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Steve Ison
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Steve Ison

5/30/2013 2:34:42 PM ---- Updated 5/30/2013 2:35:51 PM

Our Own Musical Mythology
Been thinking alot about why creativity with music means so much
and for me one of the main things is it allows me to create my own mythology..

Its like there's the normal mundane life filled with bills n trivia, habitual,polite interaction
with the social mask we all wear - and then there's this fantastical,intoxicating,scary beautiful inner life existing below the surface, containing all the loves,hopes,desires,disappointments,fantasies n fears

This is often a really private world we're living in that no-one knows about -even if we're surrounded by other people all the time..

Thats the life that comes out in the symbolic imagination in our dreams and being creative with music or art's putting us back in touch with that mythic inner space

Its kind of amazing with dreams and the symbolic language they use, that one potent image with the intensity of feeling it evokes internally can contain far more meaning n say more than 10,000 words ever could

For me with any music i really love ,it has to have some kind of transcendent quality
i can feel on an inner level
It has to have something about it that allows me to escape from the mundane world,
that helps me wake up a little out of that-even if just for a bit..

Even music that people wouldn't normally associate with having that quality like The Clash
or The Kinks ,i love 'cos they expand my world magically so that i can experience life more intensely thru listening to them.

They open me up in some way

Their cool songs feel 'mythic'

I certainly don't love the best of their music 'cos they're 'keeping it real' in how people generally
mean when they say that..

'Cos what is reality anyway ?

The 'reality' in dreams is that every known physical law can be subverted and changed at will - and we totally believe and live them fully while we're there..
We can fly,we can turn into animals,we can walk around on other planets,we can teleport from one place to the next...
Anything's possible in them..
And we're the ones writing them as they play out !

I've noticed when looking thru my own songs over the years -just like with dreams -there's certain words,symbols,obsessions and images that appear again and again..
Particular vibes and mood shifts in chord changes and melodies that i'm attracted to and am constantly exploring and developing..

I dunno how it is for you -but for me if i'm creatively writing -either musically or lyrically -i'm trying to consciously invoke that kinda strange dream state while 'awake'..

I mean it wouldn't be creative if you could predict what you were going to write before you did it..

So therefore those melodies,chords and lyrics must be coming from the subconscious somewhere.

That underground 'you' that speaks in a strange symbolic dream language,that feels the meaning in a fleeting glance,or a (seemingly) random conversation with a stranger.Sees n feels things that the busy conscious mind misses -or isn't quick enough to catch...

But they come out in our songs tho.Or maybe just the FEELING of somethng remains and the characters get changed -just like in dreams.

The fact we're attracted to a certain phrase,melody or chord change tho - and find it beautiful or magical is 'cos its linking with our own mythology in some way
Helping us work thru something under the surface

Its us experiencing ourselves on a deeper more timeless level.

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Steve April

6/1/2013 10:38:57 AM ---- Updated 6/1/2013 11:12:36 AM

"dreams are the bond between me and the riddle of creation..." oskar kokoschka

when I was back in college, my girlfriend was an art major, and I was surprised to discover the thoughtful, colorful observations in many muscian/artist journals, including mozart, picasso, rousseau, cezanne, van gogh, gauguin.

August 1888-March 1987. "When he painted 'the Sunflowers' Vincent did not have enough money to pay for the paints, that a hundred years later, would make his painting the object of one of the largest transactions ever to take place in the art world."

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Shoe City Sound

6/2/2013 8:34:06 PM

Or are we tapping into a Universal mythology (which is also present in our dreams)? I heard Tom Petty say once in an interview that he doesn't feel like he writes the song, but that they already exist on the "cosmic radio" and he just tunes in and gets one. I can relate to this. When I write, it's always because a particular sound has come at me through interrupting some mundane thing I'm involved in, or the silence in my head, or a dream and all I have to do is get it right and play or sing it how it goes. Of course it's just in simple form and maybe only a few bars long. But that's the fun part to see where it takes you. And in the imagination (dreaming or awake) anything is possible.

