creative process in music-maKing
It has been said that music is the 'universal language'. To what degree is it universal? One could say that there are many language groups which are represented by many cultures across planet earth. Each of these groups or civilisations have generated language as a means to communicate with one another. They have also created music as a way of communication with one another. They have also created music as a way of preserving their language and cultural history. Regarding the ability to communicate musically on a global level with for example: an African musician from Ghana and a Russian musician would require something of a common ground. The elemental fundamentals would be melody, harmony, rhythm and form. This process would be intentional and very much intuitive and it would require experimentation and discovery within the two spheres. This does not necessarily represent a universal language but does represent collaboration in order for the act of communication to occur.
And so what does this all have to do with the creative process of music making and how it is represented as an aesthetic and as an ideal? The notion that there is a global ideal and that music is a global language is nonsense because each culture is subjective to its own traditions and expectations. It would require an individual to go against tradition in order to create a new one thus aesthetic's are forever changing and it is a personable experience not just for the individual but for the society and in its context and time.
Language is a form of communication expressing our thoughts emotions presumptions objections and so on. To be able to communicate through the language with music one needs to have a firm grasp and understanding of the fundamentals at play. One can compare this to grammar and syntax which is used to form language structures in order to communicate. In music the basic fundamentals would be intervals, melody, harmony, rhythm, and form. Intervals are the building blocks of melody. Triads are the building blocks of harmony. Mathematics and pulse is the building blocks (conveyed as movement) in music (otherwise known as rhythm). Form is the most important of all fundamentals. It is demonstrated the as a canvas for presentation and space for architectural design to occur. It is the space in which musical communication can occur and be transmitted, conveying the musical language.
Our experiences shape our thoughts and responses. We develop and evolve as an individual, and hopefully, as a collective we can grow and mature from the goings on around and through us as a community. What one experiences and feels as a reflection, as a response to our society or as a motivation for contributing to the human condition is aspirational. Experience is the ingredient which contributes to the makings of creativity that is long lasting.
And what of ideal, grammar, eloquence, and an ability to communicate with such authenticity? Ideal is a position one aspires to regarding the representation of beauty inherent in creativity (or creativity represented as beauty) in creation in all its forms. By returning to one's experiences there is material sufficient to comment and reflect upon the world around us. The beauty and the intricate designs one can observe in day to day living, regardless of social interactions with other human beings, is all sufficient to inspire the creative artist to higher planes.
Artistic inspiration is momentarily, a choice that comes spontaneously. It is intuitive and intentional. Intuitive when one's memory of one's experiences 'trigger' the impulse to create. Intentional when one sets about to create with a purpose, with the choice to make a particular statement. Without a purpose the artwork is stagnant. It may be a statement but does it have value? It may have value to others and not to the creator. It may have value to the creator and not to others. It is subjective and a perceived judgement, however, if one truly seeks an aesthetic ideal built on something more transient than oneself, an ideal which stems from creation: our surroundings on planet earth, placed within this grand universe, than it will be inevitable that beauty will be created in the artistic product. This is of course based on the assumption that the artists has crafted their skills in their chosen field.
From a certain point of view
How does our perspective shape our outcome when it comes to the input in creating something? In my opinion, our thoughts, experiences, memories, and various surroundings stimulate our imaginative properties and perceptions on what one thinks about life and how best to express this through the artistic process and outcome. It is the wonder and mystery of the human condition, the uniqueness of each individuals' perception on a given experience as well as an audience and as a contributor which makes the creative process fascinating. But how can one measure the aesthetical benchmark, if indeed there is one? If aesthetics represent beauty, the beauty and magnificence of creation, is there a measurement for an objective agreement on what is truly significant to our civilisations needs?
In other words, in a world of individuals, human beings with unique experiences and environments, the idea that there is truly an artwork and something significant that all agree upon must be absurd! Surely in our modern day society of the 21st century, the response of the individual, in part, is dictated by the internet and the exposure to popular culture? My question is: does the artwork contribute to a higher ideal, one that is noble, reflecting a moment in time and history, either as a documentation or inspiration of one's surroundings?
Is the art work moving us as an individual to respond? My answer and argument is that the human condition will respond in one way or another regardless, and so, this cannot be a criterion for artistic product to be of value. So what is the criterion for the artwork to be worthy of our attention and considered a contribution to our civilisation (in the hope that it adds to the positive, creative evolution of the human species)? I can only assume that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. That is, perspective plays a great role in what an individual deems to be a valid cause and contribution. That said, how does this process work collectively on a global scale?
Our motivations into artistic practice as a musician and composer come from various sources and input. One could be motivated by ego and make choices which please the masses. One could be submissive to personal tase and use the process of making art as a commentary. One can also use the artwork as a means of documenting a moment in time as a historical narrative. On the other hand, one could be driven by economy and success in the hope of making money from a creative product. Whatever the reason, our choices do shape the art work. How can one find inspiration which leads to the best outcome and choice in this process of creating?
