Fruitful Constraints in creativity & the wall of “I don’t know this”

I wrote an article about Fruitful Constraints & Creativity in 2017. Here it is :

It’s an old tool many artists know : many constraints are fruitful. Mainly because a constraint is a problem calling for a solution, therefore you have to move, to be creative.

All jobs and activities have constraints : budget, environment, other people, time, space, your skills, your tools.

If it’s too loose, though, you feel a freedom, which can be messy. You can not catch anything. Stuck. You maybe need to tight something up, to find “your” freedom within a new frame.

Brian Eno invented the Oblique Strategies (mainly for musicians) as a card game. You pick a card and you have to obey (sometimes it’s terrible!). Some directors are well known to tell the actors to follow precisely something (the dialogs, or the places they have to move on the set, etc) before shooting. Some digital artists sometimes go out in a park with a pencil and a notebook. A photographer can go outside with the limit of 20 pictures taken, not much. And G. Perec wrote an entire book without the letter “e”.

Constraints are fruitful. You probably have many disposable levers for these. A poet can obey : write something in alexandrine; without any letter “p”, in less than 5 minutes. You may have to present a project in ONE minute only, and… with no words. What are your levers?

You can pull a lever to Zero, it’s the Total Constraint. For example, you’re a photographer and you go out without any camera. Just your eye. You’ll feel the need, you’ll feel your brain simmering. As you can only watch and… think, you’ll maybe have bursts of ideas (instead of taking pictures). Take notes!

Of course it’s an example of “Amor Fati”, being content with what happens to you, even if it seems bad. Embracing fate : every constraint, if you can’t avoid it, should (and will have to) be danced with.

 

Today I’d like to extend this. If “constraints in Arts” is a well known concept, what about life, or culture?

Obviously, it’s linked to the idea of “Comfort Zone”. Let’s take movies, or music…

If one listens to the music they love, good to them. But how do we discover other musics, in fields we’re not used to dig? We have to think, make efforts, find a way and a place, informations. Then we begin, and our brain is surrounded with constraints : we don’t necessarily feel pleasure, there are things we don’t get, and our lazy head pushes us to stop.

It’s the same for painters we don’t like, movies we usually avoid, etc.

Out of our comfort zone, we have to make efforts, we must use an amount of curiosity, we must find or draw maps. In fact, we build, we extend, we grow.

The wall of “I don’t know this” can be an obstacle. Do we skip over, making efforts and feeling the fecund constraints of the undiscovered, or do we go back to the mellowness of what we already love?

Is the real new fruitful for us? How?

If exploring is sometimes unpleasant, is it worthy to fight the unpleasantness (OK : displeasure) and why? You have to invent new tools to think? You could find pearls and emeralds and gold?

What haven’t I explored until now?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Trent Parke

Musical Genres & Gorgeousities

Musical Genres & Structures : that was a lovely title, right? I changed it though…

It came to me in the shower, thinking about my “Best Albums of 2018” researches.

  1. I found many musics, soul, rap, indie rock, folk, metal, jazz…
  2. I found many shades of complexity, from simple to fractured or dissonant.

So I can draw an orthonormal coordinate system :

  • Horizontal would be “Complexity” (fractured, dissonant, too much something (too slow, too molten))
  • Vertical would be “Pleasure”.

So it becomes a cloche, a bell, a dome.

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On the left, things like Cat Power, Wanderer. Choose anything, you’ll be “Ah, OK”. A “gorgeous” voice, some quiet melancholy, piano, etc. Predictible thus boring. And everybody LOVES her. It’s not the genre (I am very found of Vienna Teng), but the absolute no invention/no surprise. Harmonically poor. Lazy structures & production. “She is art”, I read on YouTube. MMmmmh she’s not.

On the right end of the cloche, Sophie lost me. Too dissonant, too fractured. I need more structure, even in a multi-layered complex harmonically track like this. Like in the proliferant Tim Exile‘s Family Galaxy

So what’s in the bell?

Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells makes me focus : What’s happening here? Go to 1’40”, or just listen to the intro. It’s like Science put into folk or soul. Harmonically risky (exhausting), it’s all about to lose me, but as it’s constantly snakily keeping me back into pleasure (modulations). Typical : I maybe dislike, but I wanna go back to it, and I’ll finish poisoned and in love.

Oh OK I love gorgeous soul, a bit sophisticated like Blood Orange or The Internet “Hive Mind”. It’s not risky, it’s just well done. Ah, I found this : “…is making me wanting to wear some lingerie and just dance on front of a mirror” – I’m not a girl but I understand this well. The modulation (0’40”), the bass, the production…

I kept AAL, US Girls, Let’s Eat Grandma and Mistsi… All in the cloche, not too predictable, but far from avant-garde either.

I wanted to finish this article with the idea that “I seek complexity in music”, more than simplicity, but I think that’s wrong.

I do love Annie Clark’s St Vincent, which is complex pop, but my two loves are Blonde Redhead and Röyksopp, which are skilled musicians with gorgeous harmonies. Hmmm… complex chords and modulations? Mike Oldfield, where are you?

I do prefer Bartok and Stravinsky than Mozart, and I explored the oceans of complexity of Mahler, a lot, but the composers I love most are Puccini and Brahms. It’s less complicated than Boulez, but it’s harmonically gorgeous.

It makes me think again about that : why do people love music? Energy? Lyrics? Warmth? Being in love with the singer? Virtuosity? Remembrance?

If you had to choose your best albums of 2018, what would you seek? One genre only, or one structure (like : great lyrics, big energy, danceability), which you could find anywhere?

Tool :

Choose your field : movies, books, sports. What is your coordinate system? What does it become?

Thanks for reading!

Insisting to find gossamery beauties…

Immediate pleasure when you discover some music, it’s awesome. It CLICKS with you, with what you wait, your brain is sparkling : dance, dance!

But I remember this from my young years : the albums I loved the most were not appreciated that much “at first sight”. Nahhh. I had to learn how to love them.

It happened with some avant-garde, or a bit complicated progressive rock LPs, like King Crimson or Robert Wyatt. In this case, I had to find my way with elements I already appreciated (a voice, a song from a previous album, a guitar style), then little by little, in an insisting process, I became like intoxicated by the good poison, and in final I loved the album more.

In classical music, the main problem is the level of dissonance. I struggled with Bartok, then with Webern. It’s true : “until I found my personal wall” – the place where you can not love it, for sure. Every door is closed. You may insist, but without success.

What I discovered later is : there are other walls, which cut you from “immediate pleasure”. The Continent of Complexity aspect (Proust in literature, Mahler in music), where you have to dig into. The infinite sentences of Proust, where you can lose yourself in boredom, are full of intelligence and marvels. The long symphonies of Mahler, where you have to sail many many times before you begin to detect reflects of miracles. In a way, you have to invent your own detectors…

One other wall is more tricky : when you find it’s “too simple“. I always loved the earthy magic of Brahms, but couldn’t find any pleasure (or barely) in Schumann or Schubert‘s musics, which I found boring. But then, one day, my ears became more… accurate, or sensitive, and I was able one day to find gossamery structures and colorful subtleties I never heard before. Awee.

 

Your tool today is a dial : Are we lazy? Is it because of a lack of time, or energy? In what other field could you apply your efforts? Where should you insist, to find beauty? Where is it too hard, too complicated? Where is it too simple? Where do you smile with contempt… and you should not? What are possible keys? Help from another person? Articles and books? Is this vicarious, or merely an island luxury thing?

Oh, sorry for my wobbly, strange English!

Thanks for reading!

You can also read : https://afrenchtoolbox.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/jungle-syndrome-of-mahler-proust-marx/

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Feeling the air of Waterloo & other oblique explorations…

Hey, explorer…

Choose a knowledge-field you don’t know at all, and begin to dig to find your gold. This is what you like to do, right?

Japanese cinema, French classical music, British painters of 19th Century, US Civil War – what else?

