Why does music inspire us? It’s a question with many answers, instruments, vocals and sound designers in question. Music has been around for millennia, with flutes, harps and trumpets being some of the earliest instruments ever discovered. Nowadays, even records, tapes and CDs seem ancient, with access to all your favourite songs and artists available on platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. So, why does music inspire? The simple answer is - it makes you feel something.
When we asked creatives about their top tips and tricks for creative inspiration, it was no surprise that music emerged as a common theme. Many pop their headphones on and let the music take over, being inspired by what they hear and more importantly, how that makes them feel. Scientists would tell you it’s the release of the ‘happy chemical’ dopamine, but creatives say it helps them reconnect or go into an idea generating bubble.
The Producers’ director Cameron March, Martin Agency’s ECD Jordi Martinez and Armoury’s director Mr Yankey told LBB’s Nisna Mahtani all about the music that inspires them.
I HAVE to form a creative bubble around me when I start writing. I need to make my own creative space work in whatever environment I find myself in. Be it an airport, hotel room or a car. The impenetrable bubble usually starts with music. Noise cancelling headphones on, I play a high tempo track. Something from Flume, Odesza or Kanye, music that literally forces my brain to start thinking quicker. Something that gives me goosebumps from the first listen – a shot of adrenaline. It’s a strange, almost meditative state I go into as my fingers type, trying to keep up with the flood of ideas coming onto the page. I also watch A LOT of content, films, commercials and music videos from people I admire. I usually have 10-12 tabs open of music, video clips, imagery from the directors’ or DPs’ work I love. It might have nothing to do with the project I'm working on at the time, but I find they always spark some form of inspiration. Be it the music, editing or cinematography, all aspects tend to inform my ultimate approach towards my creative task at hand.
A recent example of research material assisting my process came when I was stumped on the appropriate music for a script I was working on. The spot involved a highly sophisticated space age HQ run by kids, focusing on their mission at hand. Was it an epic 2001: A Space Odyssey piece of music? Light and bright? I couldn’t decide. Indiana Jones - somehow my brain made the leap that the Indiana Jones theme song music would sit nicely in between full blown apocalyptic action and a space age HQ run by kids. This is just one example of how research has helped me overcome some of those creative speedbumps.
Deadlines are a blessing in disguise for any creative. Perfectionism and timelines don’t usually go hand in hand, so we tend to have those lightning in a bottle moments more often than not. I always have a surge of energy that propels me over the finish line for any of my creative projects. A true creative adrenaline rush. I also set myself fake deadlines. Let’s say it’s due on a Friday, I always give myself a 48-hour buffer (where possible) to allow time for tweaks, changes or rewrites if I end up changing my mind on an approach. This really does help alleviate some of the stress with the inevitable deadline.
There’s no one quick fix to getting into the ultimate creative headspace for me. However, I hope this breakdown sheds some light on my process for fellow creatives out there.
Creativity is a 24-hour business. I don’t believe there’s any creative person whose brain is not constantly trying to create new connections, frame problems in different ways, come up with ‘what ifs.’ The trick for me is how to channel that energy productively. I know during the day there will be hundreds of external pulls fighting to get my attention: slack, email, phone calls, “emergencies," meetings, you name it.
So, generally, early mornings are when I am more productive creatively. Usually, it starts with some kind of activity that signals my brain it’s time to be playful. For instance, last year, I started learning how to play the keyboard. Playing music helps me to activate both sides of my brain. While it’s an artistic expression, there’s a set of underlying rules (music theory) that, the more you understand, the better you can break them and come up with new ideas. 30 minutes of music sets me in the right flow to then tackle creative work-related problems. It helps me see opportunities where there were challenges. I can connect the dots in completely different ways. So, by the time my workday officially starts, my brain is already in creative problem-solving mode.
My escapism is to forget about time. Time seems more and more precious nowadays and I often pressure myself to make the most of it. It’s a cliché but stepping off the street and into the cinema, blocking out the outside world and stepping into someone else's is a place I go to forget time; music too. Lying on my sofa, or in a field, closing my eyes and letting the music wash over me. I especially love live music. Getting intoxicated, being with friends and dancing my NUT off. Shedding all my responsibilities for a bit. Reconnecting with myself.
It all depends on what I’m creating and how I’m doing it. My energies reflect the emotion that goes into what I’m creating – the medium, materials and tools play a part too. I’m a naturally reactive person, so when I’m directing I try to give myself the space for thought and contemplation, which can easily be lost during the pressures of a shoot. Sometimes you do need to throw that out the window, be reactive, spontaneous and maintain higher energy on set. It isn’t usually a conscious decision, it’s just what happens.
Ideas play out like films in my head. The vision either comes in an instant – vivid and fully formed – or I track back and forward, filling in the gaps until I have the whole picture. I use music a lot to create a rhythm with my work – in more or less every stage of the process. Everything has a pulse and a beat. Music inspires locale, movement, colour, emotion and character. Sometimes I allow my pencil to flow over paper forming squiggles, shapes or sketches – eyes open or closed. Free-flow can be quite intuitive, it can help visually articulate your feelings quite accurately.