holding disruptive potential, may unfold – endlessly – into a multitude of interrogations: finding meaning in the tentative, the flawed and the unfinished through a constant re-instantiation of practice. I began with the research question “How does not finishing affect the process of making?” and this inquiry runs like a thread through five original songs, aiming to bind together an already complexly interwoven and interconnected exploration.
When I speak about not finishing, I invoke an openness in the work, a moveability, that might even characterise the work. Similarly, not finishing also refers to lack of abandon. Although this insight is difficult to trace to back to a single source, ‘Paul Valéry is famously quoted as saying, “a poem is never finished, only abandoned”’. I apply the same sentiment to my own songs and within the framework of this research project I have set out to remove said abandon as part of a self-experiment. Lack of abandon is, as previously stated, constant re-instantiation; it is honouring movement, appreciating process, and an emphasis on the everyday as a ‘place where repetition and creativity confront each other,’ as expressed by Henri Lefebvre.
For a set amount of time (from July 1st to August 15th, 2021) I sang and played (my instruments are guitar and piano) five days a week, instantiating my songwriting practice for thirty minutes at a time and documenting this consistent return to process over product on video, through voice notes, pictures and personal reflections to build an autoethnographic account of practice. Experimentation is a key component of this project and I draw upon Paulo de Assis’ Logic of Experimentation to welcome multimodal and hybrid methodologies within this project as de Assis firmly embraces interdisciplinarity, or a fluidity in modalities, as part of artistic practice, as well as research practice. I mention this because in addition to the July-August experimental phase this project encompasses a live event – another experiment of sorts, one I chose to call a multimedia performance installation – which took place on September 8th, 2021, and materialised as a presentation and continuation of unfinished work in front of an audience. It was captured on film also.
‘How does not finishing affect the process of making?’ produced a myriad of epistemic outcomes for me: the most striking being a complication of the recording as defining popular music; an argument for anti- mastery; an emphasis on the everyday, incremental change and slowness; an appreciation and investigation of experimentation and play; and an exploration of working with resistance. In a way, all these outcomes can be techniques of valuing songs as process, practice as movement. They all contribute to an overarching research impulse as I continue to question what social, political, personal and artistic consequences may follow a pluralistic disruption of the artefact as paramount.