Surely what one is exposed to leads to familiarity, which in turns leads to a judgement and opinion in shaping our creative choice? On the other hand, there is the sub-conscious which comes from memory and the unexplored realms of imagination. In other words: the creative choice is intentional or intuitive. Either way, when one makes a choice in music-making, a direction is established and taken in the hope of completing and seeing through the outcome until the end. In other words, when an artist makes creative choices, they must decide to either abandon the journey (the composition, the improvisation, the novel, the sculpture, the painting) or see it through until the end.
The creative choice comes from ‘space’. Space is necessary for one to create. A blank manuscript with musical staves, a blank canvas for painting or drawing, a large piece of clay for moulding and so on. It all starts from nothing but space. Within that space the creative product develops and grows with boundaries. Without boundaries our choices become limitless and the chance of completing a successful artistic outcome become slim.
When we are still and find ourselves in a quiet space, as artists, one can wait on an idea: the activation of the 'muse' . From silence comes our thoughts, our imagination rumbles and exploration takes place; a world of discovery where ideas infiltrate into a conscious place on the canvas, the musical stave, or in the creation of a dance and movement. This creative process cannot possibly be planned and yet it can also be very intentional, with specific direction and purpose. Once again, it is our motivations and choices which sculpt the outcome. I would argue that both approaches are valid and necessary. At times one does not have the luxury of time to wait for a 'download' of ideas and creativity to manifest as a product. The again, there has been many a time when my best work has been developed through a marinating of ideas, almost like a subconscious, unintentional process which contributes to an outcome.
Intuition and intellect define two worlds of thought. One involves information and the other imagination. Information is gathered from verified sources such as the theory used to create a music composition. Imagination is the ability to use ones imagination and perspective to manifest a creative product such as a musical improvisation or an interpretative, musical performance. That said, intuition and intellect are a double-sided coin and is applicable in many variable circumstances.
For example, often we find Mr Spock and Captain James T. Kirk approaching a difficult scenario with an adversary, searching for solutions with very different methods. Spock thinks through the scenario logically and Kirk uses his 'gut'. As a team, they successfully manoeuvre their way through the obstacles and find a positive outcome. This approach is verified by Guy Claxton when he uses the analogy of the hare brain and the tortoise mind. The hare brain represents the ability to think on one's feet, in the moment, making a judgement and choice based on information, past experiences and stored memory. The tortoise mind on the other hand represents the ability to allow one's thoughts to settle and find clarity and a solution when it 'emerges' at a given point in time.
Another aspect to the creative process is 'tangibles' versus 'intangibles' or the 'physical' versus the 'metaphysical'. In other words, a tangible and physical property represents a fact and a source of information, it is a result of conscious processing to problem-solve and verify. The intangible and metaphysical property is is a result of process which may be considered 'mysterious', it stems from our imagination and subconscious, based life experiences . These two avenues are both valid and applicable to the creative process in music-making. By using the theory of music: melody, harmony, and rhythm, one can 'create' within a form. On the other hand, by using one's imagination, one can create within a form something which represents and implies theoretical melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic devices. In other words, language can be used to communicate, and through communication language can be created.
When one is creating in a musical environment there are four options one can explore: improvising, composing, arranging, and performance of a musical score. There are common factors which co exist within this sphere: intention, interpretation, and the manner in which our time is used. With intention one can investigate developing an idea or exploring someone else's perceptions. With interpretation it is our own perception on the creative product. Regarding time and the manner in which it is used, this refers to how a creative product is developed. In other words, is it a spontaneous creation in the moment or is it developed over a period of time?
When one is unfamiliar with a subject one needs to research and be diligent in one's preparation before giving a presentation. On the other hand, when one is familiar with a subject, less preparation is required for presentation. These two perspectives represent a duality which exists in the creative process. It is a representation and analogy for imagination and information as necessary sources in the context of the creative act and product.
One never really knows when inspiration and imaginative properties start to 'kick in', allowing for the jump start of a composition or improvisational performance. The process is a mystery. A mystery because no matter how much knowledge one acquires, the cycle never really ends. By seeking knowledge one may have further understanding based on fact but until such time as that information is put into practice, the new acquisition remains dormant. Only when the new information is used as application, can one start to see new perspective whilst the learning process takes place, thus adding to the creative exploration.
Exploration leads to the topic of aesthetics and vice versa: does one find a taste for something, recognising its beauty and significance to our overall creative satisfaction whilst one's creativity is evolving as either practice or product? What is it that attracts an individuals' attention to a particular idea or perspective, generated in an artistic product? Surely this is a significant point in the input into our own practice as music performers and composers?
Our ideal musical product, either as a composition, improvisation, arrangement, or performance comes from our own expectations based on the selective and collective input of musical influences and experiences one has had, drawn from memory. This process maybe intuitive or intentional but it remains subjective in the form of “choice”.
Our choices shape our aesthetical expectations in the creative process and vice versa. Where do these choices come from both as a creative act and as an expectation? Surely input has a big part to play? For example, if all I am exposed to is medieval music or painting then I learn to develop an appreciation and familiarity for that subject. This example is not to belittle artworks and music from this period in time but to demonstrate a point. What one is exposed to shapes one’s character.