I too find that the same themes and harmonies especially attract me. A bunch of times I've felt like I'm writing the same song over and over. The actual song is way different each time, but some basic music and concepts in the lyrics keep coming back in different form. I've wondered if that's because it's an insight that I have been given to try and communicate to others (because it would be relevant to them) or maybe just to myself - something important to tell. Obviously I keep trying to tell it even without realizing it till later.

Wherever it all comes from, you said it perfectly, "experiencing ourselves on a deeper more timeless level" which is actually the more reality based perception in my opinion - certainly more truthful, and infinitely more satisfying.

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Dream Secret

6/3/2013 11:58:19 AM

Really enjoyed your insights & thoughts Steve!

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6/3/2013 4:50:49 PM

Very Cool Steve. I wrote my usual long winded response but decided to spare you this time. I know you guys probably get tired of it. So, I'll just say. Yeah! I think you are so right on this one.

Much Respect,

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Chandra Moon

6/4/2013 6:32:28 AM

Great post!! I actually dreamt a riff the other day and have incorporated it in a new song I wrote this weekend. I went to a wonderful composition weekend in Devon and it was very inspiring.

You are so right with the ideas of musical mythology and inspiration etc! Thanks for sharing.

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Steve Ison

6/9/2013 9:47:16 AM

Steve...Yeh artistic skill often spreads across disciplines -so you get musicians who draw and actors who write music..
My drawings are rubbish it has to be said -tho i can act a bit ; )

Vincents story s a strange one indeed..To be that great n original and have no one value what you're doing when you're alive..
I think my friend Harper Stephens'll be discovered by people after he's dead..For me his songs are so good -but absoloutly no-ones interested.I totally don't understand it..


"and in the imagination (dreaming or awake) anything is possible." -Love that :)

I'm not sure i agree with Tom Petty's assertion that cool songs come 'mediumistically' and are already perfectly formed waiting for us to just pick them out of the air tho..

When i'm feeling inspired and in love with the music its more that i feel very free doing it..
I realise there's an infinite number of choices chord changes/melody/lyrics i could make at many different points in the song - so if i'm in the zone i could make any of them sound 'right' or good as long as i'm feeling present n alive..
The song could go off in many directions and they'd all have a creative spirit in them..
Its an ACTIVE process where i'm very much a creator molding the energy and,shaping it as i want
We're using the freedom of our imaginations as you said..

The way that Tom Petty's describing it sounds much more passive - so i don't believe thats how it works

Dream Secret,Stoneman..Thanx alot - glad you got something from it..

Chandra..That sounds very cool.It wasn't the songwriting thing Ray Davies runs was it ?
Look forward to hearing your song when it gets recorded..

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Chandra Moon

6/10/2013 2:59:38 PM

Hi - no it was run by an amazing Cameroonian musician called Alphonse Daudet Touna. He is a great African balafon player and has written loads of songs, tracks and music as well as running a choir in Bristol and teaching drumming and all sorts!

It was held in such a beautiful setting too - unspoilt Devon countryside. Wonderful. Just back now from a weekend sabar drumming in Cornwall that we helped organise - it'll be like this right through the summer now - tiring but fun.

Will do a rough recording of the new song soon - it's the first in ages.

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Steve Ison

6/17/2013 1:27:37 PM

Sounds like a really cool summer Chandra..

Never heard of Saber drumming before so checked it out on youtube..

Looks really intense and incredibly energetic !

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Tom O'Brien

6/17/2013 3:29:21 PM

Do certain words, chord changes and such reverberate with us because there is something mystical in them which cannot be scientifically understood, or is it just conditioning that we like what we've heard most. I've always felt it was our duty as songcrafters to present a new sound or idea every time wed make a song. Some things can sound right only because we're used to it. I really enjoy songs which surprise me - that go someplace I wasn't expecting.

Mythologies don't just spring fully formed from the head of Zeus, they are built up over generations. We have access to an awful lot of music and I think that we subconsciously use things over again in new contexts. Music is infinite, but it is only slowly that we stretch the confines of what is good.

I've felt that feeling of songs coming from "someplace else." I think you can get in touch with those subconscious urges and bring them into consciousness. Then you get things that seem surprising, but are really just evidence that your brain is a very complex organ.

