Today we submitted our Vision Statements. Here’s mine:
The foundation of my vision is rooted in the joy of creating and sharing my own music in three principle ways:
1) Composition – sharing my scores with other musicians
2) Improvisation – in various contexts ranging from solo presentations to working with various ensembles, not necessarily of my own formation (and also creating diverse sorts of written scores for “structured improvisations”
3) Performance – leading my own ensembles in various contexts, including collaborations with artists in other disciplines
In terms of developing a unique creative “voice,” I’m primarily interested in exploring the following concepts, and the resulting intersections of these concepts:
Hybrid forms – merging jazz, especially its melodic and harmonic language, with classical (especially its myriad formal structures) and electro-acoustic music
Relationship between jazz (including hybrid genres rooted in jazz) and dance music (common in the Swing/Big Band era, for instance) – the potential of blending modern club music styles with jazz is especially appealing
Various forms of groove-based music, e.g. the idea of “riffs” (common in jazz and pop) and other music based on repetitive structures, e.g. minimalism and post-minimalism in the classical world
Integration of improvisation in genre-hybrid music.
Tradition of the performer-composer
It is vital that I continue to create a portfolio of works – scores that are transferrable to other musicians. To this end and to hone my craft, I’m currently enrolled in post-secondary music composition studies and will continue at least until I complete my Master’s degree. A secondary consideration (at this point) is the creation of an ensemble with a specific, yet flexible, instrumentation, enabling me to focus my composition efforts and prepare a body of works for public presentation, emerging first locally and gradually extending to an international audience.
In last Friday’s class we welcomed, as guest speaker, Dr. Charles Barber, Artistic Director and Conductor of City Opera Vancouver. An extremely engaging individual, Dr. Barber touched on the following points (among others):
Developing the art/skill of asking deep, probing questions
Importance of a unique vision, instead of imitating
Forging ahead without permission, seeking those with the power to say “yes” avoiding those who would likely say “no” (because of lack of power to say “yes”)
Striving for objectivity: “if nobody shows, maybe it’s crap”
Leonard Bernstein (conductor) communicating and embodying his passion
Dr. Barber’s talk prompted the following thoughts (among others!):
I thought about the importance of having (and focusing on) a passion to transmit to others, who will respond favourably (e.g. audience) or respond and behave in a similar way (e.g. collaboration). This collective energy is then transmitted to an audience.
I thought about the phenomenon of comparing “musical” performances or performers with those who are not so musical but may be technically superior. Something falls flat in such a performance, perhaps, because the musician’s passion is not being transmitted successfully (if it’s indeed there at all). An experience of such passion often transcends or obscures the technical flaws. Often, a passionate, musical performance is preferred over a technically superior one.
I was reminded of the passage in Creativity Inc. when Catmull described showing an unfinished film where the audience responded favourably and where several remarked they hadn’t noticed the flaws or omissions basically because the story-telling was effective. People were taken in by the resonance of the narrative – the emotional gravity of the piece. The emotional gravity in a good story, for example, is equivalent to or analogous to the emotional gravity of a visual art piece or a piece of music.
In the case of performance art, it is the performer’s job to transmit the emotional gravity – to embody this, if you will. A successful performer captures the emotional gravity, embodies it and transmits it to an audience. If nothing else, the receiver “gets this” – it’s a primary response at the sub-conscious level, even before people can articulate for themselves a more concret meaning.
Our first guest speaker in Creative Entrepreneurship was John Micheal Schert, a former American Ballet Theatre dancer and arts director/entrepreneur, now visiting artist and lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Business. Here’s a link to one of his YouTube talks on “The Utility of the Creative Process.”
He covered a bunch of ideas in our class. Particularly, I was (and am) interested in the ideas of “flow”; of balancing the chaotic with the structured; of letting go of the cognitive process; the integrated roles of technical rigour or mastery – especially in preparation – with the uncertainty (and accompanying variance in confidence) in creating and following intuition, especially in the moment. For me, I’ve found all of these ideas converge or find relevance in the field of improvisation, which is one of my primary passions in musical practice and discourse. Improvisation is a lifelong study and intellectual curiosity. I feel it’s one of my artistic strengths, and one that is still developing. I’m interested in how this skill might be utilized in various entrepreneurship settings, particularly on the more ‘structural’ or ‘organizational’ side of creative endeavours.
All ideas worth exploring more!
Our first assignment is to read the first three chapters of Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, the story of how Pixar came to be. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here and I will write about some of them throughout the semester. I highly recommend this book.
Am I glad to be attending an Arts school! School and creativity aren’t supposed to go hand-in-hand, are they? Well, they do for me.
Once again, in my 42 years, I’m going back to school full-time in September. As always, it brings mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. I’m excited for new info, the collaborations and creative stimulation. But can I handle the workload effectively? Am I even on the right path?
One day at a time. I had my first class on Friday morning, Creative Entrepreneurship. I think the course will be even more valuable than I thought – I’m already inspired! – and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the info here.
One of the main topics for discussion is the “life-cycle” of projects or companies. It goes something like this:
Idea – Start-up – Growth – Maturity –Decline/Turn-around – Terminal/Re-growth
As we look at the first few stages over the next couple weeks, I’ll be most interested in learning strategies to progress from the “start-up” to the “growth” phase. I’ve realized that most of my projects have failed just after the start-up. I’ve failed to keep the momentum going and, in fact, I remember several times when I already felt a little burnt out when I’d only done one show!
In thinking about what I’d most like to get out of this course, I came up with a few concerns. I’m concerned that aspects of my personality (or perceived aspects) may present challenges to my success as an artist. As much as I enjoy and even relish performing, I’m an introvert and tend to shy away from social gatherings – How can I overcome or mitigate this in the realm of networking or otherwise building professional relationships. Secondly, I enjoy being a leader when it comes to my creative vision; I’m open to relinquishing responsibility with regards to lower priorities – I feel like I’m more of an ‘ideas guy’ and less of an organizer. How can I improve in this area? Furthermore, I find it difficult to “sell myself” in spite of my confidence in my creativity. And I hate asking for favours.
Next time I’ll write about our first guest speaker. We are going to hear from a lot of interesting people throughout the semester.