Catching the Shooting Stars: A Conversation on Creating Music
“Pure music is as big as space. It is the secret of allowing the pure sound of the universe to flow through you.” – Sri Mata Amritanandamayi
Every musician has their own way of transforming unheard inspiration into audible form. This month in Parvati Magazine, we introduce a new column to lift the curtain on that creative process. Anchored by musician, DJ and producer Adam Nathan, our Art Director; and award-winning musician, producer and performer Parvati, our Founder, Editor in Chief, and Creative Director; it’s a chance to hear from professional music makers about the art and craft of sonic innovation.
Exploring the Creative Process
Adam Nathan: I’ve always been interested in the workflow of other artists and how their music comes to be. When writing a song, what’s your process? What comes first—the lyrics, the melody, the music?
Parvati: Songwriting is a privilege. It is a quiet, humble and reverential relationship with the fabric of life, which is made of sound. I don’t feel I “create” songs. I tap into what is already being sung by the natural world. At night, as I lie in bed and move towards sleep—in that moment before everything goes dark—I hear the universe singing. Melodies and rhythms weave through the tapestry of life. Often in those pre-sleep moments, I discover the music that becomes a song and makes an album. I wake up sometimes singing songs that are fully formed. Those moments must not be ignored as they are fleeting, like a shooting star. They never last long. So, I must be alert in presence to meet them. As soon as they come, I go to my studio and record them, no matter what time of the day or night it may happen to be. Sometimes the melody comes first and then the lyrics; or it could be the other way around. When it’s the melody, it always comes with chords; the two seem to be married. Sometimes, melody, lyrics, chords, and groove will come all at once. I feel this happens because I ask for them from the bottom of my heart. That is the part I play: the lover of sound, willing to listen and privileged to share.
Adam Nathan: As an artist who writes, produces, arranges and engineers all your own music, are there areas of the creative process that feel the most natural?
Parvati: The entire artistic process is like a tapestry. Each aspect is a thread in the fabric of the universe. I love every part of creating music because I feel as though I am being asked to listen to the universe. I do my best to create pieces that feel resonant with that fabric. The creative spark is always spontaneous, like a privileged visit from the Queen of the Fairies who has a message from the Creator. I need to become totally empty and still to facilitate bringing that message into form as best as I can. The visitation and scribing happens at all levels of creation, from songwriting, arranging, producing and engineering—because even in the more technical aspects of this work, the sounds have to vibrate with honesty, authenticity and heart. That is always a divine thing.
I am grateful for the classical music training I received growing up, as it gives structure to what I am hearing. As an engineer and producer, I am self-taught—though I had the great privilege of working in the studio with the renowned engineer and producer Chris Porter (who has produced for David Bowie, George Michael and Pet Shop Boys among others). Ironically, when I first started to write songs, I wanted to work with a producer. I kept creating demos to show producers the sound and feel I was looking for. Eventually, with Chris’s help, I understood that I was the producer I had been seeking all along.
The Tools of Music Production
Adam Nathan: You’re really into synths and production hardware/software. Do you have a favourite go-to piece of hardware or synthesizer? And what do you like about it?
Parvati: It is true that today I am a synth geek. However, my first love was actually orchestral music. I was working on my first symphony when I was 14. I lived and breathed a wide range of classical music. But it was a logistical challenge to get all the instrumentalists together to express what I was hearing. So, I turned to digital software to get my ideas out. Not only is there fabulous software that emulates real acoustic instruments, but with synthesizers I found I was able to create from scratch the non-classical sounds I was hearing. With this, my universe went from three-dimensional to five-dimensional!
I love certain outboard gear, like the Access Virus keyboard, as it is exceptionally creative and flexible for sound synthesis. I use all sorts of plug-ins, but UADs are spectacular. My favourite virtual instruments are from the American company Spectrasonics; I use them on virtually everything I produce. Their sounds are not only lush and rich, but also range from the realistic to experimental. When I need an orchestra, I am a devoted user of Spitfire Audio, from a fabulous UK company that creates sophisticated and realistic recordings of acoustic instruments for composers.
I trust the sounds that resonate with the fabric of the universe. Music flows from my soul. It feels as natural as breathing. By its very nature, music is immensely humbling. It reminds me of my place in the universe: I am no-thing, quietly listening and ready to serve.
Adam Nathan Adam Nathan is an artist, producer, DJ, Founder and Creative Director of award-winning design agency Jellyfunk, and the lead of Branding and Graphics at Parvati.org. He has collaborated with brands such as MTV, Virgin Mobile, and Space Channel.
Parvati is an award-winning singer, composer, producer, yogini, author, and Founder and CEO of the international charity Parvati.org. Her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).