No one likes the idea of being obscure. At least, not in the negative sense, but most musicians, songwriters, composers have varying degrees of need in terms of exposure. It’s already understood that when we create something artistic, in any form, if it is exposed, we don’t know how it will be received. Billy Joel once said that his songs were like children and the act of recording them and distributing them out for listeners was like sending children out into the world. You plan, you build, you engage, but in the end, successes can’t always be pre tested, even when you set out to make a precise and calculated effort that is intended for great success.
So it is with great trepidation a newly written song is first introduced sometimes; we see this at our song circles. On many occasions, people come to us to start exposing a piece of themselves; i.e., their words and music combine, or either one separately. Depending on the level of effort, it’s the beginning of that song’s life. Correction- it is the birth of another attempt at something artful. Premature death for it means it’s played once and the creator loses faith in the creation and so it is put away, sometime resurrect in one of any multiple possible circumstances.
I must say I most often see this death when the creator wants so badly for their creation, their song to be the big winner at every award show, to be sung by every singer, and perhaps even the song that unites humanity. A lot of ambition, at that point, has set up the song to be a failure from the start, and even if the song was in the fourth, fifth, or final draft with some precision and care in its writing taken, the process stops.
One readon it stops because the bubble burst on the dream; the disappoint sucked the creative energy away. A creator should look at every possibility for their creation and be humble. Think of everything, not just of the Grammy Award, but of the one person out there years from now who will hunt down your piece of art to buy a copy and remember when they first heard it, and more importantly, expose it to people who hadn’t yet heard, or even better, those that dismissed it because they weren’t ready to receive it for whatever reason.
My listening tastes, while eclectic, have a repeated pattern on some genres more than others. The average music listener may enjoy one music score from a film outside that film, if the listening liked it. Me, I am to film scores as connoisseurs are to wine. Sometimes a type of music gets under your skin and you can’t let it go. And like every genre, there’s always the remembered work; for film score fans, Star Wars might as well be akin to the Abbey Road album as it is taken in by Beatles fans. But for every Star Wars, there’s plenty of Big Trouble in Little China’s out there.
Big Trouble in Little China’s music was written by the director of that film, John Carpenter, is most known for Halloween. Unlike Halloween’s obsessive and repetitious main title, designed to be like the killer from that film, Big Trouble in Little China was an exercise in unusual elements, mostly combined for fun. It’s not for everyone; if you don’t like keyboards and prefer the purer instrumental elements of a symphony orchestra, then this is not the music score for you. Whereas Star Wars has touched many lives and its detractors, even just musically, are seldom to be heard. Not to be outdone, they are out there, but they may be silent for fear of the lynch mob known as a loyal fan base.
The difference is easy to see: fewer people know and like Big Trouble in Little China as opposed to Star Wars. But for the few that saw it way back when and understood it from the first, it was simply too much fun to forget. This speaks to a number of things: an individual’s taste can often be defined by enjoying something in media no one else does, or at least few truly appreciate. That can often be a badge of honor since no one is expected to totally agree on the same likes. Further, Big Trouble in Little China originally started out as Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation’s desire to have a vehicle for entertainment similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Through the process of project development, it became what it is, with the hope that it would turn out to be successful. It was not met with a great amount of success in its initial release in the late 1980’s and yet it became a cult classic with a big fan following; people weren’t ready for it yet. A few were ready then, but then that’s a few and not a Film Studio Executive’s idea of a large box office audience. Thereby, it became somewhat the definition of obscure, but loved nonetheless. Which I take to mean that many things have value, even if dismissed. Stemming from this point is that while the filmmakers/composer had no idea what the fan reaction would become, despite the best of initial intentions, which means that it is a brave act in creating anything.
At the CCSA song circles, which take place every first Tuesday of the month, I find myself feeling better about life, more so in leaving than when I arrived, and one reason is because I’ve not only shared myself, but I’ve faced a little fear, and maybe grown a little for it. My intention is not let my songs rest at just being delivered there, I do plan to get them over in some other way (a recording, performing live, etc.) But I have no illusions; a Grammy would be great, but I’d love to get an e-mail from someone who heard my song and told me how much it meant to them. I know it’s possible that this song or the next may not have quite the large audience I’d like to have for it.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not writing songs to just be heard by a small amount of people, many songwriters don’t. But the point is that everything has value. I like the idea that if I create something, I can concentrate on it being good by specifications and then shape it as I need and then seeing if it is the crowd-pleaser I know it can be. But I can’t worry about that. All I am concerned with is to get the idea out of my head and build it up. Because the only obscurity worse than pushing something out with minimal reaction is the idea that fearfully and prematurely hidden away and known only to the one person who knew it best.