The Universal / The Particular (Or: The Secret Recipe For Great Art)

Being an independent musician and all, a common question that gets tossed around near me is: “What kind of music do you make?”

This post will seek to answer that question handily and will also GIVE THINGS AWAY, to lucky and awesome people, as well as ruminate on the nature of art, and other things of a sacred and profane nature.  Ready?  Then let’s dive down together…


I have always thought that the greatest thing that a human being could do, was to go as deep as they could, get as close to the truth as possible, bring things back from that place, and then share them with others.

I think that ‘truth’ is a quality, and I think that this quality is the most beautiful thing in the world.  Some people call it ‘presence’, others: ‘beauty’, others: ‘value’.  But, whatever you want to call it, I believe that it is the one constant thing that runs thru: every great idea, every great work of art, every noble endeavour, and every just cause in the entirety of our collective history.  I think that this quality has an important and vital function in our lives.  And I think that: when people are open to, and connect with this quality; beautiful things happen; for them personally, and for the world at large.

Great music, or great art for that matter, takes you out of time.  It dissolves everything that you think of as your life, it takes you away from pain, and communicates the joy of the moment.  I believe that it does this by virtue of this universal quality.

When people listen to my music, whether it be in a live setting, or on the album, this is always the goal for me.  That quality, and the communication of that quality is what I am aiming for.  Always, always, always, in all things.

And this is, truly, what my music is about.  This is what it seeks to do, and, when it hits this is what it does, for me and for the listener.  AND this is also the reason that I find it so hard to answer when people ask me: ‘What kind of music do you make?’  Because I have found that, when you say to someone: you want to make music that is as true as possible, that takes people out of time, and that communicates the incandescent ecstasy of the present moment, they become confused and their faces look like they are trying to think of seven things at once.

But this is always what my music has been about.  That is why it took me so very long to write and record the first album.  I didn’t start with any preconceptions.  I had a blank canvas.  I wasn’t even starting from a place where I had a ready-made culture.  I didn’t grow up in the deep south, listening to blues records and thinking ‘I want to make a blues record’.  My aesthetic was a blank slate.  My first task was: to create my own culture.  I wanted to express that universal thing in that way that was particular to me; a way that was uniquely my own, and I had to find a way to do that whilst acquiring the chops that would let me translate it into the real world.  I had to bring together all the elements in my life that would allow me to combine: The Universal and The Particular.

This combination is, I believe, the secret recipe for all great art.

So, by laying this out, am I claiming that my music and my album is Great Art?  No, I am not saying that.  That would be unbelievably arrogant.

I can say that it is made with this idea in mind.  I can say that it is, absolutely, the best album that I was capable of making at that particular time.  I can say that: I love it, that it contains my sweat, tears, and lifeblood, and that I couldn’t have possibly worked any harder on it.  But I can’t grade it.  That would be…weird. ;-)


Last week I set a competition in which I said: the 3000th follower on would receive a free album.  I realized soon after, that there are two different ways of keeping track of followers; the first is solely the followers on WordPress , the second also includes those who follow the blog by email.  So there turned out to be two 3000th followers…

So it become two free albums. ;-)

They go to:

Liz Echuca, and


Well done to both – you should have received an email with your free download code.

And as for the rest of the brave  3000:  You are all beautiful.  You know it.  I love you.

My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

64 Replies to “The Universal / The Particular (Or: The Secret Recipe For Great Art)”

    1. What a great post! I enjoy writing a great deal. Although it is a different medium than music, a lot of your thoughts about the practice of art applies. No matter what our creative medium, I think it’s important that we perform from deep within ourselves–always searching for the truth–and then find the best, most honest means to convey that to others. Thanks so much for posting!


      1. Hey there,
        I completely agree. I think that many of the boundaries we create for different types of art are just false constructs of the mind. There is a lot more overlap than we think. At the baseline, I see almost everything that humans do as a subset of creativity, whether it be painting, parenting, fixing a car or climbing a mountain.
        Thanks a lot for your comment, it was very thoughtful,
        Have a good one,
        – J


  1. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your weblog.
    You have some really great posts and I feel I would be a good
    asset. If you ever want to take some of the load
    off, I’d love to write some material for your blog in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested.
    Thank you!


