Name: Paul Beaudoin
Occupation: Composer, author, visual artist
Nationality: American
Current Release: Paul Beaudoin's GlitchMusic is out via his personal bandcamp store.
Recommendations: John Cage: 4‘33“; Steven Pressfield: The War of Art

If you enjoyed this interview with Paul Beaudoin and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram, and Soundcloud. He also has a bandcamp account for his music.

We also recommend visiting our first interview with Paul, in which he talks about, among other things, "the Electricity of EDM and the Illusion of Time."

What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc., play?

I have always been a maker as far back as I can remember. Going back even further, I rely on my mother's stories about my early childhood when I "made things". In hindsight, I have learned that making art was a way to express myself because I lacked the vocabulary to connect my emotions to language. Art became a way of communicating to the outside world what was happening in my inner world. For this reason, I say that almost all of my work is autobiographical – each piece preserves my state of mind while I am making it.

And it turns out that I am a lucid dreamer. Quite often, pieces come to me in my dream world. I hear my "music"“ and have visited exhibitions of my work, but all of them remain in my dream world. Sadly, a few of those works have never escaped that dream world.

There is another kind of dream world I frequently find myself in, which is why I find it so difficult to go to concerts and exhibitions. When I hear music, I can’t just sit back and relax. Immediately my mind goes to work – analysing the chords, the instruments, structure, etc. And inevitably, I veer off into my soundworld, composing a new piece.

When I tell my friends that I find most concerts hard work, they stare in disbelief. While I used to blame this on my academic training, I now realise it was there long before.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

I have so many "getting started" strategies. I think the most essential is visualisation. I have taught it to many music composition students who become anxiety-ridden when asked to write music.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

I think it is a common perception that all work begins at the beginning – it doesn’t – or maybe I should say most often it doesn’t. I start from an impulse and allow the work to grow from there. While I usually have a pre-compositional plan but, I am not always bound to that plan.

Another thing I am fond of doing is breaking off in the middle somewhere. I find this helps when I return to work, and instead of feeling "blank", I pick up where I left off.

I also keep several sketchbooks around. Mostly they are for my visual work, but I will occasionally enter a phrase or line of text that prompts sound. I come across these entries, and sometimes they ignite my imagination again to begin something new.

Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

Looking back at my work, I almost always have a particular memory. I often feel my work is autobiographical – which certainly goes with how I teach about the arts.

Artists are storytellers – it is our job to preserve the history of our time – be it political, financial, social, or economic. My work reflects the situations I was in when I made them – and I can see them even when they are not apparent to the audience.

Many creatives have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

I take an open mind to this. Occasionally, I am deeply interested in mechanical processes –the process of making that comes "all at once." My job then is to realize that process. In other circumstances, I start with a plan but then, as I work, the work demands different things. I imagine many people think I am crazy when I say that the artwork and I are engaged in a conversation. But it’s true. The work often tells me what it needs – when this happens, I need to be mindful of it and trust the process.

When I veer off in a direction that seems too far from my first intention, I reflect a bit on the work and ask myself a question that one of my teachers always asked, "what is this piece "about"?" I think it is crucial for me, as an artist, to begin with as clear an intention as possible. This clarity will help those who come to work later. If I am clear, it can make it much easier for another to receive the work.

However, I insist that the audience participates in the reception as much as possible. I am not so interested in the audience getting my point exactly. Instead, I want the audience to have a personal aesthetic experience.  And for that, a certain amount of work must be done by the other person.

For this reason, I have always made titles of my work an essential part of the making. Titles are invitations for others to engage with my work. It becomes a doorway to an experience – aesthetic or not.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
In his book Flow, the late Czech / American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it best. Like so many creatives, doing work is often accompanied by a complete abandonment of time. I can be working for hours without food or interruption. Troubles do not preoccupy my mind, and I am blissful.

I have realised that for me, creating is a form of meditation. I had finally connected some threads that began when I worked with John Cage. While many think of him as a Buddhist (he isn’t) – he did have the ability to do work in a seeming state of meditation. For him, the making of the work was discipline. I am only now discovering this principle. I have learned that I cannot wait for inspiration to arrive. Inspiration is either late or not able to come. Consequently, I have taken the advice of Steven Pressfield (in his War of Art) to get to the studio and work. Every. Day. Eventually, it comes, and on occasion, it comes brilliantly. But, it won't come to me if I don’t go to work.

We have all heard stories that suggest the creative person needs to be anesthetized (alcohol or drugs) or somehow be mentally ill. That is not true. What the creative needs to do is create. Simple. Well, kind of. There is another part to this equation, and again, it comes from John Cage. He is famous for his stories, and one he said to Philip Guston is insightful:

"When you start working, everybody is in your studio - the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your ideas - all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave."

What I now tell myself (and my learners) is to make work - NOT masterpieces.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
What marks the end of the process – a great question! Once a work is out of the studio, it is finished – that is, I will not come back to remake it in any way. It must live on its own – as all of us eventually do! As the work becomes closer to being finished, I evaluate it as the maker and the receiver. I ask questions about the work I think most do – is it repetitious, uninteresting, unbalanced, is there enough drama, etc.

I do my best to review my work from outside the making of it. This part can take many months – it stays in the studio, usually in a prominent place, and I „live“ with it while we (the art and me) talk about each other. Not every work gets to leave the studio – many get scrapped, deleted, shelved, etc. Quite often, they find themselves resurrected as other pieces – that, to me, is always fascinating.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

Each work has a life of its own: some jump out and run to the public, and others are more cautious and ask to hang out a bit longer. Perhaps there is something that "they" feel uncomfortable about ("they" being me!). Rarely do I "edit" the work after I call it finished. Like all things, there are almost always flaws and imperfections, places that we try to cover, mute, or hide. This process is what makes Art very human.

As much as I love the precise and mechanical, a steady diet lacks meaning after some time. There is a human element that my art must strive toward – to be able to connect with the other.

In general, once the work has left the studio, I don’t call it back for improvement or refinement.   It must live on its own, so to speak, and navigate the world.  It also seems to me that what I see, and what others see, in a work are often different things. I know the work from the making of it – each note, each color, each particle of the work is often intimately known. But the audience doesn’t have that same privilege.  The audience has a different and equally important privilege.

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

I have solved this for myself relatively simply – I work on multiple projects at a time. So, finishing one leaves no time for "feelings." There is always work to do.

I spent far too much time with the anxiety of art. The heaviness, all of it self-imposed and completely delusional, got in the way of making. I have worked hard to create a mindset where I come to the truth of why I make art. Ultimately, art is a way of meaningfully connecting with others.