The Creative Process Continuum

The creative process continuum (CPC) is the journey from a song’s inception to it’s final display as a recorded piece of music.

It begins as a spark, (just a feeling,)
then becomes a memo (an attempt to express that feeling,)
then lingers as a live performance, (constantly changing with each show,)
before finally settling as a full studio recording, (a finished product).

However, there is no requirement to push your songs all the way across the track and turn them into a full studio recordings. The decision of where to record your song along the CPC comes down to which emotion you’d like to highlight. Below are four tracks that stop at interesting intervals on the journey.

1. Spark

I stumbled across gnomekid while searching the Calgary portion of bandcamp. These tracks won’t make it onto anyone’s top 100 playlist anytime soon, but they do a nice job capturing the the search for creativity in an overloaded  mind. They exemplify a unique songwriting practice – staring at the wall, passively making noise with an instrument until a musical hook appears. It’s a style, (I use the term style loosely in this case,) I find myself playing often, but I had never considered to record anything so close to the initial creative spark.

2. Memo

Slightly further a down the CPC is the memo. Unfinished lyrics and one-take vocals, often whispered into a low-quality phone microphone after 1 am. This is a song embryo, it hasn’t become anything just yet, but it gets one excited about all the possible routes the track could take. I chose to highlight this portion of the creative process, because it requires the most audience interaction / imagination. The songs are pleasant enough to listen through passively, but it’s when you start to imagine what they could become that they become more interesting and begin to merit repeated listens.

3. Performance

“Car Seat Headrest” was a sad-indie band for many years choosing to record very early along the CPC. However, after a move to Seattle and a measure of punk rock energy, their recording moved from memo to live performance with Teens of Denial. These songs play like they are jammed out in a garage and put on display shortly after. With lo-fi guitar tones, muffled lyrics and limited studio magic, CSH is a band that makes you excited to write and play music. Just power through the 70 minute album then call up some friends and start a band.

4. Studio

The full band, studio recording marks the end of the CPC. These songs are full to the brim with multiple overlays and rich saturation. The audience can’t use their imagination to make the songs any bigger so all the musical decisions rest in the hands of the artist. I hesitate to call it the benchmark of a true recording artist, but these albums tend to come out at the height of a band’s popularity and are judged accordingly. Studio tracks are generally enjoyed as a cohesive piece, however listeners can still pick apart the song layer by layer and search for the illusive moment that it becomes greater than the sum of it’s parts. Above is “The Districts” A Flourish and A Spoil – an album, unique in it’s ability to  maintain the band’s energetic, live performance energy along the journey towards a bright studio sound.

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