In music-making, where creativity and innovation intertwine, independent musician Iwan Gronow is a beacon of inspiration. As the esteemed bassist in Johnny Marr's band, he has traversed the globe, gracing legendary festivals such as Glastonbury, Coachella, and Fuji Rock. His journey includes appearances on revered platforms like Later with Jools Holland and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Yet, beyond the glitz and glamour, Gronow unveils his manifesto for music-making—a carefully crafted guide to navigating the delicate balance between art and science.
1 Imagination: The Genesis of Musical Creation
Gronow's creative process embarks on a journey through the realms of imagination. From the inception of a rhythm or beat to crafting intricate chord arrangements, he emphasizes the crucial role of finding that creative trigger and simply starting. Musicians traverse the phases of Dream, Make, and Do in the ethereal space of dreams, transforming nascent ideas into musical realities.
"It starts with a rhythm, beat, or crafting a simple chord arrangement, a melody that I've dreamed up from my imagination. The key is to find the creative trigger and just start!"
2 Orchestration: A Symphony of Conceptual Development
Music-making, according to Gronow, is a constant and iterative process. It involves orchestrating musical talent, infusing additional instruments, and carefully developing lyrical and conceptual ideas. Whether working individually or collaboratively, the musician navigates the intricacies of sonic landscapes, making decisions on arrangements, recording, and production to ensure a cohesive and polished finished product.
"I develop the musical concept organically by infusing additional instruments like guitars and synthesizers, depending on whether the song needs it. I work on the lyrics and ideas individually or with my bandmates on the song's building blocks and decide on the sonic, instrumentation, arrangements—the intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro, recording, and production."
3 Do-It-Yourself: Crafting Authenticity with Non-Conformity
Gronow's manifesto champions the spirit of non-conformity and rebellion against conventions. Rejecting the notion of selling out, he advocates for a DIY approach—learning by doing, teaching oneself to play an instrument, and embracing the essence of experimentation. Through this authentic journey, musicians can carve out their unique style and pace, staying true to their artistic vision.
"I taught myself how to play the guitar. Learning by ear and through doing. I listened to songs on record and cassette, dissected them, and eventually worked out their key and chords. I got it wrong and persisted through experimentation and determination until I got it right in my own way and style. Treating learning as essential to mastering the craft."
4 Half Inspiration, Half Elimination: Crafting Cohesiveness from Chaos
Comparing the creative process to Stanley Kubrick's meticulous filmmaking, Gronow acknowledges the duality of creation—half inspiration, half elimination. Like the director shooting millions of film reels, musicians assemble and refine disparate pieces to create a cohesive whole. The journey involves ruthlessly discarding excess material to hone the song to its natural and authentic course.
"Sometimes you have to be ruthless by deleting a lot of material to hone the song to its natural course."
5 Time, Place, Occasion: The Cultural Catalyst of Creativity
Gronow delves into the dynamic relationship between creativity and urban development. He posits that thriving artistic communities are born in open-minded, modern, and progressive environments. Drawing parallels to his own journey, he recounts the pivotal moment of relocating to Manchester from Cornwall, driven by the allure of innovative ideas and like-minded individuals.
"We threw everything we owned into a van and headed north to Manchester from Cornwall to make it. Landing on the doorstep of the late, great Joe Moss!"
In the culmination of Iwan Gronow's manifesto for music-making, we witness a prescription for success and a celebration of the intricate dance between imagination, orchestration, DIY spirit, inspiration, and cultural catalysts. Through his insightful perspective, Gronow invites aspiring musicians to embark on their unique odysseys, each note resonating with the harmonious blend of art and science.
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"Unknown Origins" soundtrack composed and performed by Iain Mutch
Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins Creative Studios, is in the fight against unoriginality by unleashing creative bravery. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."
Photo credit @ Brian Smale.
Attitude. Imagination. Execution.
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