The Absurdity Of It All

Some days you just want to throw your hands in the air and wonder why you even bother. :wacko:

Consider these points:

  • You want to make music but you quickly find you really don’t have what it takes. So you go learn by reading up on theory or learning an instrument - and if you take that seriously at all it takes years to anywhere useful. Often you do this against the wishes of your family or community.
  • After years of noodling with many things you might come across one or two special musical ideas that make you ‘yeah! I want to share this with the world!’ only to find there is this thing you haven’t addressed called ‘mixing’ and ‘sonic character and texture’ you clearly haven’t got a bleeding idea about. So you go learn about that and be daunted by the stupid amount of choices you have out there and the absolute quagmire of misinformation about what is regarded as quality.
  • You spend a heap of money on hardware that you’ll never re-coup on. Most of it you have no idea how to use so you try to be better than everyone else by investing years into learning how to use it all creatively. Repeat this step every 3 years.
  • You find software you like but it dies or it’s just not good enough. Same goes for versions of operating systems. Meanwhile all the prophets on the internet flame you constantly because your choice is wrong and theirs is right.
  • No matter how well you mix your precious songs they still don’t ever sounds as good as commercial big name ones, so you spend a little while tearing your hair out over that until you realise the secret word is MASTERING. And you have no clue about it. You either spend a decade or two trying to learn all about it so you can do it yourself, or realizing that you’ve got to spend large amounts of money you cannot afford to have some professional do it for you so you end up with a result you’re probably not happy with anyway.
  • You realise that working in digital is never going to be as good as working in analogue, but you keep a stiff lip because you can’t afford real analogue gear and it frankly scares you.
  • In the meantime you realise that those precious songs you made aren’t so precious and they sound like poorly hacked out versions of some fad that’s already passed out of fashion. Instead of ‘giving up’ you take it upon yourself to develop something more ‘special’ and ‘timeless’ of course with no support from anyone because it’s taboo to actually discuss what makes good song writing and all your peers worried about beatslicers or how to make drums sound more aggressive. Anyway, you spend a decade or a few decades chipping away at this enormous task that you’re probably not capable of, while at the same time trying to hold down a job and feed yourself. You find you start talking a lot of rubbish no one understands.
  • Just maybe you pull off a whole album of gold; music that you think is just plain amazing and would change the world. What the hell to do?!? You try courting some small ‘record labels’ to get your self released but lo and behold they say you won’t get any money for it, the release will be so delayed it’s stupidly out of date, and that your album will reach probably a handful of people anyway. Why? No one buys music anymore apparently. Everyone is downloading it for free -or- they’re so sick of the infinite amount of choices between this colour of shit versus that colour of shit so why would they bother to take a chance on you?
  • You then think there must be some other way! So you get in on this craze of joining a ‘internet social network’ where you make ‘friends’ who aren’t really your friends and everyone is DESPERATELY sharing pure inanity just to seek base-level personal validation. Sure, you get a few bits of kudos here and there were people say ‘hey nice song, but it sounds like MUD’, but that doesn’t seem to do.
  • So why not just give away all your music for free?!? Hell, those legends in the tracking demo scene days used to do it all the time so why not you? Who wants money for music anyway? What are you crazy? So you make up some website which you think is cool but isn’t and offer all your precious music for free. You might have a little bit of savy or investment behind you as you’ve setup a nice little online shop where you can buy the high quality FLAC versions of your song or buy a physical pressing of your CD, artwork and all. All of this you pay for out of your own pocket. You sell a few token copies, and some people have sympathy for you. Go to bed, wake up next day go back to being a wage slave.
  • Maybe while all this is happening you’ve started a live band and you’re doing gigs here and there. This may even be earning you a buck or two, but it’s nothing you can live off. Then you’re dealing with drunks, hecklers, not selling many CDs, bad venues, noise, smoke, PA disasters, stealing, broken gear, and all other manner of curiosities that you encounter with life on the road. Wake up in the morning: wonder what you’re doing.
  • By now you’re completely baffled and thinking the whole situation is rather Spinal Tap. Nevertheless you’re bored at work and decide to pop onto an internet forum or an internet chat channel to talk about your woes and hopefully talk about the dream of writing music again that has some class and magic to it. So on you hop only to find that some loud boyish users are going on and on about ‘how this is gay and that is gay’ and anything else that’s generally base and vulgar. So you pipe up with your opinions and SLAM you’re made to look as unreasonable a possible for even thinking about wanting to make a nice song - you try to fight back but before you know it some person has posted a YouTube link about people having sex in animal suits and the conversation moves on. Later on you’re talking to some defeatist who does ‘music for fun’ and thinks you should too. Fun? What’s fun?

