When it comes to music, anyone who has known me for some time knows that my desire to create it is often at odds with my perfectionist attitude. I have a lot of hang-ups. I didn’t grow up listening to the same music a lot of my peers did: I learned Carnatic singing and my parents played Carnatic music at home. I think my voice is kind of weird. An indifferent, if long-term, student of the violin and flute as a child, I am still astonishingly uninformed about music theory. And I rarely find it easy to write music. It’s hard, it doesn’t just ‘come to me’ as some people airily claim.
When I embarked earlier this month on my project Heptameron – to write seven songs in seven days – I had five major goals in mind. First: I wanted to get over the obsession I have with recording until I have the perfect take. I hoped that time constraints would force me to accept ideas for what they were, to record them and to move on. Second: I wanted to spark some new ideas: my dissertation proposal had eaten up a lot of my creative energy in the winter and prevented me from writing new music. Third: I wanted to experiment with different genres of music and to use my midi keyboard more than I currently do in my songwriting. Fourth: to think hard about the vocal style that was appropriate for each new song. And fifth (and least straightforward): I wanted to build some confidence in myself.
The results showed, inevitably, that there is lots of room for improvement: in programming beats, in learning how bass lines function in music, in playing open chords on the guitar. Oh yes: and acquiring better hand-eye coordination to play my new glockenspiel. But overall, I’m proud of the outcome. None of these songs are appreciably worse than anything I have written in the past and on which I have spent more time. If anything, many of them are better. For the first time, I appreciated the persistence of certain lyrical themes in my music. The large is that of darkness, which has been for me a topic of enduring fascination both within and outside of Heptameron. Death is another, mainly because someone very close to me passed away in early in March. Overall, there was a good mix of genre, instrumentation and style. And, I think I did a good job with the vocals: my favorites ended up being the quiet, spooky-but-cheery Ice Party and the wacky Neon Demon, in which I sang in my rarely used head voice.
In fact, one of the most exciting outcomes of this project, aside from the fact that I actually wrote seven complete songs, is that I came away from it deciding that I actually like my voice. Yes. It is weird. But it is different and it doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. To sum up? I am really looking forward to Heptameron II.