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Music As Creative Juice: What’s Your Pleasure?

September 9th, 2009 2 comments
Jackson Pollock - Autumn Rhythm (number 30), 1950

Jackson Pollock - Autumn Rhythm (number 30), 1950

When I was a teenager, my father once punished me by taking my stereo away because I wasn’t meeting certain academic expectations. I think it was by far, the worst punishment I received. I could be grounded or anything else, but to be without music was like being without light… or water. Thank God for music. I don’t mean to sound trite or to make an inane remark, but I think it’s worth noting what an effect and impact music has on the creativity of others. Now that we have passed another Labor Day, so marks the unofficial end of summer, and with fall comes different flavors and smells, somber colors, different pastimes, and a different spin on creativity. And while even the music we listen to might change somewhat with the seasons, our need for the inspiration and comfort it lends, does not. From Jackson Pollock to Paul Thomas Anderson, Creative Beasts of all kinds have been and will continue to be driven and influenced by the power of music.

I would also like to once again note the cyclical nature of creativity, and in turn; pause for a moment to consider how Creative Beasts need and affect one another. Art in any form and at any level is something that stimulates us and inspires us–an idea–a spark–a birth… created by an individual. It seems that many artists and/or scientists are multi-talented and explore their creativity in multiple facets; for example, a singer-songwriter who also paints, such as John Mellencamp, or a scientist who draws and paints, like Leonardo Da Vinci–or is it the other way around? You get my point. Creative minds are excited by ideas, by freshness, by wonderment and discovery, and by the ability to bring something that encompasses these things to fruition–and to experience the creations of others. That said, it makes sense that many creative types have multiple areas of focus, and multiple passions in their lives. Music makes order out of chaos–even chaotic music. It combines sound and rhythm with thought and puts it in a frame to create a structure. I know that music has a tremendous impact on me and my creativity. I can’t imagine my life without it.

Jackson Pollock was heralded as the leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement in art and pioneered what became known as “action painting.” It’s a well known fact that his art was largely influence by the modern jazz music of his day, which seems to make perfect sense when you view his work; especially in person. He was particularly a big fan of Charlie Parker’s and Dizzie Gillespie’s, but in general, loved rocking–and painting to bebop. Listen to this gorgeous piece titled Autumn in New York by The Bird, himself; Mr. Charlie Parker. Perhaps it had a hand in the outcome of Pollock’s piece shown above.

Additionally, and throughout the history of cinema, great directors are naturally influenced by music, and are keenly aware of just how intrinsically it becomes part of the art which is film. A few of my favorites include Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and last but definitely not least, Paul Thomas Anderson, who states that he indeed, “writes to music.” He freely admits that the screenplay for Magnolia could be called “an adaptation of Aimee Mann songs.” The film is among my favorites, dark as it may be; and is absolutely brilliantly crafted–and so, might I add–is the music. The following quote from Anderson is taken from the introduction of the shooting script for Magnolia.

The connection of writing “from the gut” and “writing to music” cannot be found any clearer than in the “Wise Up” section of the screenplay. I had reached the end of Earl’s monologue and was searching for a little vibe–I wrote as I listened–and the most natural course of action was that everyone should sing– sing how they feel. In the most good old-fashioned Hollywood Musical Way, each character, and the writer, began singing how they felt. This is one of those things that just happens, and I was either too stupid or not scared enough to hit “delete” once done. Next thing you know, you’re filming it. And I’m Really Happy That It Happened.

Here’s that amazing scene [WARNING: This scene contains adult situations]:

Here, Scorsese takes a very different approach by using the cheery 60s sound of The Crystals, followed by Scottish artist, Donovan’s trippy Atlantis, and juxtaposes the music with a disturbingly violent portrayal of Tommy, played by Joe Pesci [WARNING: This scene contains adult language and graphic violence]:

David Lynch writes in his book, Catching the Big Fish,

The music has to marry with the picture and enhance it. You can’t just lob something in and think it’s going to work, even if it’s one of your all-time favorite songs. That piece of music may have nothing to do with the scene. When it marries, you can feel it. The thing jumps; a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” kind of thing can happen.

Here is a shining example of how David Lynch “marries” music with cinema:

So. How does music affect you? And your creativity? What are your influences? Where do you get turned on to new music? Do you have a theme song (And yes, I stole that notion from a scene from the cheesy old show, Ally McBeal, in which Dr. Tracy Clark demands that Ally choose a theme song for herself. What can I say? It stuck with me, and I must give credit where it is due)? My theme song changes, but I think for now, it is Passion Pit‘s Moth’s Wings (is it just me, or does Michael Angelakos remind you of Peter Gabriel?), which I first heard on 88.9 Radio Milwaukee. I can’t think of a better song to lead us into fall.