On days like these you could just give up. But something keeps you going, something keeps you coming back to your music. You keep creating, but why?

  • You’re clearly stupid.
  • You don’t have a choice because for some reason this creativity just doesn’t turn off. It’s something you’re born with and if you suppress it you’ll go stark raving mad.
  • You’re operating under some missionary delusion that your music has a good message and that once it interfaces with the social world it will be a contributing factor to positive social change. All those hours you’ve spent draining power from the grid to work on your creations is worth it because the music will do the right thing. All those barrels of oil to make the CD plastic and ink, all those trees cut and pulped so that you’ve got nice looking artwork …need I go on?
  • Someone important, influential or special in your life keeps encouraging you to do this because they’re unhappy with their life but want you to fulfill their dreams for you.
  • You think it’s an apt joke that you do something no one really wants you to do in the face of the global military industrial complex, while people are needlessly slaughtering animals out of cultural stupidity, and the decadent elite are busy gobbling up all the land and raising the price of it so you can never enjoy any of it. Sure, it’s easy to write a killer groove or a or an uplifting movement while the Earth dies. Give me a break: let’s hop on ebay and buy some shit from China that we don’t need, or go watch the latest version of Batman and blog about it. REASONABLE.
  • You’re a masochist, and like suffering. Hell, suffering’s pretty cool at them moment, right?
  • Why not?
  • Maybe something bigger than you that you can’t understand needs you to do this. It’s your job. It may seem absurd and pointless, but there also is no choice. It’s part of a larger hidden mechanism. The little gifts that you create and bring into the world work in far subtler ways than you can ever imagine - their importance is deep and long, almost always invisible.


Hmmm, I’ll go for:

  • I’m clearly stupid

But then again, so is George Bush and he’s a president.
So there’s still hope!

This is a well constructed and thought provoking thread and hits homes a lot of rather painfully true observations. Years ago a lot of these applied to me. However these days it is summarised by “You don’t have a choice because for some reason this creativity just doesn’t turn off. It’s something you’re born with and if you suppress it you’ll go stark raving mad”

Ever since I was 10 years old and recorded silly poems and songs on a mono tape recorder I’ve been doing this. I’ve no pretences of ever being noticed or having my stuff released, 90% of my stuff has only been listened to by me anyway, just as well as most of it is abysmal. The hardware I spent years accruing gathers dust in the attic. These days I write daft stuff for my kids to dance to, rather than them listen to the Cheeky Girls (there is sadly a copy of ‘Party Time’ present in my house) It is ‘fun’ and maybe I’m defeatist and I do wonder why I’m doing it though some times. I do have a friend who collects beer mats so there’s always that.

I do it clearly for fun. But it’s also easy for me to say and to do so, because I’ve got a job as a programmer and I love this, too, so music making is pure recreational work for me. I love fiddling around with different techniques, styles, samples whatever. I love to be creative and to be able to share what I do thanks to the great internet (even if there are only 5 people who actually listen and care).
Yeah… it’s just plain fun for me. I understand that if you are trying to do this for a living it’s another story. I even would go so far to say, that my coding job is fun, because I am just employed and someone else is doing the “dirty” work.
I’ve done some programming jobs for private customers and i tell you, I didn’t like it. It’s strange, but I guess it’s the same problem you described. “To have to” takes a lot of fun out of the thing you want to do. If you depend on its success (like if you are trying to do it for a living) the fun is even more in danger.
So… i guess I hear you. But rest assured, that not everyone is a complete idiot on the internet. Just have a look at the renoise community. I guess there are some pretty nice people here. :)


I think you should not aim at becoming world famous than you set out to get dissapointed. But if you set more realistic goals you can achieve them and it will make you satisfied.
Than it becomes:


Because its fun.

Its keeps you sane.

Your music will allways bring some moments of joy to someone, if not anyone else than yourself.

Because you can impress girls.

