When you have an unlimited number of sounds and places to start composing, where do you begin? At least with an instrument you are limited to a range, chord structures, tonality, but with electronica music, you have an entire universe of sounds at your disposal. To me, it’s as intimidating as the empty page for a writer, sitting in front of a typewriter waiting for the first sentence to come. When I asked Progressive Trance artist, Jack Barrile, about it, he said it was those same endless possibilities that drew him to electronica music in the first place.
As the first electronica artist to be featured in the series, I wanted to find out more about how his creative process is defined by the genre. Jack began producing music in 2006, and stated putting it out into the world in 2010 under the alias Blugazer. To him, music is an exploration and an interpretation of how he sees the world, an expression of his reality and his dreams. When I came to photograph him in his creative space (his apartment in Clinton Hill), we walked to his bedroom where his setup was and he began working on a new idea. He shared that he had recently been to the beach during his trip to Florida and he was inspired by the divergent experiences of the beach by day vs the beach by night. He began composing two songs, one a counterpoint to the other.
Jack always begins with a concept, an idea of a feeling, a mood, a place. He is also very cognizant of his own sound; he’s drawn to dreamy, atmospheric, spacial sounds that are warm, dark, and mysterious. Knowing what he likes to hear is what helps him know where he wants to take a song and its elements. Although he did not go to school for music, he studied it on his own, researching music theory and composition, chord structures and production concepts, using the knowledge to push his production further. He mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he can really call himself a musician, because although he knows how to play various instruments, he doesn’t really play any one in particular. He is in essence a composer, putting together musical elements and sounds to create a soundscape.
By day, Jack works as a software engineer, but he wakes up every morning two hours before the start of his day to work on his music. Before leaving his house, he exports whatever he worked on that morning and listens to it throughout his work day, dissecting and finessing the song in his head. Often he comes home at 7pm or 8pm and dedicates another two hours to music, either practicing and teaching himself musical theory, or working on the song he began that morning. And he does this every day.
Jack’s creative process follows a very unique and analytical workflow that he has developed and refined over time. In some ways, the organized nature of his process feels like a reflection of his engineering work, he tackles each part of the song in a precise and stacked manner, starting with the drum and bass lines first and then building the song piece by piece until he has completed each portion of the structure. His workflow gives him parameters within which he can be creative and explorative, while still allowing him to complete each song without being dragged into the abyss of possibilities of sounds.
This idea of finishing a song is something he stressed is an incredibly important part of his creative process. Even if the elements are not there yet, even if he didn’t find the right bass line, even if the song isn’t good, he must finish it. Completing a song is necessary for building the muscle memory of how to do it so that when a good song comes along, you know how to finish it. He shared that he thinks one of the issues many artists have is completing songs, often spending a long time on one element that is not quite right or putting the song aside for later when a better idea might come along, and then never coming back to something that could be great. I know I have suffered the same thing in my own photography, often having a good concept for an image but perhaps not completing it in the postproduction phase because it wasn’t working out the way I envisioned. I think Jack is right, there is a lot of value in working through something and forcing yourself to not get stuck, even if your initial passion for the idea has changed. You learn something in the process that you wouldn’t have if you just gave up. At the same time, I can understand that in this life where we have a finite amount of time, it’s hard to convince yourself to keep working on an idea when you don’t feel as excited about it. But then again, if you’re training for a marathon, you need to complete those long training runs, even if you sucked that day and your time was terrible, just finishing each one of those long runs helps you complete the marathon on race day. If creativity is a muscle, I think Jack is onto something.