The Beauty in Struggle

Henri Matisse (Painter, 1869-1954) was once quoted as having said: “Much of the Beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.”

This strikes a chord with me. First, a little background: I remember buying my first recording device somewhere around 1996. I sat in my room for hours and hours at a time, putting together little “experimental” noise jams and writing terrible songs and recording them. Around 1998, I got a 4-track cassette recorder, discovered how to bounce tracks and started trying to put together more elaborate songs, struggling all the while against the hiss of the crappy tapes I bought, while trying to stay focused for so long.

As home recording started taking off, 4-tracks got cheaper and I ended up with a pretty nice tape recorder that had an onboard EQ. By this time, I could play the drums and bass and I started going wild with making recordings. It was fun but it was still a struggle – I had 7 tracks, at most, that I could record to and then I would record that to my mom’s stereo tape player, so that I would end up with a cassette that I could listen to in my walkman. [This means that for a three minute song, I would have to spend at least 25 minutes recording it, not including FF & RW time and providing that I pulled every track off flawlessly the first time - which never happened.]

Today, musicians have access to almost unlimited available tracks to record to on their home computers. For just a few hundred dollars’ investment, you can make an epic recording with 6 guitars, 2 basses, 25 mics on your drum kit, 5 tracks of vocal harmonies, a tuba, flugel horn and viola – and then double track those and still be able to invite the neighbourhood kids out to do a vocal track each.

This is a pretty awesome time to be a creative musician.

All the same though, when I think about those old songs and I listen to those dusty tapes, I feel like there’s something …’more’ in those recordings. I’m a much better writer now and I understand a lot more about audio and recording than I did then. I have better microphones and I still try to write and record songs that are dynamic, layered and interesting to listen to but somehow, the ones from when I was younger just FEEL more.

I think a part of the reason is because of the struggle that it was to capture my ideas back then. The fun turning into frustration, morphing into motivation and finally growing into the sense of achievement at having completed a song, no matter how crappy the song might have been – that kind of stuff comes across in art. Nowadays though, I can do whatever I want and if I screw it up, I can just punch-in a new part. I can sing the refrain once and just copy+paste it, I can sample literally any song ever recorded and just add my voice on top. I can change any sound so that it sounds like anything I want – and I do! But it doesn’t feel quite the same as it used to.

Maybe this is a part of the reason why so many complain about the “state of music” these days. Maybe it’s just that we’re not having to fight so hard anymore and so we lose the feeling of sweat and inspiration in the recorded material. Maybe this is why so many bands’ debut albums touch us so profoundly but their sophomore releases get bad reviews. Maybe, like Henri Matisse said, when a thing becomes too easy, much of it’s beauty is lost.

I think I’m going to dust of my old 4-track cassette recorder and try giving it another go …I’ll have to find a place that still sells cassette tapes. Maybe I’ll write a song for my son, Quest. Maybe it’ll be almost as beautiful as he is.

A Parable

A young man who desired fame and riches applied to a much older and successful man and asked him the secret of his success. The old man told him that he should meet him the next morning on the beach and all would be revealed.

The next morning, the young man waited eagerly on the beach for the old man to appear. After the old man came and greeted him, he restated his request that he should like to know the secret to success. The old man told him he should walk out into the water, so he did. He walked until the water was waist deep and turned around to see the old man was right behind him. The old man then told him to walk further, so he did. He walked until the water reached his chest and turned around to find the old man lunging at him.

The old man held him underwater until the young man felt that he would drown. He scratched at the old man’s arms and tried to scream and swallowed much water but the old man would not let him up. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the old man released him, dragged him back to the water’s edge and laid him down.

“You would know the secret of success?” the old man said. “When you want to be successful as badly as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.” And with that, the old man walked away.

The Water’s Edge

Come and join me tomorrow at the water’s edge, my love.
There, in the morning sun, we shall cast our dreams from the beach
And watch them try to take flight as they skip across the bay.

In the afternoon, we will build a castle of sand
And fill it with the dreadful things as we watch it melt
Into the sea with the rising of the tides.

In the evening, I will embrace you under the setting sun
As the madness of the encroaching twilight enrages the blue sky
And it fades from red to purple and into the black of night.

There, in the darkness, I will kiss you
And whisper sweet vowels of comfort in your ear
As you lay your head down to rest.

There, as I kiss you under the moonlight
And the orchestra of the night croaks and chirps it’s concert
I shall sing for your pleasure:

“Close your eyes, I’ll be here in the morning.
Close your eyes, I’ll be here for a while…”

The Chasm

what romance is this?
with what words can I describe
the pain that thou hast issued forth
from thy bosom without
care or affection?

A great chasm, two years wide and
Deep as a lifetime, has opened between us
And making attempts to cross it,
towards and into the City of Unbelief,
I shalt not.

For though the damage done
could once more have been undone
thine evil spirit hast chosen a path unwinding.
forever keeping love’s colours distant
and pale in the dwindling light.

In those words I hear’d imperfection;
these ears, ever sadder for being the first
defense to the soul, have tasted
this salty brine and have declared it poison
And can be endured no more.

Now I, as the strategic lover,
having sleuthed between the lines
Have deduced the Heart of the matter:
Much more than an unsent
blank letter, your idea of Honesty
could not be.

Love, in pictures.

the sun kissed; youthful dawn rising; love had no end.

the sun kissed; youthful dawn rising; love had no end.

Each sunrise came with a promise:
Another chance to spend the day with you
And to fall asleep in your arms again.

standing over a precipice; the beginning of time; erosion

I used to think of myself as one alone.
Now I see that I am, only in relation to you
And I know that I was never before whole.

lost and alone; the shimmering heat; la soif du coeur.

Oh, but how similar weather and life!
That a scorching heat can make a desert
of our once thriving oasis of love.

What Is Happening To Me?

Alright. I’m feeling weird tonight, so I decided to post this a weird song I recorded… it’s sort of a “Sound of Music” cover tune, but it’s completely different and kind of twisted. All of the sounds, except for the drums are vocals, put thru a synth. Here it is:

A Nursery Rhyme

The sun is going off to bed,
The moon will climb the sky instead.

And while the children soundly sleep
Creatures, quickened into life, will creep

Red, with blood from infants, shine
From carnivorous fangs, vileness decried

As older they grow, with intent to deceive
They’ll spread their evil through our sewn seeds.

A foreboding of some distant and destined change
Through hostile progress and big with fate.

The moon, he finally goes to bed,
The sun, she shines on a world that’s dead.


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