Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dancing to architecture

Thelonius Monk said: "Writing about jazz is like dancing to architecture." (although I have also seen a more general variation of the quote attributed to Laurie Anderson). The remark probably doesn't stand up to rigorous scrutiny and may, indeed, be simply a form of passive aggression. But I like the juxtaposition of thought - expressing a simple idea in a syncopated fashion - and for that reason, and the fact that he predated Anderson, I prefer the attribution to Monk.

It has got me thinking about the very idea of writing about creativity. Is there much point? Surely it is better to be creative than to dissect the creativity of others. After all, dissection, normally involves the death of the subject.

Perhaps the answer lies in the discussion of innovation - or the application of creativity - rather than the mysterious processes that result in invention.

There are some who seek to codify creativity and democratise the concept. But creativity isn't a concept, an added extra that some humans have or have in greater measure than others. It is a default. Like breathing. All of us can breathe. Some, like Lance Armstrong or Umberto Pelizzari, the great freediving champion, have conformed their breath to a peculiar discipline. I get puffed climbing a flight of stairs.

Likewise, whereas you or I might look at a block of marble in its native state and see, well, a lump of rock or a garden feature…Michelangelo would see the form of a snorting horse waiting to be released, a builder might see a terrazzo floor. The harnessing of the fundamental human characteristic to view the world from the perspective of our experience and memories is the simple act of creativity, to combine two different things into somthing new (marble + training in equine carving = horse statue). Not necessarily something wildly original, but something that serves us in the moment.

There are people who don't apply their human potential to make useful combinations very often or with much vigour - they are simply beings - content like cows at pasture. But others are more restless. Their dissatisfaction with the way things are results in new tools, and new expressions. Unlike members of democracies who do not excercise their franchise the innovators add value to society.

That is worth talking about, adding value. Creativity, its raw material should, perhaps, be encouraged and tolerated, but ultimately mysterious. Like the why of jazz.



Think Different



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