Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Follow your own head

This is a quote from Aly Bain, the superb Shetland fiddler, talking of a time when he and Phil Cunningham were asked to provide some backing music for an album by Marillion. The producers 'really liked' the result, but couldn't use. 'It's a bit too busy, isn't it?' they said, which Aly took to mean it was too clever for a rock album. He continues:

I play music for music's sake - it has to mean something... We discovered that rock records are mostly controlled not by the musicians but by the producers... I think hell to me is a bit like Miles Davis having to play Wear [sic] a Yellow Ribbon for eternity.

I equate this to other arts as well, particularly writing, and wonder how much the writer today is beholden to his publisher to produced something commercial? How much are novels changed in the publishing process?

There is always the danger, if one goes it completely alone as Aly suggests, of becoming self-indulgent. There is always room for a critical friend, otherwise you end up in the ever decreasing circles of Paul Auster or the parodic shuffling of later Updike. But nonetheless I think Aly has a point - sometimes you have to stick to your principles and write what you need to write.

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