    1. Hey there,
      Thanks a lot for the offer, but my blog isn’t really that kind of thing.
      I write this stuff because I enjoy writing it and want to share it, and my music with folk that resonate with them. No other reason really.
      Sorry I can’t be of more help to you there, I wish you Good Luck tho in all your future endeavours, ;-)
      – J
      – J


  2. I’m coming from a strictly art (painting) perspective, but what you are saying is so true. I really connect with the way you see the universal and the particular. I guess it is true of all creativity.


  3. Hey James, We appreciate the way you communicate the content in the buffer of your soul. You’ve got a great treshold of varying intertwined depths of empathy that can draw any reader. Also thanks for acknowledging our blog.


    1. First, sorry for the late reply, I am just back from some time away.
      Second, you are more than totally welcome, I am glad that you found some worth in what I do. It is the reason I do this stuff.
      I wish you well, all power to you.
      – J


  4. Hey! Noticed you liked a few things on my blog. :) is there a way for me to sample your music? Do you have a YouTube account? I am a poor college student. I can’t afford to buy music right now, but I do love to sample music. :) Best of Wishes! Love the vibe of your blog!


    1. First, sorry for the late reply, I am just back from some time away.
      Second…ummm I don’t think so, unless you buy the album. There are some streams on my site, on the ‘sounds’ page, but they are already cut up. I do not have a YouTube account, my music is currently exclusive to this site. If you do buy the album, I give you full permission to sample my stuff tho, as long as you give me credit and aren’t making dollar dollar bills from it. ;-)
      Hope that helps, good luck with everything!
      – J


      1. As far as late reply goes, It is absolutely alright. I recognize that people are busy and have lives outside of their blogs. :) No worries there.

        I’m not looking to make any profit. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to make any extra purchases at this time. I lost my job and about to loose my apartment. I’m in a bit of a rough spot. I will see if I can find your stuff on youtube.

        Best of Wishes! Thanks for the reply! :)


  5. Thanks so much for popping by my blog & for the like. Your music is beautiful – the trailer style reminded me of the haunting sentience of Radiohead (that’s a compliment – I am a big fan) All the best to you as you create beauty in this world :-)


    1. Hey there ;-)
      I love Indy artists too.
      Thanks so much for the kudos – you are AWESOME! You know it! ;-)
      I really like your writing style, it feels so familiar. Keep up the good work.
      Big love,
      – J


  6. You wrote: {“I have found that, when you say to someone: you want to make music that is as true as possible, that takes people out of time, and that communicates the incandescent ecstasy of the present moment, they become confused and their faces look like they are trying to think of seven things at once.”}

    I’d be one of the few who didn’t screw their faces up in confusion at that. LOL. I actually get what you’re saying. ;)

    Maybe it’s a “creatives” thing.

    I’m a creative at heart… and soooo resonated with this post! I’m glad I came over here and found it! Thanks for checking out *my* blog, I’ll be following yours, as I need to get more connected to other creatives. I’ve left that side of me in the dark for too long, and am ready to move into it more.

    PS… Will also be checking out your music — I <3 music! ;)


    1. Hey there,
      I’m glad that you ‘got’ it. Maybe it’s a creatives thing indeed. I think most people are looking for more of a ‘I sound a little like (x)). ;-)
      Big thanks for stopping by, I look forward to hearing how things work out for you,
      Be well, friend,
      – J


  7. Hi James, I did it !! Download and first „hearing“. LOVE it. One oft the very few good things that happend on this day.
    My review
    prayer – definetly one of my favourites, intense melody, almost with a feverish urgency, really memorable
    river, touch, untitled – loved all three, feel like you are taking my hand to follow you through the melody, very enchanting and clear
    ocean – no hand taken to guide but a cool, slightly psychedellic hazy soundcloud , mysterious in a pleasant way
    broken hearts – interesting song, which I need more time to dive into
    forever – genius piano, a piece with surprising moments, makes one really listen
    You sure did MIGHTY good, and you sure knew what you were doing, my heart-felt congrats to this COOL and UNIQUE album! And that ist the answer to this posts´ question what kind of music do you make – cool and unique. Amen and good night.
    Will come over to chat again soon… ;-)


