The Creative Process – The artist emerges
A GOOD EDUCATION AND LEARNING TO THROW IT OFF
We learn and learn and learn. We practice and practice and practice. And then we create something that looks or sounds like what we learned and practiced. Great. The result can, however, be boring, something that has been done and is not all that interesting.
We are surrounded all our lives with expected and acceptable music and art, items that are well crafted and comfortable to live with. We call it great art when someone with complete mastery of their instrument / brush / pen freely explores a new place. What distinguishes jazz from other forms of music is the expectation that we will be witnessing a unique event. Artists are free to improvise and to stray from the expected. When they do we shout, “Bravo”. The creative process starts after we have learned and practiced and have gained the tools. After the hard work is done we are free to create something new.
We are comfortable with this as it reflects life. As much as we prepare and as much instruction as we get, we have to be nimble and improvise as life throws obstacles in our way.
A formal education isn’t required for an individual to live a creative life.
Here are some examples of creative types who were mentored by some of the best in their field, studied hard and then threw off all their restraints.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
Frank Lloyd Wright as far as we can tell never finished high school or college but learned his trade as a draftsman and apprentice with architectural firms in Chicago.
He put a lot of time and serious thought into his craft before he found his voice. He wasn’t satisfied to simply replicate the designs of his teachers and mentors. He looked around and founded the “prairie style” which reflected Chicago’s surrounding landscape. He called this ” organic architecture”. He said ” Study nature, love nature,stay close to nature…it will never fail you.” He took a chance when he ventured into new paths with his clients. Thanks, Frank, for taking the risk.
Here are two of my favorite quotes of F.L.W. that defined his approach.
“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.”
“The truth is more important than facts.”
Lois had a rough start and a strong finish to his life. Born in poverty and abandoned by his parents he was schooled in music by a long string of mentors in New Orleans.
He started working at a very young age to support his family, singing on street corners for pennies, working on a junk wagon, cleaning graves for tips, and selling coal. His travels around the city introduced him to all kinds of music, from the blues played in the Storyville honky tonks to the brass bands accompanying the New Orleans parades and funerals. The music that surrounded him was a great source of inspiration.
Joe “King” Oliver, a member of Kid Ory’s band and one of the finest trumpet players around, became Armstrong’s mentor. When Oliver moved to Chicago, Armstrong took his place in Kid Ory’s band, a leading group in New Orleans at the time. This experience enabled him to play with many prominent jazz musicians and to further develop his skills, learning to read music and undertaking the responsibilities of a professional gig. Louis took these gifts and then changed the music. His phrasing and voice has had a foundational influence on jazz.
Satchmo summed it up with: “We all do do,re,mi but you have to find the other notes yourself”
This week Thornetta Davis brings her musical gifts to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Like many artists, Thornetta learned her craft by just doing it, listening to it and working hard.
At 15 she entered a local Detroit talent contest and never looked back. She had a chance to backup and lead off for many top pop, R&B, and blues acts until she found her unique voice and put her stamp on the music. The rest is blues history.
Come out to the Dirty Dog and witness what Thornetta has concocted for us. She will leave the ordinary at home.