I am here to tell you all that the art of imagination has not died—it has simply reinvented itself. For the novice and professional musician alike, the use of creativity and imagination has solely depended on some source of inspiration and when there is a lack of inspiration, you hit a brick wall. But what if you were given an entire catalog of inspirational sources to choose from, where could the possibilities take you? Some of the most creative electronic sound designers were given the chance to test the limits of where their minds could take them. It forces them to think outside of the box, experience the moments of too many musical ideas or the agony of a lack thereof, and produce something unique and special.
The production/design contest first started back in 2005—then called the Iron Chef Composition Contest. The named changed to the Sound Collage Contest in 2007. It has since become very popular and an event a lot of students look forward to every year. What makes this contest special is that it features the sound production talents of the students and highlights what the EPD and MP&E departments do best here on campus. It showcases their talent in a very unique way. In essence, the way the contest works is a theme is created and from that theme, a library or catalog of sounds are created. With this catalog of sound files each applicant creates an original piece of music. Creativity is a must because you can use the sounds stock or you can manipulate them using any production, recording, or sound editing programs. This year’s theme was construction sounds; sounds were gathered from Home Depot and the construction site of the new Berklee building on Massachusetts Avenue by Chris Fitzgerald (manager of training and programs for the Learning Center) and Blair Preshyn (training coordinator).
Prizes include sound programs and editing software. Judges included faculty, industry professionals, and last year’s winner. This year 23 entries were narrowed down to seven finalists, and Arseniy Mishchenko was crowned the Sound Collage winner.
Like many musicians in the Collage Contest, I to struggle with thinking I have no ideas or having too many and not writing them down. As each finalist described their individual pieces and processes, the common themes were: I have to many ideas, it took me a while to narrow the selection down, or I didn’t have a clear concept or inspiration so it took me a while to get started. The way I look at it is that we don’t have a lack of ideas but too many to choose from. In my mind I have too many ideas and don’t know how to shut them off or weed out the promising ones to start experimenting. Organization is the key to making sure that the millions of possibilities you want to try are not missed. The first thing you need to do is write down what comes to mind first. For some people it is the chorus, some the melody, and for some it’s the drums or groove. Whatever it is do not hesitate to put it on paper or sing it into a recorder. I promise you that this will help out. Think about how it would be to have a great “musically earth-shattering” idea and lose it.
Be sure not to limit yourself to listening to one style of music, even if there are genres of music that you don’t like. I cannot express enough how important this step is because it reinforces the pieces of music you or I like the most and it helps in the thinking process. For instance, there are chords and melodies that you would not hear maybe in R&B or hip-hop music, but you would in bluegrass. Imagine if you took an 808 hip-hop beat with a chord sequence from a country tune. I don’t know about you but just thinking of those things makes me want to write something right now. The point is to start thinking what makes the genres that you do not like so special and popular. The most creative artists—from Jimi Hendrix to the Beatles to Michael Jackson to Sting, just to name a few—have ventured out to expand their musical horizon and explore the many possibilities of new sound expressions.
Attending the event has opened my eyes to how to stay fresh and imaginative. The way these finalists were able to reverse, bend, chop, and transform these otherwise ordinary sounds into pieces of art helps me realize that I can be free to push the envelope with songs. It shows me not to be afraid to envision what’s not on the page and then put what I see on the page and make it my own. Open yourself up to receive the creative vibes from across the musical platforms, organize your inspiration sources, and capture the essence of every idea. Creativity has no box, we are more like creative musical quilts adding squares throughout our individual journeys. Remember we never have a shortage of ideas, so use each one as if it were our last. Like many musicians in the Collage Contest, I to struggle with thinking I have no ideas or having too many and not writing them down.