Rhythm is a wonderful word. It has so many different practical applications, and yet every time we use it, it means almost exactly the same thing.
A certain order/style/mode of doing things, at a particular speed, or in a particular manner. Finding a rhythm is about settling into a groove, and once you find it, other things start to settle into place. I find that when I am composing, and when I am settling into new routines.
One of the more interesting aspects about routines though, is that there is no single magic routine that works for everyone. Not every country in the world take siestas, not everyone gets up at 6 in the morning, and not everyone can stay up till 2 a.m.
This highlights a challenge of our modern world for people who create, whether our language be words, notes or pictures. There’s a perception in our modern world that your work will appeal to a myriad of backgrounds and cultural influences. But what if it doesn’t?
You are a cultural product. Your rhythms, your routines; they are all cultural products.
I am not here to suggest you get away from them; they make you who you are, and no-one else is that.
What I am here to say is that if you want to be universally understood, whether it be in your story, or your music, or your art, you might need to start questioning your assumptions. If you walk into any situation assuming that everyone there will instantly understand what you’re saying, just know that they might not.
Back to rhythm. Anyone who has played my music will tell you that my rhythms are hard work. To me, they make perfect sense. I didn’t understand why they were so hard for other people to follow. Then a friend of mine who was performing for me summed it up this way:
‘Even though it’s correct, it’s hard for me to follow. If you display it differently or put it in a different time signature, it will become much easier for me understand. Keep the rhythm the same, just don’t make it look like that.’
The content wasn’t what needed to change; it was the packaging, the accompanying explanation.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that all artists are told to do is walk into a situation and demand to be noticed and pondered at. We aim for people to understand what we have created, but sometimes what we create is not for universal consumption.
What to do then? Well, the first thing to do is decide on your audience and consider what they want and how they will hear it. Even if you’re an artist who doesn’t think you write for an audience … you probably do, even if it’s just a little bit.
Don’t be put off by this. You are not surrendering your creative voice and ideals; you are simply allowing your work to be seen and appreciated. Which is, after all, what you were aiming for in the first place.
So get creating, editing and tweaking. Your audience is out there and wants to see what you can do; all that’s left is for you to show them your work in a way they can understand.
Enjoy what I write, or have thoughts to add? Take time to like, comment and share. Collaboration makes us all better creators, so join the conversation and start inspiring others!
Jenny Guilford / Jena Ren 2022
This post was originally published March, 2020.