Because its a challange.

You can allways get better

Its a good braintraining, it keeps your mind fresh and practices trains your imagination.

I wanna co-op more with fellow Renoisers. That seems very meaningful to me.

When I was a hopeful 16-years boy, I discovered music and I found to have potential as a drummer. My father prevented me to play drums on the first place, then I bought the drumkit and secretely played it in a
garage. I was playing it once a week if I was lucky, but still I wanted to play and managed to obtain good results and played in a good local metal band.

In the meantime I also learned to use trackers. Being completely self-taught, I have always had a different approach to music, so I have not been very popular with my songs, then I understood that professional music is for people who accept compromises in music, and I don’t. There are rare exceptions to this rule: some extremely lucky and talented people can do what they love and have a good result, I’m thinking at people like Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and similar.

I fully understand your rant, but I learned that you should not do as a job what you like the most. I often say that you should have a job about the second thing you like the most, and an hobby about the first thing you like the most.

I work as a programmer and am an hobbyist musician, so I’m quite close to it. Some friends of mine tried to make a job out of music, and almost everyone of them is playing shit at marriage parties in order to get a living.
I’ve published 11 albums during the last 11 years. Ok, noone cares at all about them, and I have not even tried to publish them with a label, though some people every now and then do some early proposal, but at least I have made something completely mine.

Another thing which has to be said is that you cannot do everything by yourself professionally: you are good at mastering, as your work on my latest song showed, but as you said you spent time and money on it, while a pro musician simply sends his song to the mastering studio and does not care at all about the result, because his part of work has already ended. Music industry is sort of a chain work in which everyone has his place and his specialization, and you will not excel in everything alone.

disclaimer: excuse the vicious humor + it’s late = it’s probably rubbish when i look at this post again

from my current understanding formed by literature and opinions of others

music is an adaptation of human survival mechanics
imagine a caveman with no language skills yet, but he/she can make some type of vocal sound
its probably going to sound like:
• “i’m fucked” > eaten by a vicious animal
• “fuck off” > defending properties, women, children against other tribes
• “fuck you” > killing other tribes
• “watch out for that fucker” > warning the tribes
• “we’re fuckin ok” > we just destroyed that tribe, lets celebrate by scalping their heads whilst screaming mid to high frequencies because being alive rules over this dead fucker or we just killed a vicious animal, lets eat & use its teeth for war medals, hey we can also use its bones for that jazzy number i’ve dreaming about
• “look, i’m fit to fuck” > breeding or just plain ol fuckin

a musical piece can give the perception of all those

random things about music and anything related to it
keep in mind the adaptation of human survival mechanics
• humans can synchronize to beats, not necessarily drums > imagine a boxer and his combos
• listening to and making music exercises the brain (making it requires more modularity in the brain)
• music is counting without the listener knowing it
• meditative vocal vibration > buddhist monks; britney spears
• mothers & sound relationships to their babies
• brain lateralization and music mixing
• music is universal, no such thing as language barriers
• music is processed as time and space

music is how i want to spend my remaining days, away from other grim options
music is a portal to other things wild & unimagined
making music is like hacking someones brain to behave a certain neurological way
my main reason for doing music is to symbiotically insert non musical information in musical pieces

• my current opinion about the planet is with george

• my current opinion on general human condition is with george

• if this planet does go to shit

kaneel: keep your moniker and buy some good breasts implant, fame awaits you

Hey, Foo?, first of all, don’t think I’ve forgotten about the plugin i promised you; I’m writing this from work, seeing as we’ve lost internet at home due to unpaid bills.


That whole story you laid out fits my “musical-life” perfectly. It was almost scary. Yeah, I put up my own website, while i started gigging, all this after finding out mastering and mixing and all that was all part of making my music sound better.

Now, though, it’s sad. Feel like I’m starting to drift away from music making. Dunno why though. I’ve made music since I was 14. And played music on piano since I was even younger. Always gotten alot of joy out of music. Not just making it, but music in general.

It’s scary.

Nice thread btw. I’m often postitively surprised about how intellectual some of these posts are. It’s a nice break from all the piss I often read.

it’s more fun than killing yourself

but seriously, have you ever asked your parents to look at your shit? not your tunes, your shit. when you’re a small child and proud? have you had any fun at all making something? even if it’s shit? I know i have :)

you don’t need a grand meta-narrative claiming some absolute point of making music. there’s a sort of universal propensity in humans to create, such to facilitate the individual directly, and the species evolutionarily. i’m not an architect, but i can’t help making something.

