Friday, March 30, 2012

Kitchen Concerts and Creativity

You better come on, in my kitchen,
It's goin' to be rainin' outdoors.
—"Come On In My Kitchen," Robert Johnson

Monday evening, I went to some friends' apartment, where there was a small concert going on in the kitchen. A few friends and acquaintances gathered to hear two guys, one from Missouri (he plays some very challenging, meaningful material, for Christians at least) and the other from Oregon (he's in a band full of people on things like accordion, violin, cello, and so forth, but he plays and sings beautifully on his own, I assure you), play music in my friends' kitchen. We also listened to one of our own, a friend of mine with some wonderful things to say and wonderful ways to say them.

Let me take a moment to talk about the magic of music performed in someone's home. If the chief joy of concertgoing is connecting to the music and the musician by being in the same space with them, then a concert in your friend's house is certainly the best kind of concert. On Monday, we were not only treated to music, but also to conversation with those performing it, making suggestions back and forth and enjoying our own friendly company. Often, we would learn part of a song together and sing it as a body, in harmony or in round or in unison. "This," said one of the artists, "is folk music." He was referring not to a genre of music, but to a way of doing music—maybe the best way.

I actually opened this show with some of my own music, played on guitar and sung. That was something I'd never done before. While it was a lot of fun to share music that I had written, or music that I hadn't written but which I think is pretty (I did a little of both), I think the experience was most valuable as a reason to create.

For a while now, I've been pondering something Einstein said: "Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." Isn't that a strange thought? It's not one you'll see in elementary schools, where (in my experience) getting kids to read as much as humanly possibly is an emergency, as in, if you don't get kids reading early, then the high school dropout crisis and the attendant problems of crime and poverty will continue unabated. But, for those of us who made it out of school with the ability to read, and to enjoy reading thoroughly, I expect Einstein was quite right.

I've long had a habit of never leaving home without something to read. Not because I want to cultivate my image as a scholar in the world or because I have things I really need to learn to improve myself, but simply because I fear being bored. I loathe boredom. And I do everything I can to keep it at bay. But I suspect that my addiction to books, not to mention to TV shows, podcasts, and other boredom alleviators, is preventing me from thinking deeply and richly, from forming connections and, ultimately, from creating. I spend most of my free time absorbing information, allowing the stories that others have worked over to wash over me. I think little. And I produce very little. I suspect that overcoming my fear of boredom and learning to create, to work (—for my failure to create is certainly tied to laziness), may be another step in growing up. One I intend to start taking.


Below are a few pieces of music that I have written over the years and am proud of.

This is a song where I made as many different sounds on different parts of my guitar as possible, and then made them all into music. I used to open my radio show by playing this song over the air.

This song is a tone poem, meant to represent a day in the life of someone serving others.

And this song is a straightforward piece, introducing one element after another and building until the end. 

No comments:

Post a Comment