The answer to “everything’s been done”… But what is the question?

Don’t try to be original. Try to be good. Originality will come without trying.

Often I see artists (not just musicians or composers) exclaim that they don’t want to follow trends or ‘sell out’, and instead make ‘original’ art. They see the defining character of their work as being ‘not something else’. They see being different for its own sake as a worthy goal.

I disagree.

Originality is a cop-out. It’s what people announce their goals to be when they’re afraid of unfavourable comparison. It’s what people try to do when they don’t have the confidence to take on something ambitious. It’s their excuse when their work falls short of expectations.

Trying to be different is setting yourself up to fail. No matter what you try to create, your creations will be the product of everything you’ve experienced in your life. At best, you can come up with a combination of influences that hasn’t yet been explored but your work will always be able to be deconstructed – revealing its influences.

Undoubtedly, these influences will be representative of your taste. They will will all have components that speak to you, that resonate, that describe your own personal understanding of music.

Using originality as a goal is not only a cop-out, but it is unnecessary.

Everything you create will be influenced by everything you’ve experienced in your life – an unique combination. Being original doesn’t take a special effort – it’s impossible to avoid!

Trying to be original results in flawed decision-making, where techniques or sounds are chosen merely on their being ‘different’ – without regard of whether they support the creative direction  or aesthetic of the song.

Instead, try to make creative decisions based on what works best for the song. If the right choice is something different, this is good. If the right choice is something conventionaly, this is also good. It doesn’t matter – so long as it’s the right choice.

-Kim.

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  1. Yes, yes, yes!

    • infobiro
    • September 2nd, 2009

    Im not totally disagree with your statement, but I think that some other things is more important than goal to be good… Only knowing that u can do anything can bi extremely limiting.. Problem today is that anyone can do anything, I think, but in the same time U want to sound like someone else… People don’t truly want to bi original, they want to sound original because they want to stand out an to be “popular”, not for the sake of music and art or whatever, but because of Ego satisfaction. The deadlock is, i think, explictic egocentricity in ultimate satisfaction by his/her job well done, but not by the Big picture of his/her creation. They do it to please other, and by reaction of other to please themself, but not the oposite… “They” just using music as a tool to achieve some other enyojment…

    Im not directly enyojing in making music, it’s a real pain in the ass, but im enyojing in that pain of making something that i like.

    ps. sorry for my bad english ;)

    miK!

    • john
    • October 6th, 2009

    i totally see what you’re saying but this seems like more of a semantic argument…i agree, doing different things solely for the sake of being different isn’t the best way to go, but that is NOT what originality is. you could step back and say “well originality doesn’t exist” because everything is derivative and based on your experiences. that’s where the semantic argument is…if you mean “originality” as in 100% without precedent and with no outside influence, then obviously nothing is original. but that’s not what most people mean when they say it, i dont think.

    there are obviously artists out there who are FAR more derivative than others, and some artists that have VERY unique and individual styles based on very interesting sets of experiences. of course they take their influences from other things too but originality can still exist within that framework if you don’t use the term so concretely.

    “Often I see artists (not just musicians or composers) exclaim that they don’t want to follow trends or ’sell out’, and instead make ‘original’ art. They see the defining character of their work as being ‘not something else’. They see being different for its own sake as a worthy goal.”

    i think this an over-generalization and untrue. yes people like that do exist but you can’t stamp this thought process onto anyone who appreciates or strives for a degree of ‘originality.’ you cannot speak to all (or most) artists’ motives. some people really don’t see a point in just going out and doing music that sounds like its been done a hundred times already (which is VERY easy to fall into as an artist), and who want to explore slightly more uncharted territory, or even to just do something that reflects their unique collection of experiences and influences (which can truly be said to be unique…we all have one-of-a kind lives!). to just tag all or most of them as wanting to be different for the sake of being different misses the point. but simply put there is no way you can know everyone’s artistic motivations, and using that as the foundation for the rest of the post is shakey imo.

    like i said i agree with the idea that ONLY being different for the sake of it, at the detriment of the music itself, is idiotic. but this:

    Originality is a cop-out. It’s what people announce their goals to be when they’re afraid of unfavourable comparison. It’s what people try to do when they don’t have the confidence to take on something ambitious. It’s their excuse when their work falls short of expectations.

    i’m sorry that is utter nonsense! if someone is just stamping out generic dancefloor bangers that are blatantly mimicking what’s hot at the moment (which accounts for MANY tracks out there today), how is that fearless? how is that ambitious? how does it take more confidence to mimic than it does to expose something that you’ve only seen inside yourself? i think your definition of originality needs a tweak.

    “Everything you create will be influenced by everything you’ve experienced in your life – an unique combination. Being original doesn’t take a special effort – it’s impossible to avoid!”

    then why is there so much generic and similar music? on one hand your definition of originality is so strict that nothing could be seen as original. on the other its so loose that everything is original (its impossible to avoid). that’s obviously not true the second you listen to what’s out there. i think there is a reasonable middle ground.

    “Trying to be original results in flawed decision-making, where techniques or sounds are chosen merely on their being ‘different’ – without regard of whether they support the creative direction or aesthetic of the song.

    Instead, try to make creative decisions based on what works best for the song. If the right choice is something different, this is good. If the right choice is something conventionaly, this is also good. It doesn’t matter – so long as it’s the right choice.”

    I agree with this too. But you aren’t talking about things that are mutually exclusive of one another. if anything i think the problem is the opposite…where people miss out on doing something a bit different because something conventional is ‘safer’ and more guaranteed to get a desired reaction. it takes more confidence and more risk taking to try the things that aren’t tested and ‘comfortable.’

    yes, without a doubt, doing what is best for the music is priority #1, but people’s underlying motivations are far too varied and unique to make generalizations like these.

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