Chris Boardman Music Blog: August 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Curse of Indecision

Do you struggle with making a decisions? Do you drift off into “what if...?” Do you worry about being wrong? About being perfect?

Seems to me that it is all too easy to base decisions on our perception of reality. This makes our decisions susceptible to a variety of influences that can distort the decision making process. When we are faced with making a choice under these circumstances our biases and beliefs can distort the quality of the decisions we make...sometimes with disastrous results...sometimes with more pleasant outcomes. Some times your choices may be well thought out and have no effect on the outcome at all! Choices work or they don’t. Moving forward is about not stopping...not letting fear prevent progress.

When you approach a fork in the road you are forced to make a decision. Right or left. stop or go back. Obviously your choice will send you down a path, each with a different potential outcome.
But how can you decide which road to take?

Clarity of purpose

The best we can do in this situation is to remind ourselves of the purpose we wish to achieve and make our choices accordingly. Without knowing where you want to go and having the commitment to stay the course, chances of success become exactly that: chance. Or in other words: your probability of success becomes random at best. Not good odds at all.
However, once you have made the decision to go in a specific direction, then, and only then can you figure out how to get there and have any chance at success.

Take an architect for example:
An architect is trained to take ideas (for buildings) and make them real. They aren’t in the business of fantasy or “what if”. They apply their craft to execute their ideas using the tools and skills in their personal arsenal.

I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with making music? Well, the short answer is: EVERYTHING. 

Writing music is a constant decision making process. The choices are endless. 

So, where to begin? 

You won’t get anywhere if you don’t start walking. 

Commit to your purpose and get going. Move past the fork in the road and see where you end up. Soon enough you’ll find out if you have made a good choice or not. Don’t be afraid of falling off the horse or being ridiculed. Just get back on the horse...and carry on. Just like mastering an instrument or skill, the more you practice the better you’ll become.

Music is art...not open heart surgery. Remember, no one will die if you use one reverb over another. This instrument or that. There is no right is entirely subjective. And, you can’t control whether or not anyone else will like your work so why worry? 

Being comfortable with the decision making process is the path to releasing your artistic voice. 

This is about your journey and no one else’s. Work with purpose. Be conscious of your choices. Be willing to make mistakes. If you can’t make it past the fork in the’ll never know what you are capable of nor will anyone else.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vital Collaborations Pt. 4 Create value

(This is an excerpt from a speech I gave at the VizualNow Event July 27th).

Create Value
Great artists spend their lives developing their craft. It is a personal, internal intrinsic pursuit of expertise and competency. 

But what if your expertise is not the real value you bring to a collaborative environment?

Preparing for this talk I did an informal poll of music supervisors and filmmakers. 

To a one they said: Productive working relationships are of equal if not greater value to them than talent or expertise. ... of equal if not greater value than talent or expertise.

At a certain point....expertise is a commodity. There may be tens, hundreds if not thousands of people vying for the same opportunity...with similar expertise. What will make you stand out?

Perhaps... the greatest value you can offer in a collaboration is your ability to work well with others and enhance the performance of those around you?

Making media is a team sport can’t do it alone. 
The great ones are happy to be team player - if the team wins ....they win. 
They leave their ego at the door, roll up their sleeves and just get on with it.


Am I saying that successful collaborations always run smoothly, without problems? Of course not. Strong willed people have strong opinions. There will be disagreements. It’s to be expected....especially in stressful situations.

Am I saying that to be an effective collaborator you should sublimate your opinion, tiptoe through the politics and speak when spoken to? Not at all. You are there because you will add value...because you DO have expertise that is needed.

What I am saying is this:

Those who realize that their self-worth is not dependent upon the words of others...

recognize the value of positive working relationships,  how they enhance the quality of communication...

and vigilantly strive to add value, not only for yourself, but for everyone involved ...

three things will happen:

1- Most likely you will have a positive collaborative experience which will enhance your reputation.

2- You will differentiate yourself from your competition- there is only one of you. 

And finally-

3- you will create a pathway and process that will lead you to a successful, sustainable career.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vital Collaborations Part 3: Making connections

(This is an excerpt from a speech I gave at the VizualNow Event July 27th).

What is this thing: “charisma” Why is it some people are more popular than others? We’ve all known someone who is a people magnet....people can’t seem to get enough of them. So why is it easy for some  and so difficult for others?

In my experience it all revolves around the ability to connect with others in a deeply personal way. 

Some years back I met Oprah Winfrey. We had a short conversation about both of us working on the Color Purple. What we talked about is not that important. What I remember most about that encounter was the intensity of her attention. When she looked me in the eye I was speechless...she was focusing her entire being on me and it was overwhelming. Honestly, I had to look away....I wasn’t prepared for that. 

We’ve all met intense people...people with a personal agenda who never hesitate to push themselves onto us.

Oprah WAS intense...but it was different. It was as if she was searching, scanning absorb as much about me as she could. She was focusing her ENTIRE see what was in my heart.

