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Studios.

I love the Song Exploder podcast, produced and presented by Hrishikesh Hirway.  In every episode, a musical artist tells the story behind one song, and dissect that song layer by layer.  It's a fascinating insight into creative process, from people who don't make a habit of talking about creative process, and makes you a better listener of music, more aware of the layers that go into a single song.

One thing that often strikes me is the relationship between musical process and space.  For example, I listened to an episode about Kimbra this morning.  She says:

The start of this song happened at Skrillex’s studio.  We met backstage at Coachella and, then, y’know, we talked about hanging out because we both lived in the same part of town in LA.  He invited me over to his studio and we were just like listening to beats together.  I was playing him some of my demos.  He was playing me things we had and he pulls up this beat. ...I’m like ‘yo this is really sick’ and I just start moving along to it and I guess I just started singing along...and he’s like ‘that’s sick, let’s record it’.
— KIMBRA http://songexploder.net/kimbra
Skrillex in his home studio

Skrillex in his home studio

Or, in another episode I listened to walking the dog this morning, with Win Butler of Arcade Fire:

We built a new studio in New Orleans, which I’ve kind of begun to recognise as part of the process of making a record.  We always end up kind of putting a new studio together and somehow in making the space there’s this period where you’re just kinda just plugging things in and seeing how they work and you accidentally end up writing a bunch of music.
— Win Butler http://songexploder.net/arcade-fire

In both examples, space and equipment that occupies that space is instrumental to the creation of a new piece.  Neither artist, in these stories, are writing ideas down in their notebook for their working day and waiting for the 3 weeks a year they get in the rehearsal studio to actually make something.  The idea that two artists would just hang out, with the resources that they need to do their art, and something would come out of it is beautiful.

LEt's be clear - we're talking Skrillex, Kimbra and Arcade Fire here - these are very successful and wealthy artists.  There's a massive question of economics and class also - I'll bet Kimbra didn't have to leave at 3pm to go to her bartending job.  

BUT there is an absence of workspace and resources for theatre artists - my experience is in London, but possibly (probably?) in other places as well.  I don't have my own workspace, of a size appropriate to the production of theatre work, where I can just try an idea that I get on a Tuesday afternoon.  Or where I can meet an actor/designer/writer/dramaturg/choreographer/whatever at a theatre and invite them round next week to kick ideas around.  Or invite 8 friends round to see this solo that I've developed this week (now I'm really dreaming).  And I'm relatively privileged in my work situation - in that I only have the one non-theatre part-time job now - so I can't be alone in this.

The freelance nature of our work doesn't help this situation - most theatre artists don't have homes, because the contemporary theatre building isn't a building that keeps artists on contract.  We don't really go in for a company model any more.  Only the biggest theatres have more than one or two artists on full-time staff - where we could have permanent access to space, other artists to collaborate with, produce new ideas etc etc.  

I was backstage at a theatre recently.  There's a door, upon which is printed the name of the rehearsal room - imagine the chaos and the new ideas that could take place there.  But now, attached to the door, a sign "This room is now a meeting room."

Tom Hughes