why publish work in progress?

“Fantaisie impromptu” is the first piece of music to be uploaded to the Small Symphonies site.

fantaisie impromptu click to hear mp3.

I have been in two minds about airing this piece.

It is, after all, just a jam. There are mistakes. The playing is not exemplary; I hope to do better. The title is pretentious…guilty.  It is also literally correct. I just sat down, hit record and started playing. I had a sort of mental landscape that I was exploring. Despite the looseness, a structure of sorts does emerge.

There’s a whole spectrum of opinion as to how finished music should be before you expose human beings to it.  We generally accept that the rough sketches preceding a painting can be interesting and engaging. We also love children’s paintings. But a kid practising on a violin is a different matter.

But, I think after thirty seven years it’s more or less established that I can play and sing. Ok, I can still make people wince. I do play things to people and instantly wish I hadn’t. I reserve the right to embarass myself once in a while.

I’ve always believed that an album should take about an afternoon to record. It goes along with a flying by the seat of my pants mindset and being a ‘random event generator’ (thanks Mark).

I like spontaneity, but I also like polish. Some artists seem to manage that just fine:- the superb recording of Robin Trower at Stockholm, for instance or the Man band, particularly Greasy Truckers.

I’m messy, can’t be bothered to do anything about it, don’t like messiness.

But then, liberation. My son themanamp gave me a copy of Neil Young’s biography “Shakey” by Jimmy McDonough.  This book, and a good deal of Mr Young’s output, absolves me of being messy, I think. The book shows Young making music in many different ways but there are recurrent themes: record everything, get the raw music, no turd polishing. If that’s an over simplification, I apologise.

There’s a comment by Noel Gallagher on the back of the book. He says “it’s changed my life”. Same here. There are virtually no similarities between how Young works and how I work – but thanks to Young I have redefined what I will accept from myself as valid product.

But then I don’t have to accept anything as final, definitive product anymore. Nowadays it costs buttons to record. You don’t buy tape anymore. Software is free (Audacity). And it’s easy, easy, easy…even if I am still getting to grips with it. My life in music started in the seventies.  You struggled just to get a good cassette recorder in those days. I find the difference between now and then simply staggering. Anybody can record and release as many different versions of as many songs as they like – is that stating the obvious or what? But it’s still mind boggling.

Part of the exercise is to get some pre-feedback …please feel free to pitch in with comments…on anything.  I will be posting details of the physical recording process – equipment, mic placement, effects etc – in a few days. It would be interesting to know how other people are coping under similar circumstances (eg broke) and how to get the best out of basic gear.

If you find my output makes you vomit, fall asleep, orgasm please say so.  I’m not easily offended and there’s always the delete button. I may or may not heed advice but that doesn’t mean it won’t be appreciated.

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