Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Emily Wells

     For this blog post, I would like to talk about a specific musical artist that I have recently discovered. Her name is Emily Wells and she is not at all easily defined. Folk, folk rock, and folktronica are some genres that have been used to classify her. Folktronica probably describes her most adequately; it is a musical category comprised of various elements of folk music and electronica, often featuring samplings of acoustic instruments, all the while utilizing hip hop or dance rhythms.

     She does not stop with these aforementioned genres however. She started training as a classical violinist at the age of four, but obviously has since branched off, using hip hop, classical, blues, and jazz influences in her music. She has also been known to employ multiple instruments beyond violin, including glockenspiels, analog synthesizers, pianos, toy instruments, guitars, banjos, drums, and more.

     Her true standing out point comes with the way she performs live. Unlike many solo artists within different variations of electronic music, Emily does not use recorded loops. Instead, she creates her own virtual backing band; she does this by creating her own series of live loops during the performance with whatever instruments the particular song requires, her voice, sample pads, and synthesizers.

     As for the connections to the readings, I would like to analyze Emily through characteristics known to be associated with the creative personality. (All further references/comparisons are from the Csikszentmihalyi reading.)

     Before going into the dimensions Csikszentmihalyi describes, I would like to talk of something else mentioned in this reading. It talks of how many creatives are seen to start exercising such impulses in childhood. This is especially true with Emily. As I have already stated, she started learning the violin at age four and her musical career sprouted from there. Furthermore, she did not wait for any record label to begin making her own songs: at age thirteen, she released her first full length (unofficial) album herself.

     The reading's second dimension of creativity lists creative individuals as having the tendency to be smart and also naïve at the same time; more specifically, they utilize both convergent and divergent thinking. I think Emily is an amazing example of this. She is a classically trained violinist. Furthermore, she probably learned how to play the many instruments she now can, one by one, classically or procedurally. Meanwhile, her combining of all the various elements that comprise her music is a great exemplification of divergent thinking. Her music is incredibly layered and diverse. You have never heard songs like hers before, which is one of the reasons she is so hard to classify.

      This all nicely ties into the third dimension: the paradox of possessing playfulness and discipline. To create such novel assortments of sound, Emily must possess a childlike curiosity and playfulness. She has said in interviews that one of her favorite parts of her creative process is simply toying with some random instruments and casually overlapping sounds to see how they fit together. This is a process defined by good natured and lighthearted fun. However, the discipline arrives when putting together the final product (once a desired end is in mind), especially during the recording process. 

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