Consumption is a necessary mode of existence to inspire creative energy. for example, i’ll binge on substances and eventually find myself playing video games; suddenly I hit the brick wall exclaiming, “fuck, i just wasted three weeks of my life consuming stupid shit”. making music reverses this feeling.

This is fundamentally a philosophical issue so I’ll address it accordingly.

We live in a culture where most people filter themselves through others. It amounts to the individual feeling that “if I’m not heard, seen or noticed, then I don’t really exist at all”. Many artists in our postmodern era operate on this premise and it mutates itself in many forms and manifestations.

Countless individuals try to reach fame and fortune as an end in itself. Even if they don’t actively try it for themselves, they still hold that ideal subconsciously, so they’ll respond to your music with questions that focus on how popular your song is, how many have listened to it or downloaded it, the rank of your song on lists, how many gigs you have, how many albums you’ve sold, how much money you’ve made out of your music, etc.

Others rebel against this, so they seek to disintegrate the false structures and conceptions of others’ minds. They try their best to be “original”, meaning they’re trying to do something that nobody else has done before them. The only problem is that this can only be figured out in contradistinction, you first need to identify what everybody else has done in order to figure out what qualify as original… so you’ll establish the ultimate dependency to others this way. (It doesn’t really matter to some of these mentalities if anybody can understand or appreciate their “art” at all. Some modern artists just want to see the world burn and seek to mock the human mode of perception and thought.)

They true key to enjoy music making is to establish another kind of attitude, where “others” doesn’t really count at all. Not in any significant way. If others enjoy your music, fine. But don’t make that enjoyment of others your reward and motivation. Instead, try to strive for a situation where you make music entirely for your own sake, with no anchors into the minds of others. That’s actually a challenge.

Good one, Transcender.

Ask yourself: “Would I keep making music like this, if I was the only person in this world?”

me! me! me! pick me! pick me!

Yesterday, I posted this comment which elicited the following insightful response from Anonymous Coward:

Now that the motivational speech is over i’ll let you in on a secret. I have many peers making music. I have more than a few of these peers who make a living out of it. Out of all of these, ZERO use Renoise.

This community is my “other” peer group. We aren’t all doing the same thing. But we keep coming back here for insight, support, and discussion.

I hope one day to meet many of you, regardless of diverging artistic motivations, because this group moves me like no other.

That’s what keeps me going. The rest is just “the biz.”

yeah was having a few moments like that this week. in fact the weeks theme was the frustration at ‘designing music’ rather than performing it in realtime… because sometimes programming music seems totally absurd in itself.

however then in the last two days i made something which sounds to me like the beginning of what might be my best tune to date. and i guess thats the key to why i do it; i regularly feel that way when i come up with a good idea, therefore i am progressing towards something.

i am currently trying to recreate my painting/visual art style in sound, and every time i get slightly closer towards that goal i find it immensely rewarding. if i actually finish something completely, its usually the best thing ive done to date, and that is very satisfying. this also goes for the non-serious bits of rave music, which i make entirely for fun and probably if they are good another netlabel release at some point.

i think i gave up some time a go on the idea of any art i make being widely popular or commercially successful - smaller achievable goals can indeed be immensely rewarding though. i look at is as though:

  • i haven’t yet managed to accurately portray the art in my head (on my own terms). some success reached towards this however. therefore continue.
  • many of the artists whose work i most respect are not particularly commercially successful, so likely best case scenario is if i make the music which i am trying to make, then it might get a small/niche commercial release and appreciation. however, assuming i made it the way i wanted it to be, a few people would probably like it, which is sufficient for me since most people have no taste anyway :wink:

artistic ventures tend to be part creative vision and part putting the work in to realise that vision. since i have no doubts about the former part of this equation the only real battle is against lazyness… somtimes i can go for quite a long stretch without actually doing anything at all, however a break can also be useful sometimes to recallibrate the overal direction of what you are going.

so you can file me under:

  • You don’t have a choice because for some reason this creativity just doesn’t turn off. It’s something you’re born with and if you suppress it you’ll go stark raving mad.

except, if i didn’t do it i’d possibly me a more normal person and less bloody mad ;D

Stop making music for proving something to other people or yourself first maybe? Not looking for other people opinion or validation and stopping living in the fantasy that one day you’ll be part of the 0.000000000001% of musicians who actually make money from their stuff would help too.

