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Poiesis (triptych ii)

from A Crack Where The Light Gets In by Steve Lawson

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One of the thing that most draws me to Aristotle’s division of human activity is that he separates action and production - the things we do in order to make things are different from the things we do that are themselves The Thing. As musicians, we have a number of different processes and motivations at any one time, and we have different end points in mind when we’re learning. The history of pop music has been focused on making things. Post the industrial revolution, manufacturing became the key industrial process, and the music industry was about scaling up the manufacturing of recordings and the equipment to play those recordings to a global industrial scale. So learning to play was about learning to produce. Getting good at production. The actions were geared towards making fixed things. Recordings, songs that could be performed in ways that made audiences feel safe in their knowledge of the song, reproduced from the gold standard of the recording...

My own journey used the fixed nature of recordings as a different kind of motivation, and it’s left me in an interesting place in the exploration of how the music economy might move forward. I never wanted to learn things note for note and play them night after night. That would be an OK job to have, as opposed to working in an office, but it’s not my creative path. For that, I wanted to create a continual stream of new music *that was good enough to be recorded and released*. I’ve used the elevation of the ‘fixed product’ as a quality benchmark for improvised work. Everything on these recordings is an improvisation - the process was way more Praxis-oriented than Poeisis... I wasn’t crafting a thing to a spec, I didn’t have an idea, specifically conceived, that was being realised. I was indulging the act of creation, living in the music-making moment... (I know this sounds like insane bullshit to some of you, but go with it, it’ll genuinely help you explore your own musical path and maybe understand the limitations of our obsession with ‘songs’ a little better ;) ) The quality threshold, however, was entirely derived from the last 70 years of us collectively pursuing an understanding of ‘quality’.

It’s a fascinating internal dialogue, a really curious and mysterious process to explore, because I can often FEEL the music that works better than I could put concrete labels on the things that work... Or even get some kind of handle on what it means to ‘work’.

Producing things as an end in itself may one day disappear from our musical world. What would that mean to you? For us? I love thinking about this shit ;)

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from A Crack Where The Light Gets In, released September 14, 2015

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