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  • Writer's pictureTim Chernikoff

Reflections on “Pieces of Sanity” and the Road to Album 2

As a “freshman” in the album release lingo, I have notched in my first line of work and put it out into the world... and it’s safe to say that I am ready to start a new chapter in my artistic journey. I’ll be circling back and trying to present this music, of course. At this point, everything takes a long time to get the hang of, from conceiving of musical ideas and finalizing them, to getting them performance ready, recording and then releasing music, and then in the midst of it all, making sure to bring the music out and have it exist as a performance. Each of these phases of artistic creation and development have their own unique challenges, and they don’t come easy, not particularly the first time at any rate. I find it worthwhile to reflect upon the journey so far, so I can remember things I was doing that I want to keep doing, and other things that I want to do differently or add to the process. And each of these phases of the work will be improved upon as I work towards the next body of work.

The composition process was not quick, and even during the period where I was “bootstrapping” towards having enough of a body of work together, I was trying to really get enough right when it came to being clear in my expressive path. It’s not like we just get to this place where everything pours out and we’re good. It takes a long time to negotiate with ourselves and coax something out. When I wrote the first track on the album, “Before You Ask”, I considered that a product of the circumstance I was in, simply in terms of trying to tune back into my creative impulse. I had to really work backwards from “this is what I want to express in musical form” and instead try to write something musically cohesive. Eventually the rest came in, the artistic connection.

And this is a good thing to know about the writing process. The more we start from form, the easier it can become to then pivot into where we want to go, and even to throw out the form, or create a unique form. I imagine other composers have felt the same way at some point. I often think about composers who were able to make a pivot away from the form of the day, like Wayne Shorter, Maurice Ravel or Thelonious Monk. I don’t feel that any of them really set out to say “I want to make something brash and new” but they rather listen to themselves, tried what they could and simply branded something that rang the truest to them, with no need for any convention to agree with them. And what they did has changed music forever, not because it was ”brash and against the mold” but rather that it was more “TRUE” than any of the other music around. It resonated with their minds, hearts and souls.

As time went on during my writing process, it became possible to pivot faster into expressive ideas. Things I wanted to say, I found musical ways to say them. But I often still had to reach into the toolbox of what was available, as a starting point. You have to start somewhere and the thing to ask is never “how do I make this more shocking” but rather, what is the internal core of what I want, and need to say? How does it relate to what’s already out there, and what needs to be said in addition, according to me? But the starting place is important to me, because too much time can be spent having no way into the music. Perhaps another artist has a more unique way of getting to the music and I’m always interested in knowing how others approach it, learning new ways to see music. I hope to discover more and more as I go along.

Knowing these basic ideas can amount to — What format am I going to write to, and why am I choosing that? For Pieces it was Trio, simply because I needed to start with something that wasn’t a challenge to write for. Having even more distinct voices carry the music with you can be a great thing in and of its own right and I hope to explore that in the future. It may not be and all out change, however, for me personally in the next release. And the reason why brings me to the next thought—

What do I want to change or further develop in the next release, or what’s my Game Plan? Firstly I want to prove that I can continue writing, as it can be difficult to actually get back into the process. And secondly I want to make sure there are plenty of new things going on. I tend to also think of a “bucket list” when I’m trying to compose. It has been a solution for me — “I haven’t done this yet” and so I start imagining it. Something that someone else was doing can be utilized as well, but I always want to come up with original concepts as well and try to find things that work on my own, as much as I can.

I try to look into how I can extend the reach of my creative vein into territory I haven’t touched yet, maybe no one has in quite that way... and even if it turns out someone has already done it — which can certainly be the case — at least I will be certain I found my way to that idea as an original solution, and thus serendipitously match the impulse of great writers, something that is interesting when it happens. I am going to be challenging myself to do all of these things.

At the end of the day, I just want to be creating the best music I can, and also improving upon my craft. It’s been said of my performance that the improvisation doesn’t need a whole lot of work in terms of the ideas, but rather it’s the execution that can be improved upon. This is true and of course there can be embarrassment associated with that kind of advice. Most careers are built upon sound performance rather than compositional brilliance, so it’s time I also honed in on my rhythmic and executional accuracy. I have to go back and look not only on how I wrote but also how well I performed the music — and I have to ask myself why I did this thing this way. I also try and remember how I may have felt while playing that thing. Did I know I was starting to fall out of rhythm while I was playing that particular thing? And, what will I need to go through to be able to improve?

I’m looking forward to making my way towards the next phase of my artistic and music journey. And along the way, I’m going to be documenting it on YouTube and other social media, through VLOGs and AMA type posts, solo performances, and educational content as well. I’m greatly looking forward to connecting during the process — and hope you’ll be up to checking in on me and interacting along the way.


Tim Chernikoff

October 9, 2022

[yes, THAT 22]

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