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Keep Going. There is beauty yet to come.

July 8th, 2009 1 comment


This blog goes out to my very dear friend, whom I will simply refer to as “Super-T,” who moves and grooves with the dexterity of a lizard, and who sometimes forgets, but he is also the most tater-bob dude that ever existed.

A few days ago, I had the privilege to spend time with another dear friend of mine, Adam–a brilliant artist and graphic designer, and a true Creative Beast. Talking with him inspired me and gave me encouragement.

I begin this post by saying that some friendships are real gifts. And I suppose it is ironic, but I now know it to be true that sometimes what can seem to be the toughest, most challenging friendships of our lives are also sometimes some of the deepest and richest ones–in addition to being the ones that teach us the most valuable lessons. It hearkens the saying that it isn’t the destinations that make us who we are, but the journeys that we make to reach them. Certain journeys–and life changing events–can sometimes crush us… and sometimes they can save us.

I love my friends. I don’t always get to tell them how much the things they do and say–whether they are big or small–matter to me. Sometimes simply possessing the ability to make someone laugh or smile… the ability to evoke–can have a tremendously earth shaking effect. I have said this before, but I’ll say it again: Creative Beasts are powerful, brilliant souls. They tend to be very intense, even if it’s in a very quiet sort of way, but they can also be extremely fragile. This knowledge can be heavy. In our creative circles, we all likely know someone, or perhaps even several people whose intensity is at times, a great joy to come into contact with, and at other times, it’s saddening or maddening. For me, it seems like it’s just about everyone I know. Why? Just lucky, I guess (and if you are one of these people, do me a favor–relax. I’m kidding… sort of. Try not to take yourself so seriously). It’s the agony and the ecstasy. Three of my creative friends have committed suicide, all within the last ten years. First was Dave; a brilliant filmmaker/director who taught me that animators are among the most patient people on the planet… usually. Then there was Jen; a great, beautiful, quiet and quick-witted writer whose wonderful sense of humor was matched by her generous and gracious spirit. Just one year later in November of 2008, I lost my friend, Brian, who was an amazingly gifted photographer, a fantastic cook, and just wickedly sharp in countless ways. Each and every one them had an energy–an intensity–that could fill any room. That said, you can imagine how the loss of each person reverberated. I wish there was something I could have done or said that would have kept each one from doing what they did. I think maybe this is what I would have said: “You have truly lived. You have done great things, and you have experienced great things. And you have touched a lot of lives. Do you really believe that this is it? That there is no more beauty yet to come? If so, you are wrong. Stick around a while. Keep at it. See what happens.”

Creativity doesn’t always flow the way we want it to. Sometimes we feel stuck, and it’s frustrating. Roadblocks are common. David Lynch addresses this issue in his book, Catching The Big Fish. He writes, “If you want to catch the little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.” I agree with him. Another factor in the concept of catching these big fish is having creative circles–pools, if you will, in which you may freely express yourself, bounce ideas off of others, and then build on your concepts. No one person is an island, and as it is with anything else, thoughts and expressions that are exchanged freely can exist harmoniously and in a symbiotic manner, like the ebb and flow of the tides. The sharing of ideas allows creativity, itself, to become larger and richer, like a beautiful tapestry. When there is a greater opportunity to draw from a more vibrant lexicon, creative thinkers naturally put that knowledge into everything they do. When we keep things to ourselves out of fear of loss or perhaps rejection, we risk stagnation and even collapse. Even when times are difficult, and perhaps especially when times are difficult, it is better to share and connect with others. We see this example again and again made by successful people throughout history. One example that comes to mind is advertising great, David Ogilvy. He went against the grain and leapt ahead of his competitors by insisting that indeed; you must literally give away your trade secrets to win clients. His peers thought he was crazy, and maybe he was… crazy, like a fox. He was right. His ideas worked, and he made history.

Now David Ogilvy is dead and gone, and some of today’s ad geeks giggle and scoff at his ideas, but I think there isn’t one among them who wouldn’t give their eye teeth to reach the peaks that he did. Genius, as it turns out, is pretty timeless. And it takes bravery–and faith–to be creative. Some people might tell you you’re great, and some might tell you you suck… or that you are crazy. It’s not always easy to push forward, and for whatever reason, it’s sometimes easier to accept defeat or criticism, than it is to accept success and praise. If you have any desire to create, or to see an idea come to fruition, keep going with it. If it’s a passion within you, keep that fire burning. There is a reason for it. You must believe that.

Do you realize that time goes fast?
It’s hard to make the good things last
Do you realize the sun doesn’t go down?
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

–The Flaming Lips

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Thank you, David Lynch.

