When your creative impulses dry up, a quick way to jumpstart the process is to try your hand at a prompt that comes from an external source.
Some artists use a tool like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which gives you a random constraint that you must now use as a framework for building or finishing your creative work. These strategies were initially printed on cards that had to be drawn randomly. These days however, it’s totally online.
What I’ve found to be quite effective however is a one word theme or title, which forces me to limit the music piece I’m making to fit that idea. And for the past few months, I’ve been active (off and on as time permits) in a community of musical composers on Twitter called MusicWeeklies, who post weekly tunes based on the prompt of the week. In this case, the prompt was “Flowers.”
Back trying my hand at the @MusicWeeklies challenge. This week's #Flowers theme led me to an image of a woman talking to flowers instead of her husband… ended up writing a synthpop Eleanor Rigby-type tune with Human League & Heaven 17 references. https://t.co/4i9jr1XRmp
— Acid42 (@acid42) July 20, 2021
The Creative Process Behind Reason And Rhyme
It started with me rediscovering the back catalog of one of my favorite bands in the world, Heaven 17. I say they are one of my favorites but actually, up until a month ago, I’d only ever listened to the one album that I had had on cassette back in the 80s, their third studio album, How Men Are. That album was an oddity –using jazzy chords and vocal harmonies with industrial drum samples, pop structures, and orchestral arrangements. Hearing it again now, many years later, I realize how far ahead of the time they were.
Alongside this, I started listening to the early albums of Human League, which I only knew because of their big hits like Human, Fascination, Don’t You Want Me, and The Lebanon. Strangely enough, I even learned (many years too late) that Heaven 17 had actually originally been part of Human League before the group split… and found success as separate acts.
All that listening, led me to try my hand at more sparse instrumentation for a synthwave song — inspired by Human League’s “Sound of the Crowd” and their early hit “Being Boiled.”
That basic drum part coupled with the Eleanor Rigby-like narrative of an estranged married couple struggling to connect after years of ignoring one another led to the song “Reason and Rhyme” and its opening image of a woman talking to her flowers for hours. Listen to it below:
Coming Soon: More Vocal Songs
I’ve been working on an entire album of vocal synthpop tunes, so expect more in the near future. Just have a few tracks to re-mix, and an album cover to conceptualize and it’ll be on Bandcamp soon enough.