Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Let Go

It's all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that's a lifelong quest.

David Sanborn
I used to say I reinvent the art of acting with each new role I get. It wasn't strictly true but it often felt that way. In any art form there is always a frequent return to the basics: the line, the tone , the word , the step. And every time that return happens the adventure begins again, or rather a new adventure begins.

The Bible says "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." One could say the same for any simple element in the artists hands. A beautiful piece of pottery begins with a lump of clay. A beautiful painting may begin with the mud pie of colors on the artist's palette. The creative process for humans is about turning chaos into order. It can't be done with a to do list or a template of practices. Originality is the only rule that works.

Art does not imitate life, it imitates the essence of life. It is not a reproduction of nature, it's an expression of nature itself. "Pots are fashioned from clay but it's the hollow that makes the pot work" said Lao-Tzu. A careful poet searches for the right word. An almost right word points out the door to understanding, while a right word eliminates the door. It seems to be a magical, mysterious moment when the right word is found, when the right tone is found and applied.

I knew an art student who told me this event about a day with her teacher. She was working on an abstract painting and everything on the canvas seemed to be a mess. The teacher came to look at it, took a pen from his pocket and drew a single line on the canvas then walked on. She looked and saw her whole painting come into focus. The teacher had placed a golden apple in her silver picture.

How did Mozart know to use precisely the right notes? A great piece o music not only plays but also listens. Paul Hindemith wrote a book on musical composition in which he discusses cocreation, the participation in the music by the listener. When the music is great you know it is because the right notes are heard, the logical tones, the one's you expect. The music has told you what it is and so you can go along with it making it happen as you go. A great novel unfolds in the same way.

Why does this happen? Because the creative act is germane to our human experience. We cannot survive without art any more than we can without air and water. Pathetically, there are many people who don't understand that and so suffer and make others suffer.

President Obama spoke recently about the need to improve our education facilities, especially in the fields of science, math and technology. He is absolutely right about that. But our education shouldn't stop there. It needs to include art and philosophy, two most important ingredients for understanding who we are and where we are going.

One says "I need to get through school and get into the job market, fast. I don't have time for philosophy and maybe, some day, when I've made it, I'll think about art." And so he finds himself knee deep in muddy water and doesn't know how he got there. This nation was formed by philosophy, not by religion or economics. Even Margaret Thatcher noted that about the USA. If we forget that, if we stop listening and cocreating, if we give up the lifelong quest and let go of our grasp on the ideas which make civilization, as we seem to be doing, there's only one way down.

DB - The Vagabond

(This is not a contest.)

At what event of the past do you wish you could be present? Why?

5 responses so far.


Thank you.


Ana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

One needs the sciences and the arts to be well rounded.

Lori said...

I really enjoyed this post, especially this line: "It can't be done with a to do list or a template of practices." We forget that a lot in life in general. Great post, DB!