Brian and I have been collaborating on music. We have both created around a dozen songs independently over the last year, each with it's own positive qualities and negative traits. We realize that. Some of the music is down-right awful. Some of it is good, but needs tweaking. A fresh set of eyes. Perspective.
So I sent Brian my cannon. Brian sent me his catalog. Recordings, lyrics, tabs, and chicken-scratch napkins have all been relinquished, in the spirit of betterment and collaboration. Brian has torn my music apart, piece by piece, and rebuilt it as he sees it. I have taken Brian's music, and turned it on its ear.
The process is both energizing and nerve-wracking. It's like taking your diary to your friend and saying,
"Rip this apart, and write me a new one."
So much emotion goes into a song, even a light-hearted, goofy ditty about politics, that when he sends me an email with his interpretation attached, I anxiously click on the message. I read his thoughts. I get his perspective. I click "Listen."
And so far, I love it. Sure there are parts that Brian has changed that I think are inferior to my version. But he's added so much freshness that I am thrilled to record this project later this year.
So this brings to mind some thoughts about collaboration.
Co - Labor - Ate
When you collaborate, it is an incredibly humbling experience. It's easy to rely only on yourself. It's easy to put words on a page that touch your heart. But creating a product that can then be held out for the world - a cold, unforgiving world - to judge, is a harrowing prospect. What if they hate it? What if they think it's shit?
By asking someone else to critique your work, you are asking for gentle honesty. Tell me what is good AND what I need to improve. Don't sugar-coat it, but don't make me want to give up all together. It's a fine line, and one that few people have been able to provide to me in my creative endeavors.
Why is honesty is such a hard thing to come by? Why do most people either reply with a disinterested "That's nice" or a judgmental scoff? Is it so hard to realize that someone who has worked up the courage to share their craft with the public is worthy of an earnest review?
Once a level of trust is built, and you don't have to apologize for every criticism you give a collaborator. Saying "I don't understand what you were trying to do" is not the same as "Your music sucks." It's refreshing to hear Brian change something and not have the overwhelming urge to yell "You don't understand! That was important!"
Collaboration has helped me grow as a musician. That insight will hopefully help me grow as a person as well.