June 5th, 2009 No comments
David Lynch - self portrait

David Lynch - self portrait

I’m not a gusher. I tend to find gushing unappealing. But if and when I meet you, I shall ask you if I may give you a hug. Thank you for writing, Catching the Big Fish. I felt as if it were written directly to me as I was reading, and I couldn’t put it down. It made me feel like I can really make movies, and that it doesn’t simply have to be a dream. Thank you for all of the personal insights and advice on craft. You help to simplify many things that at times, can seem arduous and daunting.

I like what you have to say about heroes, and that Kubrick was/is one of yours. I’m glad that Eraserhead was his favorite film (congratulations). I can only imagine how fun it must have been to receive that news. He is one of my heroes, too. So are you. Some people say that you shouldn’t have heroes, but I disagree. One just needs to keep in mind that we’re all human, and yet we can each be a hero to someone at some point.

I started learning about Vedic Wisdom and synchrodestiny a couple of years ago, but I have just recently begun to practice meditation, thanks to having read your book. Some may find it interesting, however; that had I not read works of Dr. Deepak Chopra and attended his lecture this last winter, I may have not been inclined to pick up your book on the table at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, despite the attractive cover, and despite that I am a fan of your work and a lover of film. It just shows that once you begin to increase your awareness, you can’t help but to be more aware of the opportunities–what many of us think of as coincidences–that we are presented with. Every day we are changing, and that in and of itself, is an opportunity. Anyhow, thanks, once again for your compassion, and for helping to expand my vision.

Best,

Trish Hundhausen

p.s. You said, “The woods for a child are magical.” The woods are magical for adults, too, but I’m sure you know this. I just recently rediscovered how magical they can be.

Moss covered log at Whitnall Park; Hales Corners, WI.

Moss covered log at Whitnall Park; Hales Corners, WI.

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Creative Moments, Shiny Baubles and Mushroom Hunting.

May 21st, 2009 4 comments
<i>Marcel in ecstasy... or something like it.</i>

Marcel (a beast) in ecstasy... or something like it.

Creative moments are fleeting. They come in glimpses like fireflies on a warm summer’s night. They are beautiful, magical and fragile. When you hold them too closely, the light goes out, and the magic is gone.

<i>Fireflies.</i>

Fireflies.

I think creative types sometimes spend so much time searching for the shiniest bauble that they fail to see the ones that roll right up to their toes. Many artists are addicted to extremes… to the edges of things, because indeed; these are the places to which others seldom venture, and therefore they abound with splendid secrets and answers to questions most dare not even ask–or so it would seem. However. Extreme existences can be extremely exhausting, going from agony to ecstasy to agony, and very little in between. Furthermore, it may very well be a waste of creative energy.

By paying closer attention to the subtleties and nuances of daily life, it may be possible to experience an even greater level of awareness and overall personal fulfillment. It requires patience, discipline, focus, openness and concentration. These are things I’m working on wrapping my head around in order to achieve a greater sense of passion and fulfillment.

Recently, I parted ways with a job that as it turned out, wasn’t a great fit for either party. I was looking for a role that offered more creativity as a copywriter, and eventually it became like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And this square peg is here to say that when you keep trying to wear down your own edges to fit into a particular mold, not only is it counter productive; it’s downright painful. The lesson here for Creative Beasts is A) try to avoid these situations whenever possible, and B) if people aren’t buying your brand of honey, find somebody else who gets and appreciates its value. Artists get paid when they meet/find their market. That is appreciation, and from that comes gratification.

While the initial parting of ways was a bit sad for me at first, I soon realized that it may have been the best thing that could have happened. Now I have the chance to leap headlong into new creative endeavors, and see where they lead… writing, painting and filmmaking projects await. Passions are reborn.

Aside from that, I have since discovered a new passion which is morel hunting. For those who are unfamiliar, morels are exquisite mushrooms that grow only in the wild, and only in the spring for a period of 2-3 weeks. They look a bit like a piece of coral on a stalk, and they are perfectly delicious and altogether magical. They grow in the woods when everything is just coming back to life. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of seeking out this magnificent edible is the chance to witness nature in all its splendorous glory. Then there is finding the morels, which, incidentally, has turned out to be a wonderful metaphor for my current place in my creative path. Sometimes you look and look and you find little or nothing. Then, you cross a road or a stream, and there they are. You may not see them at first. They are elusive and well-camouflaged. But as you squat down, and look hard and close to the ground, suddenly, they start to appear right in front of you. And it is amazing.

Morel magic.

Morel magic.

If concepts like synchronicity, syncrodestiny and pursuit of passion ring true with you, I recommend checking out the following books/authors:

Deepak Chopra

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

Malcomb Gladwell

Outliers

Blink

The Tipping Point

Sally Hogshead

Radical Careering

David Lynch

Catching the Big Fish

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