A week or so back, I wrote about Grey Children, a super words and music project by a great musician/writer, Dave Griffiths. Dave is also seeking to raise awareness of the Pure-O form of OCD through his work, and promoting and working alongside charities and groups such as The Other OCD, OCD-UK, and OCD Action. I’ve since had the opportunity to speak to dave at greater length about his music, his writing, and Pure-O.
1. Dan: I would ask if the music or the words for A Man in the Rain came first, but I know it’s the words. So how does it work – is it like scoring a film, or are you conscious of wanting the music to be more prominent than that?
Dave: The words came first, but the music was written separately, i.e. away from the narrative. I had a broad idea of what I wanted the music to sound like, and wrote a selection of five or six themes that could be adapted to fit various circumstances within the narrative.
I liked the way David Lynch employed musical themes within Twin Peaks. He seemed to use about five or six themes throughout, and (aside from a few early instances) generally avoided giving character’s ‘themes’. Instead, he used music to broadly categorise scenes into moods, often jumping suddenly between themes as a scene develops.
This lacks the subtlety of, say, Mark Snow’s seemingly ad-libbed compositional work for the X-Files (clearly written with the film track running in the background), but does help create a clearly defined mood for Twin Peaks – something I wanted to recreate in A Man In The Rain.
Dan: I love the way David Lynch uses sound. I particularly love the way he flips between kitsch and menace in Blue Velvet. Are you going to be using the music to reflect mood or do you intend sometimes to jar or use the music to fight against the words ina scene having set up expectations of the correlation?
Dave: Generally I intend for the music to reflect mood, kind of with soap operas (David Lynch’s main point of reference when working with Mark Frost on Twin Peaks). I’m not a huge fan of soundtrack music that ironically contrasts with the overall mood of the scene (i.e. the infamous rape scene in A Clockwork Orange). I think it’s a rather crude device – in my mind it gives the impression of trying too hard.
2. Dan: How does working to raise awareness for a charity affect the way you do things?
Dave: It changes the way I approach my writing and my music. My underlying mission (raising awareness of Pure O, a form of OCD) is very personal to me and I think it makes me a more honest person. I still have an eye on what I think people will enjoy, though I no longer feel obliged to write certain things in a certain way in order to satisfy a label or some other music industry construct.
Although I’m relatively new to writing I have no interest in major publishing companies or anything like that – I want to manage everything myself and have a more direct relationship with my audience. It is clear now that this is the way things are developing, both in the music world and in the writing world.
Dan: That’s something I completely identify with – I’d call it a mix of control (over what, how and when), freedom (to do/not do the projects that matter to you), and direct communication
I agree on both counts. Direct communication is very important to me, and I’m known to be a real control freak.
3. Dan: Can you explain a bit about how the music helps with Pure-O? I know that with several conditions – anxiety and Tourette’s for example- a it gives a state of “flow” that gives an immersion that relieves symptoms almost by short-circuiting a self-critical/self-aware part of the brain. Is it anything like that?
Dave: It is very difficult to explain how music or any other art form can help relieve the symptoms of mental illness. I do know that without music I would find it much harder to operate on a day-to-day basis. Music seems to be able to control my mood and my thought processes in a very powerful way, overriding even the most destructive OCD episodes. To me it is as effective as any drug or meditative process. My message to OCD sufferers: if you love music immerse yourself in it, surrounding yourself with it, make it a bigger part of your life.
Dan: Thinking with one of my other hats on, there’s a simple message there to employers – allowing someone to work with headphones on is a tiny adjustment to the workplace that can have a massive positive impact on an employee’s well-being, and their productivity
I agree. If it isn’t affecting your ability to do your job then it really shouldn’t be an issue.
4. Dan: Do you think there’s something particular about music, and the fact it can be enjoyed as it were non-cognitively that makes it different from other activities in how it helps?
Dave: I think music is one of several therapeutic activities that can be engaged with in order to tackle the symptoms of mental illness. Many people cite physical exercise as a major therapeutic force in their life – particularly those suffering with depression. Though not everyone enjoys extended periods of exercise. I find running, team sports, that sort of thing incredibly dull. Exercising the creative part of my mind through music and writing – this is my drug of choice. So I think it depends on the individual – music is not alone in providing relief and distraction.
Dan: For me it was weightlifting that had that effect of total immersion the most – and produced endorphins at the same time. But the bugger is that when you’re ill and need it most you are least in a position to just go and do it – it’s something you have to habituate yourself to when you’re well(er) so you can carry on when you’re ill(er)
Dave: I guess this is one advantage music has over other therapeutic activities. It is easy to engage with (even just sitting and listening to a favourite album), even when your illness is particularly bad.
5. Dan: Do you think you have a medium or a format that suits the way you work best, or do you think you’ll always be fluid within art in general?
Dave: I get bored easily, and seldom like to do the same thing twice. I don’t think I could ever work to a formula – in fact I’ve been known to actively work against this. I’m very interested in stop motion animation and computer programming. Future Grey Children projects may move in this direction. But I expect music will always be an important part of whatever I do. I’ve simply become too entwined with it over the years.