Non Musical Influences

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Steve Lawson, May 21, 2001.

  1. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi all - just a quick thought for you to ponder - what are the biggest non-musical influences on your music? what is it that inspires you to play, those events that make you want to pick up your bass? ever written instrumental stuff about specific events? tell all! :oops:)

  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    good topic

    back when i was working in factories during summer break from school, i used to get rhythmic ideas from the sounds of the machinery - lots of wierd polyrhythms happening. also, when i pull up behind another car and we are both taking a turn, the varying "tempo" of the turn singals sometimes makes a neat rhythmic pattern - they never line up.
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Ah yes, the sound of indicators clashing is a great one - I quite often listen to those and try and work out what the template is - 7 against 13?????

    i've often said that i want to sample the engine on my rather old and cranky diesel ford fiesta - 196,000 miles on the clock and more knocks, squeaks and generally odd background noise that you really feel comfortable with, and loads of polyrhythms going on - tape the car, transcribe the rhythms and see what comes out...

    nice idea John, thanks :oops:)

    any others, people? anything more esoteric? anyone inspired by love/hate/spirituality/injustice/comedy/nature/family/anything else? It does seem that the best music has some kind of higher purpose than showing off chops and impressing other musicians, so it seems sensible that if that's what we aspire to, that's where we should be looking! :oops:)


  4. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    Well..I wrote a song about my roommate in my boarding school. I don´t want to post the lyrics here because I´d get banned if I´d do that! I know it´s not like an event or something, but I guess I could say he´s a non musical influence..
    BTW...Steve, my friend Kjarri has your cd and I love it, although I haven´t been able to order it myself. I noticed that there are some really weird, but cool sounds on it, like in Pillow Mountain.
  5. I think I am staying on topic when I ask have you guys ever seen the movie Tap with Gregory Hines?

    I speaks a lot about using the grooves in every day life to get ideas.

    Pretty cool flick.

    As far as feelings go I try to bring Love/Hate/Comedy into my playing. Pretty much always have a bass available to me so its pretty easy. Another thing that helps to rile up the neighbors in my apartment building it to build a groove off of their banging on the wall. :D
  6. you DO know that those piano like sounds are piano, not bass, right? ;) heh..

    anyway, I just try to bring whatever I feel around me into my playing...
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I've been meaning to watch Tap for years, and will go and see if I can find it - thanks for the tip!

    The sounds on Pillow Mountain just came out from an improv which I was lucky enough to be recording - I was just sitting being mellow, playing and experimenting with sounds, and with the E-Bow - there are some fairly out pitch shift effects on there, a tremelo on one of the lines and a few other things, but I wasn't really thinking about stuff like that while I was playing, it was more looking for a general feeling of relaxation, with a slightly darker undertone... :oops:)

    and yes, the Piano on Bittersweet is a real piano - MIDI bass has never really appealed to me. I had the Yamaha system on my bass for a while when I demo'd it at a music show years ago, but was completely uninspired by it - if I need a piano sound, i'll get a pianist in... :oops:)

    keep them thoughts coming...

  8. anon5458975


    Apr 5, 2001
    Every now and then I like to visit my local art museum and just walk around for a couple hours. Sometimes I'll come across a painting or sculpture that really speaks to me and I'll just stare at it for 10 or 15 minutes. I always leave there briming with possitive energy, it's a magical place. I espescially love the Pre Columbian and Medieval exhibits.

    I think that it's a certain timeless element that really does it for me. To walk past all the rushing street traffic and tall industrial buildings to enter through the musuem doors and be confronted by a piece of ancient Incan ceramics, it just triggers something etheral in me.

    One of my absolute favorite things to do is to take a long walk through a cemetery at dusk. It's so peaceful, it really helps to clear my mind of all the day to day hassles. I always feel like picking up the bass and letting it flow afterwards.

    Books on Metaphysics really get my creative juices flowing as well. I'm not exactly sure why, but it works. Anything by Dean Radin. I think it helps to enhance the mathematical element in music. I write some of what I consider to be my more complex bass lines after reading up on Metaphysics, it's pretty interesting.

