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Listen In: Respect the creative process

Published 5:59pm Saturday, August 2, 2014

Music and art lovers should see a recent interview as a reminder not to force music, books, films or art onto the public if it’s not ready.

Musician Damon Albarn told NME last week that his band Blur recorded 15 new tracks, but cautioned they may never see the light of day. For anyone who’s ever dabbled in writing, music or creative endeavors, Albarn’s reasoning makes sense, even if it’s a bit disappointing.

“But sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates really and I don’t know what I’d sing about now with that record,” he told NME. “There’s some great tunes on there, but it may just be one of those records that never comes out.”

While it’s not the news Blur fans want to hear, music fans should view it as a form of good news. Modern pop has given the public an unrealistic view of the creative process. Several modern pop acts employ teams of professional writers to help them churn out albums at an unheralded pace.

But for the bands that write their own music, drafting is simply part of the process. Just because a band writes a song doesn’t mean its ready to publish.

A teacher once told me that John Lennon said he never finished a song, he just recorded his final draft. Though I’ve never been able to find the exact quote, the point is a good one. People neglect that the creative process is difficult — very difficult (If writing great songs were easy, wouldn’t we all be doing it?).

Writers face the same problem. Author John Irving once said, “Half my life is an act of revision.” Author C.J. Cherryh once said, “It’s perfectly OK to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.” More locally, P.S. Duffy, this year’s Page Turners author who wrote “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” told the Herald she wrote a very different draft of her book before re-writing it into the published form. Revision is part of creativity and a part we take for granted.

That’s one of the reasons I cringe at posthumously published novels, like Ernest Hemingway’s “The Garden of Eden” or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon.”

These novels, much like many shelved albums, are works that the creators were far from finished with.

Don’t neglect to respect the creative process and let unfinished works remain unfinished.


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