Processing the world

Well, last weekend was very rock’n’roll – Djinn’s fractured Arab rave beats blending with Indokrautprog mayhem from Grok on Saturday, and word / sound crossover on Sunday as M. John Harrison and Erik Davis read with Grok. Here’s the Sunday line up, waiting to groove:


Grok came out of Stoke Newington’s leading boy band, the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra, with whom I play bass. We’re a bit dormant just now, tho’ we’ve got some studio time booked in a couple of weeks and a possible gig in September, so I suspect some interesting times coming up.

We make entirely improvised drone music, more or less chilled depending on our mood. Someone staggered out of one of our gigs once – the 4am ant mating footage abandoned Freemason’s Hall one – and told a friend that we sounded like ‘a jet engine taking off for forty five minutes’, which is as good a description as any of the kind of sound we can make.

I hadn’t really realised how much I’d learned from playing with the Stellas until I read this post on Mark McGuinness’ ‘Wishful Thinking’ blog. He talks about the movie ‘Amadeus’ and creativity, comparing the approaches of Mozart and Salieri in the film:

‘I think we can identify two different approaches to creativity in Salieri and Mozart.… For Salieri, [the temptations of real world success, praise, etc] intrude on the creative process, distracting him from his real work so that he deteriorates into obsession and mediocrity. For Mozart, they are kept at bay – at least during ‘work time’ – by a kind of magic circle, within which the artist is entranced by the art itself, immersed in creative flow.’

He’s very interesting, both on the film itself and on the research that looks at these two different approaches to creativity. In essence, he says that the most productive way to approach creative work is to see the work as an end in itself; a process worth engaging with entirely for the pleasure of that engagement.

That’s what I’ve got from the Stellas. What I loved about being a Stella was the process of playing together – ‘there’s nothing better than making strange noises with your friends’, as vocalist Tim once put it.

Some of my favourite Stella moments were entirely private – all of us, in the studio, making music. At times, it felt like a complex, layered conversation, carried out with instruments rather than voices. Gigs were great fun, but they were very much a by-product of that process of mutual engagement.

That’s fed back into the writing, and into life in general. It’s helped me realise that 99% of what we do is process; end points, moments of achievement, are at best transient little offshoots of those processes.

So now I try to enjoy the process as much as I can, and look at each one’s end point not as a great and glorious conclusion, but as a little marker of the moment where one way of engaging productively with the world ends, and another one begins.

5 thoughts on “Processing the world

  1. Great way of looking at life. How cool, I have a budding band going on at home. Four kids, bass, guitar, one bouncing between keyboard and drums, the oldest has a great voice, which apparently skipped a generation. I’ll have to check back from time to time to see how you guys got started, and such great pearls of wisdom on life. Thanks.

  2. Thank you! Hmm, we coalesced rather than actively got together – the band first played as a four piece at a cabaret night I was running, then grew in a very organic way from there. At our peak we had eight or nine people performing, depending on who showed up! Hope you get as much out of your band as we did from the Stellas.

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