A C 0 N T E M P 0 R A R Y V I E W

LECTURE: Creativity and The Artist
BY GREG WATERS
COMPOSER

 

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Creativity and The Artist


By Greg Waters

Listening to "good' music is more difficult than most people are willing to admit, and this can include professional musicians of high caliber, This conclusion comes from my experience in listening to myself and others.

In saying that professional musicians also may have a listening problem, I mean to say that many of them are trained and gifted interpreters and may only have a passing knowledge of chord progressions, harmony, etc. After the performance of a new piece of music it is absolutely amazing how many points of view members of the audience will express to the merit of the work.

Although one's reaction to a piece of music will depend largely on native instinct, background, training and experience, it is my belief that all the varying points of view, ranging from exclamations of grotesque! to masterpiece! constitute a problem in themselves.

I think that greater unity in music appreciation would be attained
if music lovers took as their point of reference the great classics, The works of the great Masters of music should be our initial guideline; for, through much labor and suffering, they have given us the inner ear to help us determine the quality of a new artistic experience so that we will not be deceived by pseudo-music,

Good music is here to uplift our hearts and bring us closer to the mystery and grandeur of life. The good musician is here to explain the mystery to us, He is to be our substitute for nature, His music is meant to bring us closer to ourselves and others which, in this modern, technological age seems to be much needed. Of course, to really say anything of immediate importance about music is to compose and perform it.

It is my opinion that a composer must first be able to play an instrument at the professional level, otherwise he will not be sufficiently aware of the player's problems of performance, Performing the compositions of the Masters brings us into their inner force which explains itself, Ultimately the artist decides what is real and the audience must decide if the quality of the work merits their appreciation, When the soul of the artist unites with that of the audience, the artistic purpose for that moment is fulfilled.

Improvisation, as in all music, deals with the relationship of musical units with transitions to sustain interest, The improviser must at least have a general idea of what he is trying to say before he begins to play. The improvising of performed musical ideas can turn into the most inspired of music. The improviser must have mastered the techniques of his instrument, also he must be able to overcome musical obstacles such as intonation, phrasing, rhythm, timings, style and musical content, All these obstacles are individually a complete subject and require much study and understanding from the artist.

I think that musical problems will generally not be solved unless the artist has come to terms with life and his social relations to it. His energy must constantly be directed into endeavor to develop his own personal musical vocabulary. (The musical vocabulary is an "intuitive comprehension' which develops as the understanding of the artist develops,) The artist mat ever demonstrate his own particular design of personal development. He should become more aware of his strong and weak potentialities, the limitations within the structure of music, and those of the physical possibilities of his instruments.
 

Listening to improvisation is particularly difficult because the composition is being formed for the first time as it goes along, and no one knows for sure were it is going.

This demands that the audience be as open and flexible as possible. I personally disapprove of good musicians improvising who have not studied the art for a number of years. Some modern composers have written improvised symphony scores which have turned out to be invalid as works of art in the "technical, sense, because most symphony musicians are incapable of improvising as artists, not having closely studied the subject.

I think that the improviser must be able to play all musical style as well as having an harmonic and compositional understanding of music history and human nature. The valid innovator must have an historic comprehension of his particular role in the ensemble otherwise he will not be able to free himself from past tradition, so important to self-identity.

When I improvise I try to express a sense of purity which could be described as a unity of isolation outside of isolation itself, I become very passive, I let the music control me in a sort of subconscious way, However, when I feel that the music is going in the wrong direction I try to move it back to its natural flow within the whole design.

It is extremely important that all the musicians in an ensemble performing free-from music be excellent improvisers, If they are not it will be impossible for the improvising composer to bring them back to the rational order, once the initial direction of the piece has been lost, This could only result in an unsatisfactory ending of the work,

Improvisation is a form of controlled wandering from scale to scale, intervallic relationships, to melody, forming continuity into a larger, more coherent structure or it may be just simple repetition, It may even happen that the notes will seem to take on an identity of their own and carry me along with them, in which case I may end up with something that is harmonically unthinkable, I look upon every performance as a new experience teaching me by trial and error what is right and what is wrong as well as in a chordal sense.

he immediate comprehension of a new work of art is not in itself important as long as the work is enjoyed through, the feelings and sensing abilities, The technical understanding can come later after much listening to this style of music, The improviser is free to follow his own design, However, if he chooses to go beyond the laws of esthetic judgment, earlier defined as those set for us by the great Masters (I must emphasize that I mean esthetic and not theoretical), then there could be reason to doubt the validity of a work. The validity of a work of art stems from the high standards of esthetic judgment and personal demands that the artist has achieved.

