Monday, April 30, 2012

How To Be A Creative Genius

Projects have been winding up slowly, with me attempting to direct Gladiator-esque fight scenes on primary school playgrounds and helping a load of freezing, soaked to the bone, Union Jack-waving kids sing for the Queen at the opening of the Cutty Sark. All this experience helps greatly when you’re asked to lead 500 intellectuals in song at The School of Life’s Sunday Service: this month, with Jonah Lehrer giving a talk on creativity and genius, I was asked to help them with the cockney music hall-style number, There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards by Ian Dury and The Blockheads, ably assisted by Andy on bass. Hilarious!

Jonah’s talk (he also popped up on Radio 4’s Start The Week this morning) was great and was something of a highbrow talking-to for me, who like I’m sure so many creative freelancers, nay, so many people in general, find it hard to get my act together and spend most of the time searching for something to watch on iPlayer or suddenly deciding to clean the window handles. The answers to being a creative genius are, according very sensibly to Jonah in his four-point plan:
  • INSIGHT – gain insight by NOT TRYING to do the thing you’re supposed to be doing. Find that spark by going for a walk, having a swim, taking a shower etc
  • GRIT – make sure that the thing you’re doing (in my case being a musician) is what you really, really want in life and you’ll keep doing it even when you fail
  • KNOWING – knowing instinctively that the answer/sound/response you’ve suddenly hit on is the right one. You don’t know how, or why, you just KNOW it’s right
  • BE AROUND LIKE-MINDED OTHERS – live in the city, surrounded by like-minded individuals; some of the best ideas come either from the smashing together of more than one imagination or just by contact with other Human Beings, preferably electro-swing DJs-cum-pop-up-flat-white-boutique/gallery/retro video shop owners in E5 (ok, he didn’t say that bit, but that’s what I imagine)
The one key thing I disagreed on with Jonah, however, was his insistence that Bob Dylan is a genius, and using this as a key example, meaning Andy and I somehow had to find something musical to do with 'Like A Rolling Stone'. Urgh! Jonah, everyone in the world agrees that Beethoven and Shakespeare were both mad clever/inspired/creative, but opening your talk with a story about a man who honked for a living is not so good. Mind you, at least Bob found his calling later in life as a gravelly, surrealist DJ with excellent taste in retro Americana in his Theme Time Radio Hour later in life... Here's a live cartoonist's take on the lecture!
Obviously right now I should be finishing the third movement of my piece for recorder quintet Consortium 5 but am adhering to the first point by NOT TRYING and instead writing this in a nice café on Avery Row. Ahem.

Nonclassical had their second big night last week at XOYO, an every-three-month affair which stages bigger, classic modernist-repertoire-led shindigs than their monthly slot can allow. This time, the place heaved to Penderecki's Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima, where 52 string players squeezed in to play the angry, aching, scraping work, excellently conducted by Chris Stark, and with occasional complementary squeaks from the door of the Ladies' (which is not, of course, to say that contempo music is all squeaky public toilet door sounds: see Tom Service's blog on such matters!). I was along, with co-juicette Sarah, to sing in a single-voice version of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, which I'd jumped at the chance of, not singing in much choral stuff these days. It was a close to the wire performance for sure, but was great to do and I think came across well. Xenakis' Peaux from Pleiades, for 6 players on 44 drums worked best in the space, with its opening thumping pulse springing nicely off the back of the preceding housey beats from the DJ; it was fun to watch three office girls, who'd just been dancing around swinging their jackets round their heads, getting into (and out of time with) the transgressive beats. So another brilliant evening, packed to the gills with a mix of artmusic heads, students and straying clubbers, all scintillated by astonishing live sounds and (mostly) wicked DJ sets; I already can't wait for the next one...

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