Connecting in a conversation is basically an exercise in empathy...listening not with the intent to reply but to absorb everything about the other person....trying to understand what is REALLY being said....not what you THINK is being said.

Most of us listen, waiting for the moment when we can blurt out what we are thinking....when we do we can easily miss the subtext of what is really being said.

It doesn’t matter if you are in line at Starbucks or in this room. 

Looking the person you are speaking with right in the them respect by actively paying attention sends a huge message: 

At that moment they are more important than you...the most important thing to you is the next word they say...

This simple yet profound act of connection will pay enormous dividends by creating trust and intimacy.

And Trust...

 is the foundation of ALL sustaining relationships. 

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vital Collaborations Part 2: Managing your fear

(This is an excerpt from a speech I gave at the VizualNow Event July 27th).

Part 2.

For thousands of years humans have used stories and story-telling to help them accept what they don’t understand. 

We all make up and tell stories about ourselves...which ends up creating a large part of our identity.
And when we perceive our “identity” is under attack we will defend the illusion rather than the reality.

If we are afraid, or uncomfortable it is next to impossible to hide. It will show itself in the words you choose, your facial reactions and your body language. What’s worse is: in a collaborative situation your fear can become the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Your fear accompanies you wherever you go. And even though you may think you can hide it, those around you will sense it-making accommodations be they subtle or overt. Best case scenario is that the people you are working with will accept your peccadilloes...because what you contribute is of great value. Worst case: you will be let go because you are perceived to be too much trouble.

What is it about my list of successful people that helps them deal with their fears. What is that “gold dust” I was looking for?

It’s not’s confidence.

Successful people work hard not only on their craft but also on themselves. They practice their interpersonal skills...they meticulously prepare for meetings and collaborations and they understand that without effective communication failure is almost certain.

Think of it this way: 
Filmmakers think and speak in terms of visuals and angles, lighting, lenses, blocking costumes etc. Composers think in musical terms: melody, rhythm, harmony, sound. If you speak from your expertise you will be speaking a foreign language and the quality of the communication will be poor.

Better to be prepared to establish a common language as a basis for your communications. 

Identifying, understanding and acknowledging what you are afraid of combined with superior preparation will give you the confidence to participate successfully. 

This won’t be lost on your collaborators....because 

confidence is a sign of strength...

and instinctively people will are drawn to strong, positive personalities. 

coming soon:

Part 3 Making connections

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Vital Collaborations Part 1

(This is an excerpt from a speech I gave at the VizualNow Event July 27th).

Part One

It is easy to see successful working relationships. They seem effortless, almost magical.  Have you ever really wondered what makes them work? 

Have you ever been in a situation that didn’t end well? If so, have you ever asked yourself the question: “What did I do to contribute to a less than positive outcome?

All too often we are afraid to address our failures because we won’t like what we see.

When I started doing films I had already established myself as something of a hotshot arranger/orchestrator so I walked in the door with an attitude...self-confident about my musical expertise. Everything seemed to be working fine until I failed miserably on a show and had no idea why or where to turn? And then, I failed again, and again.

This was quite a blow to my that I considered myself to be. 

I quickly realized that I had a big problem. 

Failure was not an option so I had to address why I was failing and figure out what I had to do to turn the ship around.

Truth was: I had no idea what I was doing. 

I thought that everyone would just love my music and I would be done. I was the expert. Right?


In desperation I decided I need to know as much as I could about making movies... that I had to become an expert in moviemaking to continue working....My approach was based on what had worked for me in the past....become the expert and everything would work out fine.  What I didn’t realize was that I was replacing one widget with another. 

What I missed completely was my glaring lack of interpersonal skills.

I would get defensive if criticized
I had no idea how to articulate my position.
I had no conflict management skills. 

I was the expert right?....

Creating media is a collaborative exercise....You need not be the smartest person in the room to be a successful collaborator.
And those that have succeeded have much more than personal expertise to offer. 

I looked to my heroes for guidance.

When I studied the icons of film music, John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, it appeared that they were all truly gifted collaborators as well as being musical giants.

If I ever wanted to reach that level of success I had to find out how get some of that “gold dust”....that something special that my idols seemed to exude effortlessly.

What was it they had that I didn’t?

It was obvious these guys had mastered the art of collaboration....but there seemed to be something more that I was missing. 

It was pointed out to me that: 

“we unconsciously sabotage our relationships because we are not aware of how our subconscious behavior affects our actions. In addition, we can be confused about who are and why we do what we do."

Taking an objective personal inventory I discovered that:

I was an expert musician but...

I was terribly insecure
I had no idea how to resolve an argument
I needed constant validation for my work....(the curse of the artist-to have everyone love them).

In this moment of awareness three different topics emerged:

1- Embrace your fear....

2- Focus your attention 

3- Add value 

What does this mean?

Part Two coming soon:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

White Oak Sessions #6: "Sunset At The Beach"

There is something magical about sunset at the beach. It always puts me in a reflective mood.


More music to come soon.