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Steve Ison

6/19/2013 4:28:53 PM ---- Updated 6/19/2013 4:33:12 PM

Tom..I'd definitely like to think we resonate with certain chords/melodies etc 'cos there's something timeless and beautiful - and the writer is somehow 'tapping into' that as you say..
But by the same token we're definitely conditioned by what we listen to - and what we have listened to in the past.....

What we decide to focus our attention on is freer than ever tho now- if we want it to be - with all the choice available to us- and maybe there's a difference for people who are searching for something musically as a listener/writer 'cos they're trying to fill an inner need -than others who relate to music more superficially -or just for a nostalgia trip....

Yeh i definitely want something to suprise me when i listen to/write a new track too - and i want it to seem natural and seamless and not 'forced' in any way..

Go in a way i could never've predicted -yet seem instantly 'right' as well

Thats quite a big ask..

If i can find an emotional connection with it - all the better. too

Its a constant push n drive with writing to keep suprising yourself/keep being present n fresh..I don't like if i'm listening back to musical ideas if i can predict where they're going to go - 'cos i get to know the moves i make

I agree about 'putting things in new contexts' too
Dunno how it is for you -but i'm like a sponge..If i listen alot to a certain artist -or style of music intensely over a period of time it starts seeping out into my own with the phrasing/type of chord changes/feel etc..

Thats actually very cool if you really really love something..The flavour of it seems to find its way into your own music.Like you're subconsciously processing it -how/why it works emotionally/creatively and reinventing it in a new context..

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Bob Elliott

6/25/2013 8:27:59 AM

Our own mythology and a quest in which we need certain things as we go along and don't always know what they're going to be. Like I get hit by things I gotta listen to for days on end and then after a month or so I've heard enough. In another month or so my music starts to change.

It's a quest of the subconscious artist part. I don't know why this week I am so into the pandora station based on Robert Johnson and all the old blues solo acoustic guys. I don't usually listen to that much, but this week I'm soaked in it.

It's like a thing you pick up on your quest. Like when you gotta listen to all those girl groups. It's not just for listening fun, there is a sort of drive to hear more and more and think about it, but mostly for the back mind to think about it and do what it needs to with it.

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Steve Ison

6/25/2013 1:44:06 PM

No i totally get that Bob..I've had little periods where i've listened to Skip James,Leadbelly and some of those old acoustic blues guys..Fantastic music.
Infact listening to that music awakened me to how much space there could be in the blues - and i was convinced then that i loved the old acoustic blues and just didn't like straight 'electric' blues..

Weirdly tho-on sunday night after the pub -went back to this guys house with a couple of mates and he really wanted to play some electric blues records..

My heart sank

In Birmingham theres so many local bands who play endless dull 12 bar blues and it does absoloutly nothing for me..

Its sleepy music for bloozers..
The magical spirit of Hendrix n Peter Green have long.long departed

So i was kinda expecting more of the same old same old..

Talk about being suprised tho !

The guy's obviously got great.great taste - and played track after track of beautiful cosmic blues..Totally atmospheric 60s n 70s stuff mainly i think..Really intuitive cool vocal lines,spellbinding riffs,magical grooves..Analogue n raw n totally present n free-spirited

I never thought electric blues could be that free..

Never heard it that way before ever - and it was so cool to have my mind changed like that..

The girl group/60s soul obsession you mentioned has been going on for nearly 2 years i think now and shows no sign of abating..

Like you -i'm an obsessive/compulsive listener -but i've never had such a singular obsession last this long before..

I know its 'cos basically i wanna get more 'heart' into my music...

Be less reliant on suprising chord changes and complexity for effect - and be less in my head....

That music uses less chords -but is amazingly free,intuitive and expressive with the vocal lines

Its like there's this whole universe of possibilities and strangeness in an E to an A change - and i'm becoming so much more open and expressive in that from listening to it..

Its also innocent,playful,charming and sunny even in its sadness n pain...Beautiful n present n natural..

Has so many qualities i want - and everything that modern popular music has lost touch with for me.. :)

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