Translate Your Solution

(An expansion of a FB post on Shawn Rudiman’s timeline. If you don’t know who he is, I suggest you track him down on FB. He’s an amazing synthesist and deep analog DJ that will blow your mind.

As creators, we sometimes get stuck at a crossroads, out of ideas, wondering which path to take. As a music producer, one way I’ve found to get over this hurdle is to take what I call the “Translation Approach”. But first, a bit of background.

All arts and methods of expression are forms of language, each with their own vocabulary, syntax, rules, etc. What is common to them all is the ‘idea’, the germ of a notion that sets the artist on their path. Most artists have ‘something to say’ or ‘a point to make’ with their art. Even those who would decry ‘ideas’, who’s ‘idea’ is an ‘anti-idea’, is also just another ‘idea’. To quote Rush, “If we choose not to decide, we still have made a choice.”

Sometimes, in spoken language, we borrow words from other languages in order to paint the picture exactly as we see it. We do this because sometimes our native tongue doesn’t have the right word for it. We reach outside the boundaries of our language to complete the picture. Same with metaphor. We paint the picture in abstract terms in order to illuminate the point.

Now, if we understand that music is just another language, we can use the same approach. We can see that sometimes the best way through a decision is to ‘translate’ it to another medium. Say, for example, you’re stuck on an arrangement idea. What sound to choose for the 2nd voice of a two-part arrangement? Well, if the first sound was a visual, what would it look like? Let’s say is sounded like “brown decaying leaves”. Okay, what would you like to see next to that? “Purple teflon orb”? Okay, then what is the sound of a “purple teflon orb”? There’s your solution.

You see, you can have all kinds of fun with this transposition. There’s really no limit. Just because we create music does not mean we have to limit ourselves to only the vocabulary of music. There is wisdom and insight to be gained from all of the arts, for really, they’re all just different ways of expressing the same ideas – the ideas of creativity, which are universal.