    1. You are beautiful. Thankyou thankyou thankyou, I am so glad you liked it. ;-)
      Now, I seem to recall a certain accord that was reached, so, I have to say:
      Miles Mulligan III is…..
      BadASS ;-)
      Your sculpture is seriously, seriously excellent. I really love it. He looks like he should move (in my brain he moves in a stop-motion animation fashion) – I have to say that I would go more for Ian Mckellen for his voice tho, rougher, older.
      You are a very talented lady, I am honored to know you.
      Stay beautiful,
      – J


      1. ah glad you like him, yes the dark raspy wizardy voice of Ian McKellen sure would fit well, too, I agree, and his gravits as well as his cheeky sense of humour sure would be what I could well imagine for my furry friend ;-)). I might consult you again in the future when my next character (a three-headed-dragon called Tripodd) is ready to come alive and the right “sound” for him is to be ARE the sound expert, eh? ;-)
        A question : now that I joined your tribe, is there – apart from buying the album – some kind of mysthic ignition rite involved for the process of being fully accepted, like a disturbing multicoloured tattoo on the right thigh or such? ;-O


        1. Not at all.
          It is a VERY TASTEFUL full-body tattoo, including the number 47.
          It takes, like, 40 hours MAX, so it’s really just a blip.
          You do own a goat, right? For the ceremony?
          – J x


          1. shrieek…groan….tremble….aahhrghh I just KNEW I should have read the small print, why am I ALWAYS so trusting?!? NOW I really am in trouble – I ALREADY have a full-body tattoo and ONLY on my right thigh there is a small space for a bit of fancy needle work. And no, I do not own a goat, only a centaur and you have seen his sixpack, he sure won´t let anybody near him…God what to do what to do…whimper….what to do?! …..YES!!! Would you agree to an alternative ritual me creating a VERY noble, goodhearted, gentlevoiced, heroic, strong, wise and UTTERLY handsome creature-character named James in my fantasy realm? The one that gets the girl and all the glory? The one of whom enchanting songs and ballads will be sung even a long time after he has left the world?? The rightful keeper of the secret how to brew the only true and powerful magic potion called coffee?!?!?!


            1. After a long and very heated deliberation, we, at the tribe of have decided that, yes, the creation of said character would indeed be acceptable as an alternative to the tattoo.
              And The Goat.
              Seriously tho – keep me updated with anything else you do – your stuff is AWESOME. And, should there happen to be a James in there somewhere, I can’t say that I would be disappointed…. ;-)
              Big Hug,
              – J
              P.S. (Really, the debate was really long)
              P.P.S. (this is a Lie) ;-)


              1. YAY!! THAT is SO COOL !! ;-D So then you will be (kind of) part of my “tribe” as well ! Because after a short debate with myself as the sole creator of my fantasy realm Faunia, I decided that if you agree I really will SERIOUSLY create a faun with the name of James as he is described above, of course he is a musician, with beautifully curved horns and shiny black hooves, a dashing dark-red beard and a very unique instrument that can be blown and strung at the the same time, on which he plays haunting melodies that delight every creature he meets – and I really already have a pretty detailled idea for that, he built it himself and it is really unusual and intriguing to look at. I think it is great because that character really would fit perfectly in my not-yet-completed storyline. Oh I hugeley enjoy talking to you ;-)) And I will keep you updated about my stuff, and thank you for your positive feedback I really appreciate it VERY much.
                Aw now I have to get back to other things, phew, well….

                I hope you have a fabulous day!


