Monday, August 29, 2011

On genius and perfection

My first guest post is by Jeri Lynne Johnson, Founder and Music Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia. Please join me in gratitude for her contribution by commenting and sharing.

Arthur Koestler an early 20th century British novelist, journalist and critic said “The principle mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.”

Criticism is a vital phase of the creative process. It helps us analyze our mistakes, identify areas for improvement and refine our process to better bring our inspirations into reality. But for musicians and artists pursuing something new and different, criticism of the work into which they have poured so much of themselves can be especially painful. Negative, unhelpful opinions from people who cannot understand or are threatened by anything new and different can bring visionaries soaring on the wings of inspiration crashing back down to earth. As artists we eventually learn to shrug off or shut out external criticism and many even regard a growing number of what the modern vernacular terms “haters” as a sign of true genius and often use this to fuel their creative fires.

Unfortunately, however, we are sometimes our own worst critics. When the criticism comes from within, when we cannot externalize and therefore dismiss criticism as jealousy or fear from other people, when criticism stems from internal insecurities, habitual thinking or ingrained attitudes, it clips the artists’ wings so that they cannot even get off the ground, let alone soar. This kind of criticism stymies inspiration and can even become so destructive that it consumes the creative process destroying it entirely. For many frustrated artists, what lies behind this cancerous form of criticism is the pursuit of perfection. Perfection is static -- an impossible concept that connotes completion, totality, finality. Whereas creation is dynamic -- artists striving with new ideas, thriving in the potential and kinetic energies that make this world go around. As long as something is in motion, it cannot be perfect because it is moving toward something. So I agree with Koestler and feel that creative dynamism is truly at the heart of a genius. For in using healthy criticism to fully realize her dreams, the true genius does not seek a perfect end to her struggles, but the opportunity to realize bigger and more beautiful new dreams.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Media updates

Lots of media goings-on these long summer days. I'm anticipating the arrival of raw footage from Percussing Difference back in March... on DV tape. Uhm, how to convert to digital...?

Network for New Music will be releasing the first of my five shorts on their website any day now. I have to admit I was never happy with the last of the series, but I'll take it Balinese temple style and let it be a work-in-progress, as is the world.

My visit in San Francisco is three-quarters done, and I'm as satisfied as I could hope to be. On Monday August 22nd (subject to change) I will be hosting a public Theatre of the Oppressed session in Berkeley. Doodle for a date here:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review of Makeout Room free first Monday

A friend had a rendezvous at The Makeout Room in the Mission District, SF last night and I went to a show. There were three sets.

Will Redmond, guitar
Rob Pumpelly, drums

Phillip Greenlief,alto saxophone
John Shiurba, guitar
Tom Scandura, drums

Kjell Nordeson - Aram Shelton Duo

I missed most of the first, but heard way too loud though interesting electric guitar improv. I stayed on the sidewalk, listening to the second set. I forgot noise concerts require earplugs. But these guys played the kind of noise influenced by progressive rock and jazz and who knows what contemporary explorations that kept me bouncing and savoring. I'd been in a critical, depressed head space walking to the show, so it really picked me up. I caught Tom afterward and demanded to be emailed as soon as PG13 puts out a CD. We'll see if those guys get it together.

After the first set they shut the bottom half of the bar door and I noticed when someone pushed it open, it freed lower fundamentals in lazy swings.

The last set was dreamy. The sax player said at the end of their first piece "I thought everyone had left. My eyes were closed... I heard something and thought they were stacking chairs." I actually got to sit and watch this set because it was unamplified. There were several moments the extended drum set got too loud for comfort, but they always passed with sensitive use of dynamics and textures. The drummer used hands, toy bongos, and cymbal on snare; the sax (alto and tenor alternating) traded long, long solos of fluttering runs, polyphonics, and breathy trills. The audience around the stage area listened with rapt attention, and cheered appreciatively. Near the front of the bar was constant conversation, which sometimes drifted over during the quietest moments. I appreciate that. I itched to jam with them.

Anything eccentric in the Mission attracts the white hipster, etc. crowd. Across the street a cafe had a student piano sextet playing Schubert, which created a glut of foot traffic. But it's satisfying to find a casually social audience for this kind of music, loud enough to compete with punk, tastefully complex enough for a classical tradition stage.

The calendar for noise style shows is the Bay Improviser.