    All in all I'm not sure what feelings I bring to my music. I'm sort of a blank slate throughout the process of writting. I've never sat down and said this is the emotion or emotions I want to represent in this song, though I haven't been writting very long either. I like to think I touch on all ends of the human emotional experience in my music. Maybe someday I'll know for sure :)
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I think this is half the fun of writing/playing/improvising instrumentally - the inspiration is often not at all obvious, even to you as the writer. To that end, I find naming bits of music rather difficult - if you're writing program music (music with a definite story or narrative to it), then I Guess it's easier, and may fall into the 'that bit of slapping is meant to sound like morris dancer's feet' idea, but for me, especially when improvising, the thought process isn't that clear, though I am still aware of there being a journey through the piece...

    sometimes I will write something and then on listening back to it, realise where it came from. Bereavement is one of the big inspirations for me - partly cos words are so inadequate to deal with a sense of loss. Music does it much better, and is also able to capture the good and the bad at the same time without needing to draw lines between them.

    I guess it's the abstractness of music that makes it so appealing as an expressive form - it means what you want it to mean, and will mean something completely different to the listener. I really don't mind whether someone listens to my stuff and thinks 'yeah, cool fretless chops!', or whether they connect with it on a deeper level, or even don't connect with it at all - the music is what it is, means what it means to me, and everything else is out of my control, and rather gladly so... :oops:)

    Two big inspirations for me are cats and the sea - watching a cat washing, or sleeping or playing is one of the most 'zen' things ever - total focus, total oblivion to all else, not distracted by TV, radio, or anything except food! :oops:)

    And the sea - how can anything seem big when faced with the sea? if anything give one an overwhelming sense of tiny-ness, it's looking out to see and thinking about the sheer hugeness of it... all very inspiring stuff musically...

    keep it coming!

  10. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    Birds !
    Birds' singing are so rich in harmony sometimes but it's quite difficult (for me) to catch.
    I can't remember his name but a famous comtemporary composer based great pieces of work on birds' singing.
  11. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    there are a few of them, but I think Oliver Messiaen is the most famous...

  12. anon5458975


    Apr 5, 2001
    Nicely put Ed.

    And I'd have to add the sea to my list as well Steve. It's just not often enough that I get out to the coast. I could stare out at the ocean for hours and have done so in the past. I really love the ocean during winter when there is a storm out at sea, such a powerful sight.

    I couldn't possibly agree more :)
  13. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Great replies, everyone. I often find myself influenced by things that the people around me say. I've started to write vocal music and I've found it very inspiring to free associate off of what other people say. I'm tempted to get a mini tape recorder and bring it to work to record the 1001 ridiculous things that get said in the course of a day. Then I could load the choice tidbits into a sampler and have some real fun.

    I've also been influenced by people who have a good sense of style and proportion in their everyday lives-usually women. Anybody who can project their personality and emotions into preparing a tasty dinner for friends or making a room inviting has something I can learn from in developing my self-expression.

    Working in a noisy bakery where the same tape loop gets replayed every 2 1/2 hours and living in a duplex next to a guy whose loud TV and stereo are just inches away (through a wall) from the headboard of my bed has given me an incredible appreciation for silence. When the noise ends the silence rushes in like a soothing balm and I can briefly feel it as an active presence of stillness and quietude as opposed to just being a lack of sound. This appreciation of silence has helped me to better realize what it is I want to do with sounds.

    I also am really influenced by the feeling I get in a movie theater when I'm so into the film that I forget about everything else that's going on. It's amazing when film is well done-the thousands of hours of planning and sweat and microscopic attention to myriad production details all become transparent and it just feels like you're somehow a part of what's happening onscreen. I like this not so much for the escapism value as for how it makes me think how I could make a similar kind of impression on other people.

    Looking at the stars every night gives me a sense of perspective that helps me feel more connected to the universe out there and the Earth. I get the feeling that I share the sky with not only the people alive now but also with everyone else who's ever looked up at the night sky and pondered their existence.
  14. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    This is way cool - all the deep people come crawling out the woodwork now that the chat has moved from 'flea could kick fieldy's ass' to something a little more esoteric! :oops:)

    winston's point about being inspired by people is a good one - I find that words, intentions, even the look on someone's face can make me feel more human, and as a result more creative, or at least legitimate my creative pursuits as being part of me and not part of some competitive nonsense where there's an expectation that you are trying to be biggerbetterfastermore than other people. There are a load of lyrics on the new Spearhead album, Stay Human, that just make me want to pick up my bass and play what's inside me - the hook line on the title track is 'all the freaky people make the beauty of the world' and is a celebration of diversity, as is the chorus of Ever Single Soul - 'whereever I may roam, every single soul is a poem, written on the back of God's hand' - that sort of affirmation of humanity, of diversity, of me is what I need to keep going, to not get into inane mental conflict with myself about who's better who's best, to avoid the need to live up to anything (the great thing about not having a record company is that i can do what i like when I like, and no-one's there to tell me otherwise)...