Voilà : you have your unknown territory ready. Your hungriness will do the rest. Yum!

You need help, right? A compass, a guide, a book, a web site, friends, a lecture… It’s easy to find some. Find a map. Draw your map.

What we often do is to see what’s essential. Kurosawa and Ozu for Japanese cinema. Ravel and Debussy for French musicians, etc. You read the most important books, and that’s OK. An afternoon on the web will help to find the list…

Here I propose some more oblique ways to do that.

  • Find documents against. People who dislike, or say the contrary of what it’s commonly said. I once read about the French Revolution : next to the great books I piled on my table, I put a book written by a Royalist, an historian whose motto was “Revolution : a wrong mess!”. He was a good writer, though, and I learned a lot from him – though it’s pretty rare to find this “music” in our times.
  • Explore little branches of the tree. After decades of exploration, I knew the great composers and their important works : Brahms, Bartok, Prokofiev and more. Then I spent years to explore the same field, but under the stars : Roussel, Martinu, Walton and Sibelius. And thanks to the previous “normal” exploration, I had so much pleasure!
  • Find other ways to explore :
  • Instead of reading history books about an era, try to read books written by witnesses. Instead of trying to find the big picture, choose one person, a detail. One painter’s life. Instead of reading, go to lectures, watch them on YouTube. Find the minor things, what’s considered failures, and study hows and whys…

  • Explore what’s difficult : Mahler instead of Beethoven. Avant-garde photography.
  • Explore what’s hard because documents are rare, or the field very small.
  • Explore what you think you dislike : Consider other doors. Baroque music. Swedish movies. History of Prussia. Try to see if you find surprise-gold.
  • Go on site. This is totally different. Feeling the air of Waterloo. Find Vermeer’s city. Watch the sky…
  • In between two fields. Instead of studying Portugal or the new America, study the boats, the travels, the movements, agreements, trades. Learn what happened between two territories : producers and movie makers, Napoleo and United Kingdom…

 

What territory will you find? Butterflies? African masks? Dante? Religions in India? Story of the city of Philadelphia? Bridges of Budapest?

Do you have other ideas to find doors, bridges, territories and maps?

Then, what vein of gold will you find? What doors, what ways? Will you wake up in the morning with this delicious urge : dig more, know more, learn more?

Thanks for reading!

 

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Instagram : genevievealicegarner

 

 

 

Reason & Pleasure : An Interesting Braid

Why, and how does music bring us pleasure?

I understood one day that human beings love music for very different reasons.  Melodies, the energy of dance, or the voice of a singer, nostalgia of an era or personal moment, to feel part of a community, for solos or the virtuosity of an instrumentalist, for a “sound”, or a production work.  Some people stay stuck their entire life on the Beatles, or Yes, or a single singer – Callas and everything around her. Why not?

Today I wonder, and I turn down the dial, or one of the cursors on musical pleasure.

1 – At the beginning of this dial you’ll find pure simple pleasure. You listen to Brahms‘ German Requiem and you feel bliss: “That is beautiful” bravo, and good for you.

2 – In the middle of the dial, reason and culture begin to become important.  You know where Brahms is in the historical timeline of classical music (say, between Mozart and Ravel), and you know a little of what’s happening in the music (here’s a soprano, there, woodwinds are playing a fascinating part with the horns…).

3 – At the end side of the dial, there is the connoisseur listener.  He is knowledgeable in the other works of Brahms, reads the sheet music, and understands what forces are in play (articulations of the different movements of the Requiem, what is said in the texts, how the instruments work together, etc…).

One could say this dial moves “from pleasure to reason,” but it’s not that simple. Why? Because the specialist, who is plunged into analysis and reason, is feeling pleasure as much as the amateurs.

More: I think that his pleasure is multiplied tenfold.

Tool: What is this strange way to mix reason and pleasure? Can we apply this to other territories (seduction, poetry, warfare ?), and how would this look?

What is this pleasure? Who knows the mechanisms of its birth?

How do we weave the braid made from different forces?

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