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The art of music; the music of art

Yesterday Sonny Rollins, the great jazz sax musician, was interviewed on Q (CBC radio of course). He talked a lot about his connection to the audience. As he put it, the audience gives you their hopes and fears and you give them yours. When he performs, he gets vibrations from the audience, gets stoked, yet in playing the music, pays no attention to them. Nevertheless, a performer learns from the audience. He feels this is important, the sensing of the collective listener.

Rollins also said artists want to leave the everyday mundane experience, to create something different, go beyond the known. Similar to what Kim was saying regarding the painting experience, making music is a process of “not thinking”, connecting with the subconscious, where everything tangible is blotted out. Now in his late 70s, he continues to practice every day. As he says, an artist needs skills to “not think” when creating. So, to me, skill seems to be the engine that sets you free. The creativity comes from the not known, reaching outside thoughts and expectations. Often I feel as if I start a painting and then it takes over and I go along for the ride. That’s when the best work happens.

In exhibiting art, critics and art dealers often, understandably, have preconceived ideas of what excites them. As my mom would have said, that’s what makes horse-racing. So learning from what is not you is an important part of understanding what is you. It’s pretty much impossible to escape your cultures. It’s always a surprise to look back on the history of creative events and see how patterns have emerged. How groups of people have similar visions, modes of expression. On the other hand, it has been said that culture is the avant garde of society, it expresses the tenor of the times. If you want to know what is really happening, look at the arts. So the basic creative force is one of honesty to a personal vision, not to be swayed by the opinions of others but to sense the cultural climate and possibly simultaneously challenge and express it. That’s what makes the cookie crumble.


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