Monday, November 24, 2014

Capturing Spontaneity Adequately, Spontaneously, But For Further Spontaneous Marination

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I feel like I let too many moments of creative inspiration escape me. I think "I really should write that down, or follow up on that idea I had!" But if I don't act on it at that moment it's gone forever.

Nikki Sixx said in The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star that Rick Rubin bought him a tape recorder, because Nikki said he would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that was amazing but he wouldn't write it down so he'd lose it. Hence the tape deck.

I should really find something that works for me in the same way. Too many moments of inspiration in my life go unfollowed up on. Or at the very least, too many good quotes I encounter go unwritten down, or at least assembled in one place for easy access.

Too many moments that lend themselves to potential creative elaboration go lost forever. I hear or read something awesome, and then because I don't do anything to document,  I lose out on the opportunity for further meditation on whatever the idea or quote is. These are potential opportunities for expanded revelation and celebration.

It's just that I don't usually take time out from the moment to stop everything and write down the quote or idea. It doesn't get recorded for myself in any way other then at the most a doodle in the book I'm reading next to the quote. More times then I care to remember, I haven't done anything to bookmark/record/notate/ the quote, idea, the revelation, the theory. For every ten awesome things I encounter, maybe I get around to relishing the awesomeness of the quote or idea or whatever maybe once or twice. So many missed opportunities for processing what I've encountered in a fabulous way.

I'm not talking about recording or capturing an experience by just taking a picture. Although pictures do capture amazing moments and things, the sign of a truly good moment is that there might not be anything actually capturing it, unless it's the type of thing that you just always have the tape running in some kind of media recording experience. I just mean, when I'm talking about missing opportunities for documentation, I'm not talking about pictures.

I should add though, that often, the mark of a really good party is that there is no documentation of it anywhere because nobody wants to stop the good time they're having to stop and take a picture. I think sometimes people take pictures not to actually commemorate the experience but to prove to to social media contacts that they're popularity (I'm partying at a party!) and having a great time, when actually, the exact opposite is true. When you're truly "in the moment," the last thing you want to do is stop and interrupt it. I know a party was awesome because there's no documentation of it anywhere.

When I say moments of missed creative opportunities, I'm talking about reading or hearing something awesome that I want to write down, maybe a snippet of something that as an isolated quote, is awesome. Or maybe I hear something really great in an interview or some dialogue in a movie or TV show, and I'm like, "That is sooooo true. I really should write that down that for posterity somewhere."

Sometimes what I feel needs to be recorded is an idea I have for a mashy-uppy sound art piece or a hilarious collage I could make, or maybe some zine article I could write about. (To be fair, there are only so many hours in a day, and it's not like I have the time to follow through on every single idea I have.) But still. I could do more.

Sometimes I make notes in the margins of things I'm reading. Most of the time it's not really even a note as much as a little star I put next to something, or underlines I've made. It'll be a part I think is particularly pithy, funny, worth marinating on or just resonates with me in some way. If I could illustrate, I would do visual representations of these quotes in the vain of fan geek art.

I've been inspired by a lot of fan geek art lately, artists making art inspired by and specifically about the movies/comics/shows they love. Sometimes artists illustrate something from a movie, like a scene, character or reoccurring image or object. Sometimes they do their own version of an ad for the movie or book, almost as if it's fan-made advertising which is an interesting phenomenon to me. Some people do fan fiction. Some people do fan art. And some people do fan advertising I suppose.

Specifically, I've been really inspired by all the Twin Peaks art people make. And then there's all the geek art where people really go to town with illustrations inspired by things in the geek community (video games, Star Wars, comics, etc.). If I had visual art talent, I would illustrate quotes I liked from books I read. I suck at drawing/painting, and even my graphic design skills while passable, are more hack in nature then creative in nature. I can parody and I can ape, but I can't create.

However, the least I could do is start actually putting the quotes of things I read that I mark up in one place. That I can do. Anthologize, document, curate, celebrate. Those are things I can do well. Comment on, make fun of, parody, theorize, satirize, feed through the Weird Al-ometer, these are all forms of hacking I can do that can sometimes lead to smart theoretical criticism, when I'm operating at my best. But that's definitely not always. When I can get my operate at that higher level, it's a very creative thing, but it definitely has to be inspired by someone else's creation (their song, their book, their movie, their TV show). I can't draw or create the original work itself, but I can definitely, once it's created, add layers of celebration of that work that manifest as multilayered icing of thoughtfulness of  their original work. I'm good at celebrating awesomeness, which when done well, is a form of creativity (or so I try to convince myself).

So I'm going to try to start actually writing in the things I note in the things I read, the stuff I think is mark-it-up-worthy. I suppose that's not unlike the concept of the sixteenth century commonplace books; they didn't quite have the printing press, so people just had to write down the things they liked in their own book, but if you had to write it down, you'd probably just write out he stuff you like. I guess that's kind of what TUMBLR is, really just people putting things they think are awesome in one place for easy access. I guess TUMBLR is kind of like one big digital sixteenth century commonplace book.

I lent Morrissey's Autobiography to a friend and he told me, "I saw what you marked in the book."

"Oh shit," I said. "I am such an asshole. How pretentious of me."

"No actually, I could see why you marked it. It was a pretty good quote," he responded.

So maybe I will share my notes! Maybe you will like the quotes in books I like too. I'll do the Morrissey book a different day, because I happen to have a different book sitting next to me at this moment. So here's stuff from the a book I read recently, which I will share momentarily.

