Sometimes, less is more

Today is National Simplicity Day, so what better time to talk about my approach to writing music and how minimal music can have a positive impact on daily life.

HISTORY

National Simplicity Day was founded in honour of Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher and poet writing in the 19th century. It's amazing to think that in an age where technology was only just beginning (Thoreau was born in the middle of the industrial revolution), when the first computer wasn't to be invented until 80 years after his death, someone was writing about simplicity and would end up having such an impact in today's society of screens, flashing lights, and loud noises. The main interpretation of this is to put aside all technology for the day and immerse yourself in nature. I'd like to take that idea and reflect it in music.

APPROACHING THE STANDARD

As a composer, I've discovered and listened to a lot of music over the years. At school, when someone asked what my favourite genre of music was, I said 'all of it'. The thing about music is, it's often an expression of one or a few people's emotions and outlook on life, reflecting how they've interpreted everything around them. I find that fascinating.

Listening to various styles of music, one would think I have an eclectic writing style, jumping from one genre to the next, merging different styles here and there, creating something that evolves and moves quite quickly. This is, in fact, the opposite of what I do. While I do think to myself 'what instruments shall I write for today?', I usually come up with a single melodic idea or chord pattern and progressively layer it, sometimes subtly altering it throughout the song before bringing it back again in its original form at the end. I find this kind of writing quite therapeutic, calming and, ultimately, nice to listen to.

IN THE BACKGROUND

At university, whenever doing coursework I would put on some instrumental music. I found lyrics quite distracting and once wrote out the whole chorus of 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen in a history essay about renaissance music before I realised what I'd done. Thank goodness for proofreading. In my defense, this was at 11pm at night so I blame fatigue for that. Anyway, I soon fell in love with film and video game music, which have a hard job of trying to stay in the background while also instilling emotions within the viewer or embellishing on-screen sequences without being distracting. I soon found myself listening to these soundtracks before bed, in the bath, on the bus and realised they were a way of keeping myself calm, relaxed, and happy amid, what can be, the chaos of daily life.

SIMPLICITY

We all have those days where everything goes wrong, stacks up, and we feel like we have no breathing space. For some, those days turn into weeks and before you know it, that's your life. Every day. We all need a little 'me time' where the phone is on silent or, better yet, switched off. We kid ourselves that sleep is our 'me time' but that isn't enough. So, today, on Sunday, this day of rest, go for a walk; have a bed day; run yourself a bath, and have a listen to my ambience tracks here if you like!

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© 2020 Ed Brown