I've been writing about different ways to find lyrical and musical inspiration - so far we've talked about Looking Farther and Looking Closer - and today I want to talk about Looking Two Places At Once.
Sometimes, ideas that don't look like much on their own suddenly seem to work together in novel ways. This doesn't happen as often as it should, because humans are creatures of habit - it's so easy for us to keep doing things the way they've always been done, or seeing things the way they've always been seen.
But I'm happy to report that this is an easy type of inspiration to force: you just need to actively try to combine things.
Have you ever eaten a broccoli banana salad? Me neither, I just thought of it now. I've been regularly eating both broccoli and bananas since I was a toddler, but somehow I've never had them in the same bite, or even in the same meal? This may not be an amazing idea, but I think it shows how many simple possibilities just go completely unthought of, and if I were a chef trying to come up with a new dish this would at least give me a jumping off point.
But in terms of making music - here are a few ways I've experimented with this approach:
Dump sounds from one project into another and see what fits. It doesn't always happen but sometimes two musical skeletons I'm stuck on end up fitting together, and suddenly I've discovered a new direction I can explore. I think the starkest example of this in my discography would be "Losing Sight Of Love", where I actually pulled three different projects together into a song about isolation that slowly shifts into more and more eerie territory.
Run searches on your lyrics. (This is easier if you write digitally of course, which I recommend doing with Evernote as it syncs everything you write between all your devices.) You may discover that you've tackled the same ideas in different places. I can't tell you how many times I found the perfect line for a song in a draft of something else from months earlier, because - surprise! - it wasn't the only time I ever felt whatever emotion I was writing about.
Draw things out of a hat and try them together. It could be moods or instruments or influences or some combination of those. My Double On Genre series is entirely built around simply choosing two different styles of music and making them play, and more often than not I find the results compelling and unique.
Pair an old idea with a new approach. There are many times when I've had an idea sitting around for some time that suddenly comes to life when I have a new lens through which to see it. The most recent example of this is probably "I Married The Sea And The Sky" from my Comet album. You can hear a demo I recorded of it right after the melody came to me. The idea stayed stuck there for two years before I came up with a different, Thom Yorke-inspired arrangement for it which is on my new Abandon compilation (which you can download instantly if you pledge any amount on my Patreon). But I got stuck with it there yet again, until the ESA landed a probe on a comet and recorded these weird magnetic oscillations that I decided to sample. I quickly made eight tracks based off of that, spanning everything from rap to reggae to acid house to a Beatles cover, and at that point I thought it could use one more song with a good strong melody. That's when I remembered IMTSATS and decided to try the arrangement over again with this comet sample. Not only am I so happy with how it ended up working, it inspired me to write an entirely new section to the song ("Now I feel I'm falling...") which is now my favorite part. Over three years from where the idea for this song began, it finally found fulfillment, and in a way I never could've guessed. But it came from commitment to the combinatory approach - when something you believe in isn't quite working, keep trying it with some other things and eventually it probably will.
If you've had similar experiences, or other ways you like to find inspiration, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!