                1. Oh, I would totally LOVE that. Really really really really. I am sitting here with wide eyes and a smile on my face.
                  Why? I hear you ask. Well, because I have ALWAYS THOUGHT OF MYSELF AS A FAUN (If I was going to be a mythic creature, that is). And the way you describe it, I can totally see it in my mind. That would be AMAZING.
                  I am so excited. We are, of course part of the same tribe. Goes without saying.
                  I WANT TO SEE THE FAUN!! I am very excited. ;-)
                  I hugely enjoy speaking to you too.
                  Hope your day is EVEN MORE FABULOUS.
                  Big hug,
                  – J x


                  1. Good morning my faunian friend. I am glad you didn´t say ” God, no, a FAUN !? What the hell !?! I´d always pictured myself as a waterdragon !! I won´t speak to that woman again, EVER!” …;-) … So that´s settled, and I will start working on that beast soon, already made a quick armature for the instrument. As I do have quite some work experience in making fauns I think next week there might already be a first work-in-progress-maquette to show off but we´ll see, as you know all creative processes take time and I am also working on two other pieces already, too, but I do not mind a bit of multitasking in that area as more and more good ideas evolve from that.
                    I´ll be offline for the next days as I have quite a few things to look after and even more things to seriously think through (this weekend I just must find a strategy for getting out of that “sprinkler mode” you so perfectly described in one of your older posts). By the way – I might go see an interesting film tonight – in our cinema they show “War Horse” from London National Theatre with these amazing, stunning lifesized horse puppets.

                    Speak to you in a while…hope you are well.
                    Big hug back ;-)


                    1. I have heard that the puppet version of WarHorse is incredible. One friend saw it live when it was up here, another has see it in the cinema (the live version), both agree about the awesomeness.
                      I am so excited about the faun. You have no idea ;-) I literally told everybody I know about it last night on Facebook. I was like: ‘A FAUN!! A FAUN!! This is AWESOME ;-)
                      When it is done, I am going to plug you so hard, I will point EVERYBODY AND THEIR DOG at your site, and go LOOK! LOOK! a FAUN VERSION OF ME!!
                      See? Excited. ;-)
                      Big Hug Double back – have a good weekend,
                      – J ;-)


  8. Had to stop and tell you that your first sentence after the picture about the greatest thing a human being can do brought tears to my eyes. It’s perfection. Thank you! I’ll go back to reading now :) ~ Allison


      1. James,

        YOU are beautiful! I am really blessed to have found your space and you at this time in my life. It’s taken me a very long time to allow myself to open up creatively again and having inspiring people around like yourself gives me courage to keep putting it out there.

        Peace be with you my groovy friend. Fantastic article.

        ~ Allison


        1. Thankyou so much Allison,

          You are a rockstar. ;-) I am really glad that you are opening up creatively – that’s a very good time in anybody’s life.
          Should you wish to keep me posted on how things go for you, I would not be disappointed. ;-)

          Hope you are well, peace be with you, and thanks again,

          – J


          1. Wow, what a really cool thing to say, thank you! I’m completely humbled by people’s responses so far. For all that time I spent keeping my writing and poetry hidden for fear of exposure, I had no idea how many kick ass connections I could have been making with beautiful creatives who are more gracious, kind, and encouraging than I ever dreamed.

            That’s the thing about talents and gifts; giving them away is the best part.

            You are such a talented guy and you seem wildly comfortable in your skin and passionate about the work you do. Your spirit is palpable. I dig the way you engage with the truth. I will be honored to keep in touch and will do my utmost not to disappoint :)

            Peace ~


            1. It’s great isn’t it? ;-)
              I do think that we tend to engage when we’re actually ready to do so. That every creative person has a period where they need to be quiet and find their voice, before bringing it to the world. There also seems to be a tendency to think that we should have started earlier. ;-) It’s all good.
              Thankyou again for your kind, kind words. And thanks for your poetry.
              I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing how things unfold for you, poet woman, ;-)
              Be well, always,
              – J


  9. Have you ever read “The God who is There” by Francis Schaeffer. Its is awesome. He goes through the history of philosophy in art. Your title reminded me of the discussion on art. Universals and Particulars. Check out that book.


  10. Yeah, mate a great post and pretty well thought out answers to some knotty philosophy. I want to buy your music on CD – how do i do it? Am interested also to see your choice of artwork on the front cover. Tony


    1. Hey there Tony, ;-)
      Thanks a lot for the shout out, that’s really cool.
      This album is only available on download because it’s easier to get it to people that way. I have made it so that there is no protection on the files so, when you download it, you can burn it to CD or share it as many times as you like. It comes with the artwork already embedded in the package.
      Hope that helps and that you’re having a great day. Would love to hear your thoughts on the music.
      Be well my friend,
      – J


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