First, a description of this book: Each book in the 33 1/3 book series focuses on an different individual album, and each title in the 33 1/3 series is written by a different writer. Sometimes the book is a look at the making of the album, sometimes it's more personal because it's about the writer's experiences with the album and why it's significant so that title might end up more autobiographical in nature. Sometimes the book is about the album's place in culture. Sometimes the book is fiction inspired by the album. The format is all over the place. The point is, every book in the series is different. I really only read a 33 1/3 book if it's an album I like, soo even though I have read a number of them haven't by any means read all of them. Not all of the books I've read in the series are good, but some are really really good. I enjoyed Marc Woodworth's book based on the Guided By Voices album Bee Thousand. His book was eclectic. It was kind of a cross between oral history, listener response and personal history. A lot of my favorite parts were ones in which people who had some involvement with the band, whether it was people who played in the band or who just recorded them, talked about what the recording sessions were like. If I could draw, I would illustrate these quotes from Woodworth's book in some way from the book like how some geek art does, like this wonderful piece by Jerod Gibson:

Anyway, from 33 1/3's Bee Thousand by Marc Woodworth:

p. 16-17, where the main songwriter/autour of GBV Robert Pollard talks about the writing of their song "I Am a Scientist":

What am I? What exactly am I? I's kind of a self-analyzing song. I'm a scientist studying myself. I'm a journalist recording and reporting what I find. I'm a pharmacist prescribing a medicine, a drug I could ingest to do something to help me find out. In the end, rock and roll's the religion, the source of redemption. The way out. With all the confusion of not knowing which direction to go in or what I really was during that time, rock and roll seemed to make it a little clearer. What am I going to do? Rock and roll's what I'm going to do. That song was the answer. That song was the decision.

The importance of finding your path and it being what guides you. And the redemptive power of rock!

p 21 (Robert Pollard, talking about recording):

It was important to me that we capture a song in the least amount of time from when I conceived it to when we put it on tape. That's the way to capture the purest essence of a song. When we were recording the songs for Bee Thousand, spontaneity was important to me. When you don't establish a set of ground rules and you don't care about mistakes, it's easy. Some of the best music is recorded exactly the way the way that it's conceived and created-it's all happening simultaneously. At any rate, there has to be a point when you say, "that's good enough."

I love that quote. It speaks to the importance of letting it flow without having that internal editor that seems to take all the fun out of any sort of artistic endeavor for me, something I battle with. When I'm operating at top level awesomeness on a creative endeavor I can sprint and flow and save the editing and bleeding for later. If only I could channel that method more often. (I've had to kind of train myself to do more sprinting and less bleeding to get the ball rolling.) I also like the bit in this quote about how at some point, when you're working on something, and you just have to say OK, it's good ENOUGH, though I don't feel like it's ever really gong to be done. I could fuck with something until the cows come home, but the thing usually has a somewhat arbitrary cut off point, most likely a deadline, where you're forced to stop working on it. Plus, you really CAN actually work on something too much and make it go from being awesome to horrible. You might add too much extra language if it's writing. Or if it's music maybe you add in too many noises and bleeps and blops and effects and layers. I always know when a song has been overproduced: they add horns. Oh shit, when they roll out the brass it's over. Or extra fake violin flourishes of something. And oh! You know who else overproduces their music with too many extra layers of bullshit? The Flaming Lips. Did we really need sleigh bells there? No. No we didn't.

p.40-41 from an interview with collage filmmaker Lewis Klahr talks about the song "Echos Myron"

In "Echos Myron" the lines "Most of us are quite pleased with the same old song" and "We're finally here and shit yeah it's cool" are powerful, autobiographical glimpses into GBV's reworking of the British invasion of their youth and mine, and their arrival at a place of greater visibility and recognition. I latched onto these as signposts of my own attachment to the past often at the expense of the present (what I call when describing my work "the pastness of the present") and when things are going better in my career there is a sense of arrival embodied by the Beatles and "A Hard Day's Night" of what one hopes the world will produce but of course never does. This little bit of this that Pollard got quickly spoiled him. For me, well, I thought I arrived several times only to experience the disappointing sense of the limited way this is true."

I love, love, love this idea of "the pastness of the present," and the past being embedded in the present. So many layers of awesomeness to unpack. Hoping the world will produce something as earth-shattering as something amazing from the past, but how rarely that does; the past has spoiled us. And then on a more personal level this quote is great because it describes the feeling of being so preoccupied with your own personal past that it overshadows the present. Sometimes the nostalgia is totally unwarranted, because you're just putting a rose haze over something that, if you were able to actually go back to the moment, you'd realize the past wasn't actually as good as you "remember" it being.)

That "pastness of the present" can sometimes overshadow our abilities to really enjoy the present, what's really in front of us.

And then one more layer of this quote is a more general sense, which is about artistic success. There's this notion of wanting to attain some level of success inspired by artists you've loved from the past, perhaps wanting to experience the success in the way they did. I love that he talks about the British invasion and also Hard Day's Night, as if the Beatles are a case study for this point. "Hard Day's Night" is basically about the Beatles being so famous that they spend most of the movie trying to escape their  screaming fans. Right? Wasn't that kind of also the plotline of SpiceWorld? I thought I was soooo smart when I made that connection, and then I saw that Roger Ebert wrote that in 1998.

"Making something from what we remember-making art from the memory of art that we love, making art that we love, making art from our own lives and imaginations-is not incidental to our being, but central to it."

Isn't this true? Whether the art you make is orignal or tribute to art you love, it all deserves a a place. And more then deserving a place, it's necessary for it to exist, to nourish our souls.

P.S. The idea of Nikki Sixx talking into a tape deck is hilarious, as if he was Agent Cooper, is the most hilarious thing to me ever. Like he picks up the tape deck and is like, "Diane, it's 3:16pm. What has 48 legs and 12 teeth? The front row in Alabama."

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