5 Things We've Learned In Music Production: Claire Rousay And Michael Scott Dawson

May 31, 2022

Boundary-pushing artists Michael Scott Dawson and Claire Rousay break down the approaches behind their distinct takes on ambient

Michael Scott Dawson and Claire Rousay both have distinctive approaches to producing free-form and highly expressive ambient music.

Using tape loops and processed guitar, Dawson’s Music For Listening uses elements of chance and improvisation to create flowing and meditative pieces. Rousay’s new record, everything perfect is already here, layers a variety of sound sources over carefully curated field recordings, resulting in something that’s at once highly personal and intriguingly abstract.

As part of our recent editorial dive into ambient music production, we asked both composers to give us an insight into their own creative process and offer some advice to those seeking to find their own voice in ambient music.

Claire Rousay

1. How I start a track

“When starting a new project, I typically assign myself parameters to work inside of. I will choose an approximate duration, key, as well as an emotion that I want the track to exist within. Sometimes over the course of recording these parameters change. Regardless, I do prefer to start with some basic guidelines. Once these parameters are set up, I decide on a field recording or sample that captures the emotion I am trying to convey. Once this has been selected, the rest of the composition and production seems to flow with much more ease than it would without these parameters.”

2. How I know when a track's finished

“I stop working on something once it starts to sound bad to me. If I feel like a track isn’t finished but has started to sound bad, I just shelve it until I feel like working on it again. So many people stress about making the perfect record or ‘everything having its place’ in the music. I don’t think that way. My recorded work tends to be lo-fi, partially free-form, and prioritises conveying emotion over sonic perfection. I decide things are finished when listening back to the recording moves me in some emotional way.”

3. How to maintain momentum in longer pieces

“Whenever I’m working on longer pieces, I try to centre the track around a single theme. This theme can be some sort of musical motif or an abstract emotion or feeling I want to convey. Working on longer pieces of music is easier for me when I have a single melody or theme. This way I have something to properly measure each contribution against. Everything in the track then relates back to a single idea.

4. How I tackle writer's block

“I actively try to avoid writer’s block by following a daily recording routine during the times I’m not travelling. I try to record something new every single day, usually before 12:00pm. This could be anything (a field recording outside my house, a demo idea for a longer track, a short piece of electronic music, etc). 90% of these recordings never leave my hard drive. This sits well with me because it’s the daily ritual of creating something new that I am chasing after all.”

5. How I communicate my ideas

“I have certain techniques that help me communicate my ideas better than other techniques. I do not place a huge importance on having my own sound and definitely do not believe in having a singular sound. I believe identifying too closely with a specific sound or style can be dangerous to the creative process. Some of the techniques or sounds I enjoy communicating with include voice to text, Auto-tune, field recordings with minimal activity, and multi-tracked/layered piano.”

Original Post: 5 Things We've Learned In Music Production: Claire Rousay And Michael Scott Dawson 

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