To doubt the validity of a work is natural and valid provided the doubt does not stem from personal and egotistical opinions, which admittedly we all have to a certain extent, But not to have personal and egotistical opinions is a tremendous achievement in itself.

This is the triumph of consideration and understanding that the musician must have to be an artist and which the audience must have to develop a deep understanding and appreciation of music especially new music, Without the compassion, consideration and understanding of others it is impossible for us to survive as spiritual beings because absolute loneliness is absolute hopelessness.

Tonight we will hear a fantasia, which I hope will clarify some of what I have said so far, Fantasia means literally a 'fancy', a word which in itself is suggestive of extemporization, It depends on the natural improvised development of its design to bring out the full musical expression inherent in it, The tools which the musician uses can include any of the developments in music history.

In my compositions this evening, I hope that you All hear some of these harmonic developments, No music is valid unless it contains tension and release, Hence no composition is valid as a work of art (a force for good) unless it contains tension and release. The conscious use of these forces enables the listener to feel that he is an integral part of the creative process. To create tension and release the musician uses figure, motive, semi-phrase, cadence, phrase, irregular phrases, extensions, sectional periods (song forms), rondo forms, variations, etc.,

Form in music helps lead the listener into the living reality of the creative process.
Because of the abstract nature of music it is in this art, non like painting and literature music is abstract expression which makes it possible to give it any meaning we chose or no meaning at all.

I sincerely believe that the great musician contributes his creations to the Absolute Creation that created the universe itself. All great art is the highest expression of the Good as opposed to the Evil in the world, Music helps us to free ourselves from dogma and to recognize the essential spiritual unity of all mankind.
 
 
 

Tension and release in music, I think, is a sublimated form of the emotional struggles and conflicts that constantly pull us this way and that --- love and hate, excitement and repose, calamity and contentment, disaster and well-being,
We should realize that in spite of the obstacles that lie between us and our goals as musicians, we have in our hands a sacred trust, Therefore we should not cease to strive for and to maintain high standards of composition and performance, consistent with our individual talents and limitations.

The closest we should ever allow ourselves to come to the evil of cynicism is passionate skepticism, When Christ suffered little children to come onto Him, He meant only that we should strive to be humble and open, so that new ideas can keep our feelings and sensing abilities in excellent health, By humble I do not mean that we should ever lower the high standards which we have set for ourselves, even in the face of hostility or financial difficulties.

We must encourage other musicians to strive for higher standards by example. By example I do not mean only in practice or study, but also by our life style,
When a man stands in the wilderness, face to face with the awesome grandeur of nature and the universe, he feels humbled, realizing that it is all beyond his understanding, The true artist carries this feeling and insight with him always as a constant awareness. This is what I mean by the word humble. Once we have an understanding of the creative process it is of the utmost importance that we use it to bring joy to other human beings.

Like the musician and his audience it is a matter of giving and receiving. When this giving and receiving begins to perpetuate itself the artist becomes like a flowing river, culminating in a vast sea of creation, This, I think, is why men like Bach and Beethoven and others are able to produce such power and majesty in their working.

This power and majesty comes from their ability to constructively assimilate the whole of life around them, and from their struggle to achieve the virtuous spirit,
We should always try to maintain a balance between intellectual and spiritual development, No amount of intelligence will produce the creative personality without this balance,

The act of creation can be very difficult, bringing anxiety and
tension, but if we remember that the phenomenon of birth brings joy as well as tensions we shall carry on.

There is always a price to be paid for the achievement of any excellence,
 
 
 

Finally, I would like to make a few remarks apropos of my previous reference to "pseudo-music." We must remember that music is a powerful world of the emotions, This gives musicians the great responsibility of maintaining high standards, The quality of the music will determine the quality of the emotional reaction. If the music has power, majesty, gentleness and great beauty it will invoke in us beautiful emotional reactions such as compassion, love and respect for the sanctity of life--it will never activate in us the passions of violence, hate and hysteria. It will never leave us feeling nervous and empty.

Of course, all the problems of improvisation, creativity and the artist cannot be discussed in a paper of this length, but it is my fervent hope that I have given my readers an outline of my thoughts on the creative process. If I have succeeded,  through this paper and music, to open a new direction or attitude in your interest in the creative process. May we protect our children from the power of control by the people who are not educated to control.
 
 

Greg Waters Music  greg@cmporg.org

Greg Waters All Rights Reserved
2003