Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Accidents Will Happen"

I've been thinking a lot about creative process lately. The May 15th issue of The Nation has been floating around the house for a while and keeps showing up wherever I sit down. I had read the article on Bob Dylan by Richard Goldstein and the one on Hitler and Osama bin Laden by Raffi Khatchadourian when the issue first came out. I assumed it was something from the Goldstein article that triggered my creativity tangent, but looking back I'm having trouble finding a line or idea that lead to my conclusion. Perhaps what happened was, the article got me thinking about the documentary, No Direction Home about Dylan's early life. I'm sure something from there could have triggered what I came to conclude while watering flowers outside the house. The truth is I've let too much time pass to write this.

So what I've come to believe about creativity is that one of the greatest gifts an artist can have is the ability to know when to let accidents happen. When a mistake is made, when we accidentally diverge from our initial intent and course, we instinctively try and correct it immediately. Often that's for the best when you have a spelling error or something, but at other times, what we are doing is eradicating the seed of genuine creativity. I agree that genuine creativity is a concept for the antonym of a cynic, and perhaps too presumptuous for reason. What I really mean is those evolutionary leaps in an artistic progression, the things that come to define periods and make profound what could have been mundane. That form of creativity that is improvisational.

Like all good improvisation, be it jazz or another medium, one must first have an initial deep understanding of the medium. A jazz musician has hundreds of chord relationships memorized, those amazing solos are not simply an act of randomly playing notes. Though I do like much of the works by artists like Jackson Pollock (who people overlook the fact he did create many paintings that were more than throwing paint on a canvas) but overall I agree with the concepts of skill and refinement. The secret is reaction. When something emerges that was not initially conceived, the ability to recognize it and nurture it when there is the potential for something more. When artist talk of instinct and intuition we forget that instinct is a product of experiences that have become ingrained (and inherited) in the central programming of our thought and reactionary processes.

(I just recalled what it was from No Direction Home that sparked this. It was during the recording of "Like a Rolling Stone" for Highway 61 Revisted and how the organ came to be used as it was with that strange one beat behind everyone else. Everyone should check out that film that haven't. You don't really need to even like Dylan to apreciate it.)

So I'm not saying that great art is anarchy or anything like that. But like Albert Camus said:

"All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on the street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

The trick is being aware of them.


Anonymous Tim McCormack said...

This is an excellent analysis of the relationship between accidents, improvisation, and creativity.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for summing up the creative philosphy I've subscribed to for eons . . . .;)
You nailed it.

12:39 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home