Whilst revising a musical mind map for making an album, I was reminded of “If you build it….” the phrase from Field of Dreams that inspires Kevin Costner to build a baseball pitch in the middle of a corn field.
I found the trailer for the film on YouTube. It starts with Costner’s character saying “I have just created something totally illogical” and his wife replies “that’s what I like about it”. Then, to my amusement, some white words flash up on the black screen, one at a time:
I must confess to sharing her addiction – we like nothing better than starting a new project and realising that we need a specific, coloured pen or sticky label in a size we don’t have. I adore those little Post It Labels that you can put in your music to mark the place where you have to sing.
Particularly the ones in the individual dispenser the size of a lipstick – so handy to put in your handbag for an emergency, musical marking situation. It’s the perfect excuse to visit the exciting shrine to stationary that is Staples.
Oooh sorry – I got carried away….
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Here’s a definition and example of a mind map:
“A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.”
You put your aim or goal in the middle and then think about the steps that would get you there. You then break down those steps into smaller steps. Don’t be put off if things seem completely out of reach – eventually you’ll get to a branch of the map that you CAN do.
The centre of my current mind map is my new album.
Just over a year ago, I was sitting having coffee with my sisters and telling them how downhearted I felt about my singing career. I was having a very lean patch and was struggling to make ends meet. Although I had some very prestigious work, it was very sporadic and I was feeling that my age would soon catch up with me.
Not vocally – I actually felt I was singing better than I ever had. It was the culture of ageism that exists in my business. I am somewhat lucky that I have a low voice and there are not so many of those about.
Last Christmas we did a concert at Cadogan Hall with the Monteverdi Choir, where we realised that the oldest soprano was 27! I have always been lucky enough to be able to sing in lots of different styles. This increases my chances of work. I have spoken before in my article on the Susan Boyle Session about the precarious nature of the music industry and how easy it is to drop off the list of the all powerful Fixers. If you say no to a couple of jobs in a row, because you’ve already been booked for something else, then your face can be quickly forgotten.
I’d been away doing an opera in Paris for a few weeks and I was worried that I had, indeed, dropped off the London session singing lists.
My sisters asked me what I’d ideally like to be doing. I joked that I would prefer to stop waiting by the phone for others to book me for their projects and get on with my own music.
In our family, we’ve never being able to sympathise with moaning for very long without making a positive plan of action. They immediately whisked out paper and pens (many coloured, of course). Nicola wrote in the middle of a circle “Heather’s Hit Album”. I groaned and we cracked open a bottle of wine to fuel the creative flow.
What things would you need to make an album? Music (obviously), the recording, manufacture of the physical product and promotion…..
Ok, maybe you haven’t got those, but what would you need to get those? The music can be broken up into musicians and repertoire. Those can be broken into lists of your ideal collaborators, ideas for songs and getting the sheet music or song charts ready (the music that the musicians would play from). The recording might need a studio or room with a piano to record the music in…..The physical product could be split into manufacture of the CDs, album cover design and liner notes, photographs, MCPS licences for any previously published songs, a barcode for the CD……it’s goes on.
How about when you have the CD? Perhaps compiling a list of publications to send the CD to for reviewing? – at last, something I could usefully start on.
A LIST (did I mention we love a list).
The main stumbling block for me was believing that anybody would want to buy the finished product, or that even if they did, how would they know it existed. For ages my sister had been gently bullying me about blogging. Writing down all the funny things that happened to me on tour and in the studio. I still had great difficulty believing that anybody would be interested in what I had to say.
“Just write” she said. “What’s the worst that can happen? You write and nobody reads it. So what? you’ve been creative and stopped your moaning and got off your ass and done something positive. Job done. Nobody’s lost anything.”
So here we are.
If you build it, he will come
Opening those creative doors in your mind is a powerful thing to do.
I started writing and learning how to use WordPress to re-build my website. I was lucky that I had a great team to answer questions, big sister Nicola Cairncross, who’s also been blogging about helping me with my album launch and Steve Watson Online (who sorted a couple of big problems that I’d struggled with for days in a matter of minutes). I found lots of forums to help me too. Rather than seeing empty days in the diary as something to despair over, I’ve filled the time with building my own personal baseball pitch.
I know a fine jazz pianist, Wayne McConnell, who is also an inspiringly, creative friend. He loves photography as well and when he’s not talking about music, his FaceBook status is often “off to the seafront to take pictures”. He’s currently working on his seagull series. We were chatting one night about taking publicity portraits for his new website, WayneMcConnellPhotography.com and I jumped at the chance. I didn’t have anything in particular to use the photographs for (or so I thought) but knew that we’d have fun. I told him we needed to find a good industrial door to stand in front of and he suggested the beach huts on the promenade. “Brilliant” I replied. “Let’s take pictures in front of lots of different doors. The door shapes and the singer stay the same and the colours of the door change.”
Then, just when the publicity machinery was set up, Tom Chapman appeared like a fairy godfather and offered to pay for me to record the album.
If you build it……
Why not try getting a nice, big piece of paper and treat yourself to some new coloured pens and see what’s hiding in your field of dreams – and put it smack, bang in the middle circle?
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