No expectation, no disappointment.

I feel you,
I started making music for fun. tracking on my Amiga and share it with friends.
got on stage one day, some people liked it, that was enough to go to the next step.
we formed a band, I did a producer cource, things where getting so serious, al the technical parts took out the fun factor of the creating process.
building a track was not toying around anymore with keeping in mind the mixing and so on.
heaps of gear past my hands in those days to make things sound good.
and always on gigs people don’t take your tracks like you wanted they would. better yet, sometimes people have suggestions for your musical babies that you don’t want.
that’s why our band is renamed to No repair. we don’t want to be corrected, just do our thing.
never we get the crowd working rightly, but we always have a blast.
and that’s what drives us till today.
people wont see your hard work, making tunes, getting your live setup right, preforming as good as you can, if their not entertained, it’s garbage to them.

It got to me several times, but I can’t stop, I’m not the greatest producer in the word, we don’t have the best live act, but we care for our songs.
my studio is downgraded to all the things I really use. and it still feels fine.
so we will continue till the fun is over.

as for the co-op with you BOTB. sounds like fun!

I felt the same exact thing you did with my live band I was in throughout high school and part of college. I loved the music we made and who I made it with, but the burdens of costs of living, time, and costs of music (equipment, playing shows, etc.) became too unsustainable. So, I gave up and introverted into composition on renoise when I need a musical outlet. I came to the conclusion that the only people who are really able to sustain themselves musically are those who catch onto a trend and symbolize all/most of the characteristics of it, trying to become poster children for whichever increasingly played out scene of which they are a part. Maybe I am a defeatist like the one you described, but I realized the only way to be happy with your music is, like transcender said, you’re making it for yourself.

Either way, I hope you feel better/come to grips with your situation soon. Take care.

This is how I see it:

It is nothing to do with “getting signed”, selling 30,000 albums, even playing a single to another person.

Music is a path, in the same way art, sport, acting, dance, writing, etc. are paths.

A lot of Japanese traditions include the word -Do after them (Karate-Do, Kendo, etc.); which means “path” or “way”. And that’s a very Zen concept, in that the way to find genuine happiness/peace-of-mind is to become engaged in activities you can give yourself over to.

The ideas of (in martial arts) becoming a master or winning a fight, or in music, getting signed or having a number 1 album, are insignificant, transient goals which keep us pointed a certain direction. I suppose the hope is that while striving to reach them, you realise there’s more to it, (or you could say, less to it.)

The more I think about it, there’s actually a lot of parallels between making music and Zen.

The main one - and what I think probably best demonstrates a mastery of both life and music - is erasing yourself from the picture.

If you listen to the vast majority of mediocre electronic/rock music on myspace or whatever, what limits the appeal of work more than anything simple and objective like sound quality or chord progressions is that with amateur-ish music, you always get a strong sense of the person who made it.

It’s almost self-conscious. It’s music which is aware that it’s being listened to. The most obvious mistake is when people try to show off in some way: overdoing a vocal or guitar performance; using unnecesarily elaborate synth patches or programming.

You always know when you’re listening to something great because the music has a life of its own. It’s like it exists in thin air. And that way we can all hear and connect with it much more directly and personally ourselves. You’ve erased the guy sitting in the studio, trying to get your attention, and become a sort of conduit for something more universal.

For me, something like Selected Ambient Works would be a great example of music without ego. Richard James himself can have as much ego as he wants, but the music he creates has a life of its own which is completely stripped of ego.

With martial arts, the idea of learning Kata and forms and things is so you stop thinking and become one with the moves/sequences; with Yoga - yoga means union - it’s about focusing on breathing and posture until the ego disappears… The best actors are the ones who give themselves to a character and you never consciously think of them as actors or people on a film set… With writing, even reporting for newspapers and things, it’s all about disolving the ego, making the writing seem disembodied. So it just becomes words, not words originating from someone.

It’s all Zen, and the real goal is transcending the ego, staring into the abyss.