Shaping the Creative Process
The creative process fascinates me – how artists and musicians can start with a blank slate and then make something out of nothing. Usually, all we get to see or hear is the finished piece and, if it’s good, it glows like a polished gem.
But creators shape their work bit by bit. As it flows, the creative process brings together many little moments of inspiration and discovery. Some pieces fit easily like hand in glove, others fall away to be replaced by something better. How it all comes together often remains a mystery.
So, I was excited to see a NYT video that takes us behind the scenes to explore how singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran and his music collaborators created what would become the biggest pop song of 2017.
From a NYT article describing the Shape of You recording session:
“Shape of You” was written in a brainstorming session where ideas are developed or discarded fast, with computers and instruments close at hand and recorders running. “The best songs that I’ve ever written, I don’t really remember writing,” Mr. Sheeran said. “They take like 20 minutes and then they’re just done. And then you move on to the next thing.”
What makes the NYT video unusual is how it uses music, graphic imagery and text to enhance the interviews. It helps us visualize all the little moments of discovery and inspiration that were pieced together to create the song. The graphics not only give the video a unique look, they also help tie everything together.
As the musicians play a little music riff or talk about working together to build the song, you’ll see visual representations of the music’s rhythm, its melodic ramblings and little word bubbles mirroring the birth of lyrics.
The graphic elements kick your understanding up to the next level, as the musicians’ sensitivity to each other, their creative energy and the music’s pulse all beat together in delicious harmony.
Here’s the video. I apologize for the ad at the beginning. When it finishes playing you’ll need to click the pause button or else it will continue playing other random videos.
(If the video doesn’t display correctly, you can click on this link)
Putting the Pieces Together
On the face of it, the video seems fairly simple, like the song. Bring the musicians into the studio, interview them individually, shoot them in black and white against a white background, edit and shape their comments and, seemingly, you’re done. But, adding the music and graphics makes the presentation much more fun and engaging.
The music riffs in the background add energy and help illustrate and counterpoint the commentary. The graphic touches – a music bar that pulses with the beat, dots of melody or rhythm that come and go, little graphic grids to breakup the visual space, text bubbles with lyrics and comments, all hold up a mirror to the creative process.
The result is a complex, carefully-timed and layered video inspired by a complex, carefully-timed and layered song.
I know from my own experience, when creativity flows, you’re totally present within the moments of inspiration. Time disappears, it’s an exhilarating, empowering feeling. It’s nice to see how much of that was captured in the video.
You can read the NYT article about the making of the song here. You can poke around animator Taylor Beldy’s site here.
So, did you like the video as much as I did? Is the creative process the same for a pop singer/songwriter as with any other artist? What’s your take away? Please leave a comment and let me know.