I had a little flash of illumination the other day. I went into HMV, drawn by a sign saying CDs were £2.00. Sure enough there were a lot of them, many of which I was sure I’d enjoy. But I realised if I bought them I’d probably only listen to one or two tracks. And I’d already ordered one online, of which more later. It seems I don’t so much listen for pleasure as for inspiration. Not necessarily ideas to steal, but just the motivation to go and make some music. If I don’t get it, I don’t tend to listen longer till I get it, I go and do something else. And if I do get it, I’m likely to switch the music off and either pick up an instrument or, more often, just start composing and arranging in my head.
So either way, a very small amount of music can be the Minimum Effective Dose. If I’m enjoying it I become restless to go and do something! That also explains why I still listen to bits of my favourite music from the 70s and 80s – because that’s the stuff that made me want to make music.
This week it was John Cale’s new remake of his harrowing Music For A New Society. It sparked me to start reimagining some of my songs. I now have, in my head, radical rearrangements of a couple of songs from Roadblock and another one I’ve not played since the Hungry Ghosts days.
I don’t luxuriate or indulge in music, nor do I ever have it as background (except for a few ambient and baroque albums) – I’m just looking for something to kick start me.