Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"The Quality Of The 'Gift'"

One wonders if that vague Proclivity, might possibly be Creativity – Me.

I have spoken elsewhere about creative inspiration, and have adequately answered the question of where it comes from:

I have no idea.  

All I know is it doesn’t come from me.  It comes through me.   Though this has never stopped me from taking credit – and money – for being the medium of its conveyance.  Call it a “Transportation Fee”, and we’ll leave it at that.

Today, I am pursuing a subset of the species, one that, to me at least, is equally fascinating.   

I am studying a new song with my piano teacher, Gary.  The song is “Secret Love” (1953, music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.)  I know.  It’s a little cheesy.  But I’m studying it for a specific reason.  Gary has assigned me the exercise of choosing a random ballad, in order to practice dividing the notes between my left hand and my right hand to create a musically satisfying chording pattern.  I have selected “Secret Love” for that assignment. 

Why did I select “Secret Love” out of the thousands of other ballads I could have chosen?

All right, I’m busted.  I like the song.  I actually like it a lot.  The melody has a haunting quality.  And the lyrics have a spontaneous flow to them.  Example:

So I told friendly star
The way that dreamers often do
Just how wonderful you are
And why I’m so in love with you. 

So I study the chording pattern, and it sounds acceptably melodic.  So:  Mission Accomplished.  (As they say on aircraft carriers, prior to ten more years, accomplishing the mission.)  My next task is to find a rhythmic arrangement that will support the underlying mood of the melody, which, in the case of “Secret Love” is “wistful.”

I love “wistful” melodies, don’t you?  “Secret Love.”  “Tammy.”  Am I giving too much away here?

Gary proposes an arrangement, which I’m not crazy about, finding it a little too “skipping along.”  You don’t skip when you’re wistful.  Gary understands, and we both think quietly for a moment. 

Then, out of the blue, it comes to me – the ideal arrangement.  And Gary thinks so too, so I’m not just tooting my own horn.  Well, I’m actually doing both.
Understanding that there is no single answer in these matters, I cannot imagine better one.  (Duh, “I can’t imagine a better one”; if I could, I would have suggested that.)

Normal people might expect a “Celebrational Moment” at this point.  “Oh, my God!  It’s a musical miracle!”   

But, as a man who refuses to allow the illusion of happiness to get in the way of true unhappiness, my thoughts go, not to “Hip! Hip! Hooray!”, or even “How did that happen?” – I have examined that question that and have satisfactorily concluded, “I have no idea” – but instead , after an eye blink of exultation, my mind flies immediately to the question,

“Why doesn’t this happen more often?”

Besides being an instant “downer”, this is actually an important question, specifically for those thinking of taking the plunge into a creative profession. 

I know I have musical abilities.  In a lifetime that is rapidly extending, making my achievements proportionally impressive, I have written a handful of pretty decent songs, including the theme song for Best of the West, a TV series I created.  

“Why haven’t I written more songs?”  Is a question I have often pondered.  And, since every one of my musical inspirations simply “came to me when they came to me”, there comes the accompanying wondering if my gift is bountiful enough to allow me to generate original compositions “on demand.” 

“I need a song, and I need it by Tuesday.”

Do I have it “in me” to come up with a song by Tuesday?  My definitive answer to this question is,

I don’t think so. 

The pressure of a deadline might be helpful, as it is when I’m writing, but in writing, I don’t wait for some ethereal inspiration.  At camp, I was writing hour-length stage shows when I was seventeen.  It didn’t seem anything special.  They told me write a show, and I sat down at the typewriter and I wrote it.  With songwriting, it’s different.  The idea either comes to me, or it doesn’t.

This, according to a definition I just made up, is what makes me a professional script writer.

But an amateur songwriter.

This is not necessarily a matter of training.  Mel Brooks is a self-proclaimed “hummer.”  He hums in his head.  But somehow, despite being compositionally unschooled, Mel managed to hum out the complete scores to two Broadway musicals.  (The Producers and Young Frankenstein.)

Without regularity and reliability, though you might fervently wish it were otherwise, your creative impulse is merely a visitor.  Why is my “writing mojo” consistently available, while my “music chops”, as wonderful as they are when they appear, simply “passing through”?

I’m afraid we must go with the “tried and true” on this one:

I have no idea.   

What I do know is, if you are considering a leap into an artistic enterprise, it is helpful to make sure you are not gambling on a “sometimes” thing, rather than “The Real Deal.”


Mike said...

Yes, the successful professional learns how to produce good, or at least acceptable, product on demand, but great needs inspiration and only occurs a few times in the career of a great professional.
A great film director may make many good films but only one or two great films.
For feted new artists, this manifests as the difficult second album or novel, the one produced on demand.

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; "I don't know" covers many things. I will now take this into my own philosophy.