    Even reading the creative ramblings from you guys makes me want to play! :oops:)

    Any of you playing solo? if so, do you have any MP3s that we can all have a listen to, swap ideas, share inspiration!

    Stay Human (and check out for some serious inspiration!)

    Steve (extensive read audio archive, reviews, interviews, news, gig dates 'n' all that stuff...)
  15. anon5458975


    Apr 5, 2001
    I really wish that I had something to share. I've heard alot a great music from different people here at TB but have yet to offer any in return. It's only been a few months since I've seriously started writting and all that I have are rough draft recordings on a 4 track casette recorder. A friend of mine has a decent studio though, so I'll be getting some better quality recordings to convert to mp3's, whenever he can make time for me.

    When that time comes I'll definitely be sure to let evryone here at TB have a listen. Most definitely.
  16. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I, too, am influenced by a nice walk through the cemetery. And, yes, it is best at's the most awesome experience at nighttime. (Yes, I'm bad...I like to sneak in there at night. Hehe.). I dunno. There's just something about it.

    Another thing is when I'm traveling somewhere in the car I love to just watch the road and all the scenery I pass. Trees. Mountains. Farmlands.

    And most of all I guess I'm influenced by all that's going on in my life. I base my writings on what I'm feeling. So I guess you can say that even if I'm in a bad or depressive mood something good can come out of it if I can just pick up that bass and turn that negative energy into something positive. :)

    I know there's much more I'm sure I'm influenced by (can't think too well right now). Spirituality is one thing I can think of. I'll post more if I can think of it.


  17. I've experimented with putting samples of teachers (recorded in my last two years at school by a friend) over tracks- some of the results are on the "Mock Turtle Regulator" page on linked below.
    so I'd say mad physics teachers are among my influences............:D

    re. "Pillow Mountain", I've been wanting to try getting that track to play during the mountain stages of PC game Carmageddon2 - it would fit really well with the mist-covered mountains ,and lone stranded cars wandering into exploding barrels......

    re. birdsong, blackbirds seem to have a musical ear- they appear to compete with each other in the complexity of their singing- once when my brother and I were playing a Hendrix album loud with the window open one even picked up a guitar lick- bizarre....
  18. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Method acting - you can pretend yourself into a mood that suits the performance. For example, trying play with taste doesn't always do it for me. Sometimes I pretend that I will get fired if I get caught playing anything fancy. In that mood when I want to do a special fill, I try to play it soft or when the vocals/soloist are not going on. Sneak it in!

    If the part is aggressive you can think your self into feeling mad and then really dig in. Works for sad, happy, or whatever.

    Otherwise I always look up to the abstract impressionist of earlier last centrury. Picasso, Dali, Serot. I must be butchering the spellings of those guys.

    Really any other art form with an experimental nature has had an impact to my approach. Dance as in Twila Tharp or Independent and foreign films come to mind for me as well.

    Nice question!

  19. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    The Method acting suggestion is spot on - well done! I've done this for years with music that isn't 'in' me, or part of my cultural makeup - you play a part, act a role, take on the persona of the music. It's a great way to learn to get deeper inside the music... it's what song interpreters do all the time - it's the only reason why someone as gross as Rod Stewart could sing People Get Ready with any conviction... :oops:)

    very good suggestion, thanks

  20. anon5458975


    Apr 5, 2001
    That's a very interesting thought, method acting. I can very much so relate to what both of you have said, I guess I just never really thought of it as method acting.

    On occassion I'll play what I believe to be Renissance music on the bass, I'm not sure if it really is but it sounds like it to me. I like to try and place myself into that era when I do, to the best of my knowledge on that time period. Pretending to be in the Great Hall of a kings castle, surrounded by huge hanging tapestries while I perform for his majesty. ;)

    I'm in the middle of reading a book "The Healing Drum - African Wisdom Teachings" by Yaya Diallo, a musical healer of the Minianka tribe from the Republic of Mali, West Africa. It's been very inspiring to read his words. So inspiring that I now intend on picking up a Djembe, (his instrument of choice) and experimenting with it. When that time does come I fully intend to imagine myself in a small West African village taking part in one of the Minianka's many healing ceremonies. Should be a lot of fun, as well as enlightening.