Free Ableton Live Workshop

I’m offering a free workshop on May 15th in San Francisco. The workshop will be about using Max for Live to expand the capabilities of Ableton Live, break down creative walls and inspire the artist. This will be helpful to anyone looking to expand their creative process when sitting down to write music with Ableton Live.

The workshop takes place Thursday, May 15th at 6:30 pm and is at the Center for New Music at 55 Taylor Street, San Francisco.
The workshop is free but has limited seating so you must RSVP by claiming a ticket here (http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/613637). You will need to bring your own laptop.
You can find more info on the Facebook page here (https://www.facebook.com/events/643797862352416/?ref=22) feel free to share with anyone who might be interested. You can also find the event on the Center for New Music web page here (http://centerfornewmusic.com/calendar/workshop-creative-innovation-with-max-for-live-by-alec-ness-ableton-certified-trainer/).
Hope to see you there, if you have any further questions feel free to email me with them.

Updated Website

I’ve been working on this website for a number of years now. It’s finally taking a form I’m somewhat happy with. I’ll be slowly updating things as time goes on. I have a new feeling and new art I look forward to sharing.

Expression and Control

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the history of creating and distributing art, specifically music. In my time meditating on this subject, I’ve come up with some interesting questions.

1.) What has been the dominant inspiration for the most successful artists to date? Is it expression, communication, making money, or attention and vanity; maybe a combination of all?

2.) Has the inspiration for making art changed with technology? More specifically, has human nature and the desire for attention increased with the availability of immediate human response and social media.

I spent some time in affluential museums of San Francisco (Asian Art Museum, DeYoung Museum, etc.) simply observing the work of those before me; those of every age, class and origin. In the presence of these works, seen as brilliant and representative of highest expression, I asked myself “why were these works created?”. In most situations I found a distinct division at the level of art and craft.

This seems to be the division at which many attributes of art are split into two major schools of thought, art or craft; left brain dominant or right brain dominant, discovered or formulated, free or controlled. Although this division can be very difficult to note from case to case, is it very evident in a more broad analysis of art and art history. In the case of both classic and contemporary art, there are cases of art being created for commission, to serve a function or with pre-conceived outcome. This is very much the function of craft and although still a creative process, appears to serve a more contrived and less natural process of expression. On the other hand, both in classic and contemporary art we also see art created for the sole purpose of expression, that was usually happened upon by the public eye by chance, and was created with the sole intention of self-expression and communication of the individuals perception of the world. Of course, we also see everything in between, as this is not a clear black and white distinction.

With these observations in mind, I began observing and re-approaching my own creative process and daily thoughts. I immediately noticed a few things.

1.) The presence of active social media profiles in my day to day routine led me to be more concerned about what others think about me and my tangible success. On these platforms, it has been found in studies that ones self-confidence and happiness is compromised due to an over-exposure (and self comparison) to only the positive events in our colleagues lives.  I think those in my generation have a unique perspective on this subject because we have lived and been conscious both before and after the creation of the internet. I noticed that my colleagues are very often posting screenshots of the amount of digital followers they have or the positive reception of a piece of art/music they posted. I found this inspired negativity in myself and led me to compare my own success in each event.

2.) When I sit down to write a piece of music, I approach it one of two ways. One, I either create something without a pre-conceived idea of it’s outcome and without expectations of it’s reception, and I end up with something very unstructured and usually subsequently unreleased. In the second approach, I have a very clear idea of the final product/song and how to achieve that (specifically with my background in Ableton Live). I also in this scenario have a very good idea of what the reception will be like and will factor the potential success of the production into the creation of the piece. In the second scenario I experience a lot of initial anxiety, as I want to quickly finish the piece and observe the reception among my colleagues and fans. After it’s release however, I typically feel very happy and fulfilled by a positive reception among my colleagues. This is usually coupled with the inspiration to make more similar work and achieve more positive reinforcement. Very quickly these feelings resolve into the anxiety of creating another piece and the expectations of improving upon the positive results that preceded it. I feel that this source of inspiration can be motivating and can lead one to be productive, but is a.) very much the product and inspiration of craft and b.) can be detrimental to the creative process, preventing any creation under the pressure of expectations. The latter is covered very well in a book called Art and Fear.

3.) In my daily life I am less accountable to my peers when communicating via digital platform. I also see a pattern of those using social media to craft an image of themselves, thus communicating to others the self-decided highlights and interests of their own character. I’ve consciously tried to steer myself away from this pattern as I’ve seen the negative effects in real life communication. In addition to the obvious issues of technology in real life relationships (like using a cell phone at a social event) there are also less obvious consequences of our digital involvement. I’ve found myself and also notice others trying to achieve a level of instant communication about who they are in their face to face interactions. This usually results in lack of self confidence, a desire to speak about oneself frequently and a panicked sense of anxiety to portray ones knowledge and social status. I believe this has always been a trait of human conversation but has been escalated by the presence of social media profiles which encourage such forms of self expression. The issue is that this communication is fabricated digitally, impossible to replicate in the real world (closest relatives being fashion and materialism) and inspires negative feelings, self-doubt and comparison to those around us.

So after all of that analysis, I’ve arrived at a conclusion that makes it very difficult to see social media in a positive light. I do however believe there are a lot of positives to social media. I have no need to discuss those positives here, as they are already being constantly advertised by the creators of their corresponding social media websites. In light of these positives, modern society has advanced many of it’s resources and tools to the digital world and subsequently so has the art/music world. In today’s world, technology is constantly changing how we create and distribute both art and craft. So how do we participate in today’s world and make the most out of these available tools? That I think is something every individual must find for themselves, and it’s achievement lies in a realization and discovery of self that runs deeper than day to day processes. It lies in a decision about how one will interact with the world and how they will view themselves among their peers and their environment. In the case of my own life, I’ve chosen to focus less on the thoughts of others and the anxiety associated with positive reception; I’ve chosen to focus more on communicating without vain intentions, accept my own faults and create both art and craft individual of one another, under different titles.

I happened across a couple interviews with a group called Minilogue, which provide excellent insight into this topic. Both members of the group discuss this topic in depth. The venue for the first interview happens to be Ableton, and takes place in a very well done video. The second interview is published on a website called SpicyBass. I recommend both articles.

In conclusion, perhaps pre-conceived idea, comparison to our peers and expectation can be balanced with natural discovery, patience and free creativity. Perhaps this is the balance which produces a product that transcends the divide between serving ourselves and serving others with our art. Or perhaps we divide our time and work, allocating time to create both craft and art to holistically fulfill both our desires for expression and acceptance. I still have yet to find the balance for myself, but I feel I’m getting closer.