As I’ve mentioned, I wrote Butterfly about a fleeting online romance during lockdown. I remember sending the gentleman in question an early demo of the song and he, rather insultingly, called it ‘cute’. Later once it had been developed and recorded, and he and I had decided upon friendship, I sent him a copy of the final mastered version to listen to. He graduated his response to, ‘super sweet’ and ‘soothing’. This was quite jarring for me. I guess I was hoping for ‘hectic psychedelic guitar’ or ‘hypnotic harmonies’ or ‘trippy mood’ or something. I felt dejected, leaden and, interestingly, rejected. As Rick Rubin writes, ‘Sharing art is the price of making it. Exposing your vulnerability is the fee.’
For me, making art is a repeated process of learning and relearning in different ways, not to let the views and opinions of others affect what I create, that the work has a life of its own and my job is to guide it to its most final state, bringing in criticism and collaboration carefully and with trusted individuals. The process of taking the work from concept or sudden rush of inspiration, to something that exists in the material world is often messy, staggered and seems to lack flow.
I work across several domains including textiles, visual art and writing, but I like making music the most, because of all art forms, it is closest to that sacred unnameable space, before inspiration, dream, thought and the indescribable become a part of objective reality. Close to the Taoist Uncarved Block, perhaps, which is essentially the idea that everything carries more power in its original state. I remember reading a quotation* that music is the highest art form because it necessarily contains its death in each moment of its birth, a quote which captures the elusive nature of music, almost existing in that realm between worlds.
And it’s always a step down, bringing work from that space to this one. Rubin talks about maintaining reverence for what comes through even though it’s often awkward, uncomfortable, ugly and harsh. The world we live in cannot possibly accommodate all we artistically aspire towards and are capable of dreaming up.
When people say ‘aim for the stars and you might land on the moon’, I always think that with art you begin with an idea of the stars and end up with something that resembles pitchy murky slimy sludge. But after a few days, you might start to see that it’s mostly just the good kind of mud, and that’s not too bad. That it’s almost healthy and filled with potential. And if you persist and give it time and actively nurture it, you can grow something quite different from what you originally envisaged, but just as powerful, just as beautiful. Something unimagined which is arguably better than the imagined result because you haven’t ruined it with your expectations and judgements, you've brought people in to contribute, you've let it grow into itself. There is a lot to be said for allowing yourself to be surprised by the work you make.
This is beginning to sound like the Buddhist 'a lotus can only grow in the mud' metaphor… And if I am going to go ahead and accidentally land upon metaphors, I suppose that none is more apt than the title of this song, that beautiful, elusive, and brief culmination to the life and hibernation of a caterpillar, and for which this song was named in celebration of a short, sweet romance, a butterfly. Enjoy.
Photography by Caitlin Worthington
Artwork by Studio Papa
*I think it was Sartre in Nausea, but I haven’t gone back to check because that was a very depressing read, and every time I google it, I just get quotes about how we become songs when we die. Can anyone help?