The evolution of Bloom

There is something about the creative process in making music which I find incredibly exciting. Perhaps the allure is because I’m not a musician myself?

A Task Manager window showing the CPU memory, and hard disk usage among various processes. The top process is Vmmem, with CPU usage of 29.5% and a whopping 5.1 GB memory used.
A smack of jellyfish from the BBC’s blue planet.

There is something about the creative process in making music which I find incredibly exciting. Perhaps the allure is because it is foreign to me - I never stuck it out with any of the instruments that I learned, so lack the confidence and fluency to play or make music.

Without fail though I will get inspired by certain sounds, rhythms or melodies in ways which are hard to explain. I suppose this is a common human experience, but I find it interesting how compelling and engaging it is.

Perhaps it is because it is so easy to simultaneously enjoy a song as a whole while also dissecting it into it’s component parts. Visual media often creates such a convincing illusion that we don’t notice the process which underlies the form. But with music it feels much easier to be aware of each facet of the whole - as you get to know a piece of music more and more you notice small details which can be appreciated on their own while also enhancing the whole experience.

Of all the varied music I love, I am most fond of the band Radiohead for the reason that this creative process of layering sounds feels so tangible through their music. With each new album they seek out new methods of approach to capture different types of sonic experiences. What I find most interesting about this is that no one sound or approach is sacred to them - if three quarters of an album requires that not every band member appears in those songs, then so be it. Not only is that kind of restraint very brave, it also serves as the perfect catalyst to take an idea and discover multiple new and exciting representations of it.

In an attempt to illustrate this (as well an excuse to share some music that I love) I have picked out three versions of the track ‘Bloom’ from their most recent album, ‘The King of Limbs’.

Whereas their previous album was developed from their live performances, Jonny Greenwood describes their new found process for TKOL:

“We didn’t want to pick up guitars and write chord sequences. We didn’t want to sit in front of a computer either. We wanted a third thing, which involved playing and programming.”

The band experimented with a turntable and vinyl emulation software to sample and manipulate music they had been working on, using sampler software written by Greenwood. Thom Yorke likened the process of editing and arranging prerecorded sounds and ideas to editing a film.

So let’s get started with exhibit A, the original track from the album:

Exhibit B is taken from the highly recommended show / labour of love (link: text:‘From the Basement’). This video offers an intimate insight of the band going through another process to bring the track back to a performable state. Sounds that began as samples and programme loops now get reborn through live performance:

And then finally, take a look at this recent performance of the song, this time played only by Thom Yorke at the (link: text:Pathway to Paris) climate convention. While stripping back the full band back to just a piano, some live looping and vocals, Yorke not only sustains the essence of the song but gives it a whole new life and meaning beyond any original conception I had of it.

While I don’t make music, open-minded processes and explorations such as those I have just shared will always inspire me to try and push my creative boundaries to find new ways to communicate an idea.