The other day, the music producer Daniel Lanois listed the three most important ingredients for a successful recording. Number one? Power supplies spread throughout the room. Why? Because the first thing a musician does when they walk in a room with their gear is think, ‘where should I plug into the power?’ Number two and three on the list are equally telling – hundreds of microphone cables and a box that connects any sound device to any other sound device.
What’s so surprising about this list is the simple acknowledgement that essential elements must be prepared and in place for artistic expression to bloom. I can relate. There’s a rage that flares in me if a missing or broken piece of equipment stops work in the studio. It feels like something sacred has been defiled. I HATE IT.
Mis en place – pronounced meez ahn plahs – from the French culinary tradition means ‘to put in place’. Have your station prepared, your ingredients diced, mixed and ready before you start cooking.
Mis en place is at the heart of creativity.
The Little Bird taught me this. Her artistic output is prodigious. Every morning there’s another collage, drawing, painting or craft project spilling out of her. We started to drown in her creative output. I looked sadly at my own dry creek bed of creativity and saw immediately my stations were not in order. No mis en place. I made an Art Centre for The Little Bird in the kitchen. When she gets up (too early) every morning she has everything she needs to get to work – pencils in containers; fresh paper; glue; collage stuff in seperate takeway containers ready to go. Easy.
My studio, on the other hand…is now our bedroom – instruments are not accessible, nothing is plugged in, there’s another person in there who wants to sleep! I should gently point out that the very fact of The Little Bird and the non-existence of my studio are, dear reader, directly related. But, no excuses. I need to put things in place and prepare if I’m going to keep making music. You need to do the same if you want to make stuff.
Here’s what mis en place looks like for me:
- A soundproof room somewhere in or near the house with no additional humans who want to sleep in it
- Powerpoints, cables and a connecting box
- Every instrument ready to play with it’s own microphone, cable and preamp all at the end of a patch lead.
- Protools with recording and mixing templates ready to load
- A hard drive automatic back up system
What does mis en place look like for you?