Attending the Wintergrass Bluegrass festival 2014 yesterday brought a few new musicians into my attention. When I like a band it’s usually for a few reasons, 1. fun to watch, inspiring to listen to; 2. I would like to do some of their songs; 3. I would love to make art while listening to their music.
How do the art and music puzzle pieces fit together? As an artist and a musician I spend time actively doing both, and it seems that when I concentrate on one, the other suffers. Or maybe I will turn that about and say that there is a season for each — there is time to move forward with art, and a time to learn new music. I think they are not exclusive, they both feed the same creative mind and build up each other.
Some people say they can see sounds and hear color. Few of us are synesthetic, but for most, music and art convey emotion, say ideas, and can bring us along into a mood or story. One band yesterday (Milk Carton Kids) sang a single line that sticks with me, “Our young hearts grow old.” One line offers a powerful and lyrical image and brings it to the people witnessing the words along with the tune. It brings a hush. And how does that bring us into the art studio? Sometimes silence is preferred as it turns the creative switch over to the on position. Sometimes singing along greases the inventive cog. Sometimes wordless music is the thing, sparseness is appreciated and one can find visual creativity in the quiet chinks in the music. Sometimes a wall of sound will release an inner monster to overcome. Most often a quiet mood works best in my studio.
Music quiets the brain of other concerns, focuses on the work at hand. Musicians might prefer that listeners listen intently, but here’s where familiarity can cause inattention – allowing focus on other creative pursuits. Still the music is appreciated as time flies by.
Where does your attention go in the creative mess? “There are no worries, you can clean up later,” is part of my self talk. Let’s see what happens…make mistakes…lay down the paint on canvas…what you do is not wrong. Are you using a brush without rinsing? Well good, not rinsing makes some beautiful mother colors to tone paintings and make beautiful shadows. Not following a pattern in music can cause something called fusion – often enough it’s a happy surprise. How do you get a mother color in music? Find an unusual transition between major chords with a minor 9th/added 11th or something even better to surprise us. What does a harmonic look like in painting? I wonder.
Art for me is mostly a solo pursuit. When working solitarily, it’s important to have good self talk. Music can help. Be kind to yourself. Exhibit a little kindness. State your intention, colors, a feeling, a brief description. Be curious about the outcome rather than attached to it. Play some music in your studio and practice joy.
New musical discoveries: Väsen, Chris Thile and Mike Marshall, the Milk Carton Kids.