greg haines – process part 244
In interviews I am often asked why I make the kind of music I have created. I’ve seen it asked to other musicians across the whole range of genres too. Its not that I cannot understand the curiosity that people might have about what led me towards the music that I make now – everyone’s path to their style of music is different and it can often help in understanding the intent behind the finished work. The reason that I have such difficulty answering this question is that it has never crossed my mind. I’m not even sure what kind of music I am seen to make, and also find it really difficult to describe. I leave that up to other people – they probably know better than me. Just as I have sat down and began writing this without knowing what style I am trying to write in, or even where I am heading, when I sit down to create music I just begin somewhere, and end somewhere else. Knowing where to start and where to end is hard enough without beginning to think about why I am choosing certain sounds or progressions. It’s an intuitive process and one I don’t really have any understanding of myself.
One question I have thought about much more (but interestingly have never been asked) is why I make music at all. Despite thinking about the subject often, I am still no closer to coming up with an answer for myself. On more optimistic days, I can believe that to express oneself to another and at best make a lasting impression on somebody is the most fulfilling way to pass the time, and at more pessimistic moments I can start to wonder if it’s a purely egotistical exercise. Sometimes it feels like there is no reason at all – both a liberating and terrifying hypotheses. My comfort in these moments is that I am sure a lot of artists that have changed my life, even changed the way I view life itself, probably don’t have the answer to this either.
For me this question often leads on to thinking about whether music, or art in general, serves a greater purpose for the artist or for the audience. In other words, can greater fulfillment be found in listening to the work of others or in creating something new in a world that is already overpopulated by sights and sounds that are all vying for our attention? At best, the feeling of finishing a piece of music can be one of the most rewarding I have ever experienced, but never in the making of a piece have I come close to the absolute epiphany I felt in hearing, for instance, ‘De Profundis’ by Arvo Pärt or Reich’s ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ for the first time.
Often when listening to the music that I love the most I begin to wonder why I make music at all, when music of such unsurpassable beauty already exists. What stops me from falling into this pitfall is that should I ever create something that even comes close in its potency to my favourite compositions, should I ever create something equally as moving, I’m sure I wouldn’t even realize. In being so close to the creative process, it’s impossible to listen to anything I make with any kind of objectivity. It wouldn’t be fair to say that I am unhappy with everything I have made, but nothing will ever be perfect to me, everything is just another step on a path towards something – but it’s a path with no end.
At the moment I create music because I don’t know what else to do with myself. I don’t mean that to sound negative – it’s a fantastic way to live. I don’t know if I will compose music forever, or if one day I will feel the need to try another way of focusing my life, but when I think about all the fantastic experiences that have found their way to me through my involvement in stringing some sounds together in a way that sounds right to me, I am so happy that I started and continue to do what I do. Why those particular sounds work for me, or ‘why I make the music that I do?’, seem like such petty questions to me in comparison to ‘how different would my life be if I made a different style of music?’ or even ‘where would I be if I didn’t make music at all?’. The music I make has informed the way that I live my life; it has brought me great friends, crazy stories, unforgettable experiences and enough train journeys to last a lifetime. That will do for now.