When Laura asked me “What’s the job description?” In the short video she made to launch Drawing Songs, I paused and said “Thinking”… then tried to expand on that one word answer but couldn’t. And it has been bugging me a bit because it was a really good question, and one that after being given funding to do a year’s work, I should have been able to answer less enigmatically!
This week the shape of the answer has come to me. (I’m not renowned for my quick thinking in these matters.)
One of the advantages of inhabiting a studio in General Office, Stourbridge, is the large gallery space, which, when not hosting a show, can be booked and used as a project space. I can hang works up in combination and stand well back to see them properly, rather than being hung on top of each other like they are in the studio. I can also play music in the space and do the aforementioned thinking.
When Sarah and I sat there looking, listening, discussing, it was interesting that every now and again Sarah, or I, or both of us, would be stopped in our conversation by a passage of music. At the time we saw this as an intrusion and a jarring. We took it as an indication that the music was “wrong” in some way.
But that wasn’t right. If the music doesn’t stop us, draw us away from conversation, what is it for? What is its job description? I could argue that unless it is drawing attention to itself in some way, it is failing. Might as well play it in a lift.
The problem is at the moment of course, that the music we played isn’t done. It’s a bunch of sound sketches, haphazard, patchy, it’s not a finished piece of writing of words or music, it’s not been arranged, mixed or mastered. This music hasn’t been curated as a whole piece within itself, let alone as part of the installation. That’s why things jar. That’s why things jump out where they shouldn’t.
My job, as the artist, is to make it work. One piece in particular has brought me to this. I can’t play it to you yet, but it is called Undertaker Bees and it has a jagged, percussive piece of piano (written and played by Michael Clarke) that fits the lyric perfectly, and in itself has informed several bits of drawing. (Having itself been inspired by the recordings of a charcoal drawing) Of course, as a solo piece among gentleness and recordings of ambient sounds, it’s like being hit by a sledgehammer. It is my job, Laura, to decide whether being hit by this sledgehammer is what this song should do, or whether it should sneak up on us slowly before we realise what it is.
I know it’s a bit late, but I hope that answers your question?