What am I doing?!

On March 22 I did a presentation about my progress so far. First I gave an overview of what I have been doing the last couple of months, which was very much based on all the previous blog posts on my madtech.me page.

And just like I said in my most recent blogpost about my live performance set at FMI, this performance did a lot to me and made me really think about why I am doing the things I do. I asked myself questions like:

  • Why am I composing music?
  • Why am I performing?
  • To entertain people?
  • To be liked? To “feed the ego”? (seems pointless)
  • Am I a singer-songwriter? Then what am I doing at this art school?
  • Or do I want something more or different from that?

So with these thoughts in my mind I tried to answer:

  • What “more” do I want? For the sake of wanting something more?
  • Which artistic practices feel more clean, real, and “go beyond the ego”?

And I presented that for me this is when I have this message that I want to bring across. And my music making is a way of wrapping this message in an emotional, immersive layer. During my composition process I always have this moment when I’m suddenly immersed in the message, the message suddenly makes sense. This is what I want to transfer to the audience.

Based on this insight I presented what my focus will be for the upcoming time period:

  • Focus on immersing the audience
  • Instead of me in spotlight, idea in spotlight
  • Get audience into context by announcing titles (because people tell me they often cannot hear my lyrics)
  • Experiment with ways to make this immersiveness possible
  • Next experiment: composing music in space, instead of on a timeline (installation with kinect)

Feedback from students & tutors

  • I was afraid that you would say you would be fine with being a singer songwriter, haha 😉
  • You talk a lot about music, but why didn’t you play any music?
    • I knew this comment would come (maybe because I feel the same). But I think I need all the time to talk about my thoughts and progress.
  • You are talking about “the idea”? I don’t hear a goal? Why are you doing it? Your statement? What do you want to tell us?
    • I didn’t mean space music as “an idea”, just as a plan to experiment. I think the message that I want to bring across differs from one piece to another.
  • What was the idea in the Mutations performance in Minerva? We are all one?
    • No, it’s about how most people really want to go technically forward, but then on other parts of their lives hold tight to our traditions that we have always had as primitive beings (such as eating meat). Therefore the lyrics “trust in your mutations”.
  • Interesting that you are so focused on audio stuff / music. Why?
    • I did it all my life. I feel that that’s important.
  • That’s not an answer. This is a whole part of your existence, there should be something. Your doing these performance to understand why. You have to find out, otherwise you become just a performer, which is also okay, but you have to stand for something.
  • THE idea or your statement, I have problems with that. I rather want to hear what you are investigating. For example, your last performance was investigating our position as technological species. These things are maybe hard to investigate as a typical singer songwriter. Still content wise it’s interesting.
  • You have to experiment more in these performances. How important is your presence? Do you even need to be there? Clothes are important. Your last performance was a good research. I want to see the manifestation of the idea, has to do with presence of your being.
  • By experimenting and doing the idea/message can also emerge. For me it’s totally clear that there is something you want to tell, but what exactly it is not. You don’t first have to have the idea and then make something, can also be the other way around.
  • “The idea makes sense?” I was wondering, do you want me to be interested, or do you want to convince me? It’s very different. If you want to convince me I back away.
  • It’s about what you mean with idea. Performance or installation or experience can also be the idea. Something beautiful or emotional. Or a clear message like “don’t eat meat”. 
  • Some questions, what is the idea about clothing / song structure / performing. But now you talk about one idea, but you can also chapters it.
  • You talk about problem solving, but it’s more problem finding. Which is super interesting, nice place to be. 
  • You talk about taking your ego out of it, but as a performer it’s difficult, because it’s always you and the public.
    • No there are different layers, you can either be the pop star or making music behind the screen or something in between.
    • I didn’t say I want to take myself out, I just thought about placing the spotlight on the message more instead of myself.
  • Do you need words? To evoke some immersive feeling?
    • I don’t think I know that yet.
  • Do you want to find that out yourself? Or others to find out?
    • Combination. I already received comments about that, but I’m not sure how important it is for me yet.
  • If your performances are for example about “don’t eat meat” it’s maybe better to sing “don’t eat meat”.
    • No, I really disagree, I don’t want to say it (like that). The idea of my last performance was based on a conversation about that and how people view their primitive past. It’s about reflecting on your own perception / view on things.
  • So that in the end we think “I don’t want to eat meat”?
  • I think that when you’re sure about what you want to say, you don’t mind people walking away from your performances. 
  • You don’t need to please people.
  • You said that you felt bad when people didn’t like it your music, but isn’t this going to happen with anything you are going to make? It’s more about yourself being happy with what you did, instead of people being happy with what you did?
  • It’s very honest of you, we all have this in a certain degree.
  • But this is an interesting research point, because for performance the feedback loop is different than other kinds of work. Because during performing you immediately see the reaction of audience, and you can react on that. While for other works after an exhibition you go back into your studio and maybe change it based on the reactions you got. So during performing it can be tricky if you don’t know how to deal with input from the audience. Maybe interesting to measure the audience 😉 Give them an electric shock!
  • You shouldn’t feel bad about that. There are always people who don’t like what you are doing. But when you perform it can be hard.
  • But when you have a yes and a no you have discussion, and then it becomes interesting. When you want to please people, you will do something in between, and everyone things “ah it was okay”. That’s also the goal of this kind of thing, experiment. Makes it beautiful,  but also a little bit frightening, because it depends on the audience, but this counts from everyone. Learn from it, get things out of it.
  • You’re doing a lot, which is good.
  • It’s a good thing that you have a controlled environment here, so we are honest when we don’t like it. You can ask why. Asking why is important because you get feedback that makes sense. Sometimes it’s just about someone’s taste, but sometimes about something specific that really works or not. If you don’t ask why you may interpret things that are maybe not really there. For example, when people walk away, it can also be because they had to call their mums, and not because they didn’t like it.

Feedback from myself

Before the feedback session I felt unsure about doing a presentation like this, because I didn’t show new works and because I talked about things that feel quite personal. Afterwards I also didn’t feel good about it, because I had the feeling that my talk was vague and broad and so was the feedback I received. I felt like I should have shown actual work, instead of only talking, so that the feedback could also be more directed.

But right now, while I’m listening to the feedback recording again and while writing it down, I really don’t understand  anymore. I am really happy that I did a reflective talk like this. I think it’s really good to be directed and supported in my thoughts in a broader sense. This was also an excellent opportunity for me to talk about my work, because the next assessment will be in the form of an exhibition in Assen, so it would be better to show actual work, instead of just talking like this.

I have underlined the feedback points that I found most valuable.

I think I can sometimes be very negative about myself or things in general. And something like this becomes something really heavy. After my presentation I really had the feeling that it was a bit silly what I said, and that people weren’t convinced about the presentation. But when I hear my feedback again, I feel like it actually was taken seriously and some very valuable comments were made.

But for now, after all this theoretical thinking and worrying I look forward to go back to making again. And really experiment a lot, because these two years provide all the room in the world for that. And while doing so I will look for my topic of investigation, instead of a statement, like commented on during this feedback session.

Published by Kayleigh Beard

Kayleigh sings, performs, and makes her own digital instruments. With deep bass, beats, synths, and spacious vocals, she creates melancholic electronic music. To find serenity in today's overwhelming world.

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