In those dark times when I start finding music stagnant, and all seems old, done to death, and there appear to be no new ideas under the sun, I turn to re-labelling.
Humans like patterns. We like living in them and like to recognising them in things. It also seems like our brains are incredibly good at finding them. This, however, also makes us prone to getting into the habit of thinking about certain things the same way for long periods of time.
Consciously changing your thinking patterns can tip you out of the rut, and promote new ideas and paths to try out.
Every once in a while I look up (or invent if I’m feeling frisky) an alternative form of music notation, or a strict compositional method of some sort. I’ll tinker with it for a bit and inevitably, before I actually write something using this new idea, the new thoughts will merge with the old ones and I’ll get an idea for how to finish of something I was already working on, using this new technique/idea.
Change the names, or the parameters, or the ways that you think of them, and new possibilities emerge.
p.s. I feel, any form of variation to the “norm” will have a rejuvenating effect. Once some form of listlessness or stagnation has set in artistically, then change – somewhere – is needed to counteract it. For me this invariably has to involve either the discovery of a new artist who inspires me, or a lifestyle change, whether it is status, diet, location…whatever, as long as it is a meaningful shift, involving creating new patterns, you will be forced into looking at things differently.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition. He is a founder member of Avant Pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith.