It is not possible to have a rule-governed creativity

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Related article: The exploding chicken style of jazz music: invented and patented by Berklee™


Why is it that some artistic forms flourish while others languish in the backwaters of the human psyche?

Could it be that, by our rules for the arts and our divisions of the arts into categories, we have set in motion the repression of new and purely human-driven creativity?

Let's face it. Humans like order, and boxes make us feel secure. And we like our boxes stacked neatly. We like manicured lawns and ticky-tacky boxes for houses, all looking similar. It relieves us of the need to visit our next-door neighbor's house.

I rarely state fact, as fact seems to me a malleable and mutable fiction or declaration. Belief systems, any of them, claim to state facts . . . where, most often, their exhortations are really not facts but myths and wish-fulfillment.

If one could only accept, for example, that the many ways of worshiping a God are indeed all directed at the same God, that all different Gods are the same in basic ways (just as all different people are the same in basic ways), and that we have anthropomorphized God into something very similar to human, then we might begin to suspect that all religions, while filled with often well-intentioned myth and superstition, are derived from several over-riding impulses: the human impulse towards immortality, the sanctifying of human experience, and the great desire for infinite power and ascendancy over those other Peoples who worship other Gods.

Enter now the inevitable - politics - which uses the Separate Gods to literally separate peoples. Dangerous games, but the innate human desire to vitiate the desires for peace and love into distinct geographical and geopolitical districting goes on and on, century after century. And so wars are perpetuated, flags are flown, martial music is written, and the true nature of our heritage is lost in a crimson wave washing across the epochs of Man.

It has effects on every endeavor we undertake, including all art, music, literature, invention . . . in general, it seeks to state facts or rules which must be followed.

In the Middle East, massive and powerful monuments have been raised to worship one specific God, one which, in man's name (and in his own words), decrees that the depiction of the human figure is never to be drawn, sculpted, painted, or in any way represented or duplicated in art, architecture, or design. The Law. So we see the miracle of their magnificent creativity through a distorted lens. A lens made not by God or Priests or Prophecy as much as by politicians and despots for their own control uses.

In America, the painter Jasper Johnsnew window set the art-world on fire when he painted American flags. Religion in the West found this an abomination, as we were and are "one nation indivisible under God" . . . and politicians called for the removal of these works from museums and shows. The laws governing the use of images of the US flag continues to ignite blazing resentments and spark heated debates, still landing artists in jail or worse.

We even make rules (from God) governing the governing powers of the governed. Cries of "atheist!" (read: heretic) have erupted across many nations. Sourced from Wikipedia: "In constitutional democracies, legal discrimination against atheists is uncommon, but some atheists and atheist groups, particularly those in the United States, have protested laws, regulations and institutions they view as being discriminatory. In some Islamic countries, atheists face discrimination including lack of legal status or even a death sentence in the case of apostasy."

Apart from "Love thy neighbor as thy self", God has said nothing on these issues. His quiet stoicism should be emulated by human beings in every nation, by peoples of every faith.

Why would I even dare to touch on such an obviously inflammatory matter, while speaking about the creative impulse? Because . . .

It is not possible to have a rule-governed creativity.

In the case of improvisational music, we watch and listen to graduates of the "Berklee Schoolnew window of Itself". We wonder why so many of our skilled jazz musicians sound so much alike. There are many answers to this question, but the starkest I have at hand comes from my own experience: all individuals possess a true and lasting inner spirit, a soul, and it is unique in this Universe.

Listening to an old jazz recording, it's easy for most five-year-olds to distinguish Coleman Hawkins from Ben Webster, even though they both play saxophone. These masters have developed their inner spirit, and it pours into this outer world sounding like who they are inside. They are masters of the self.

When we attempt to put a template-based system of learning and growing around any individual, they have few choices. They can either go with the in-crowd and learn their Myxolidian and Dorian modes, or they can rebel by asserting their own inner voice. The latter choice usually causes resentment, unpopularity, and possible expulsion.

Speed ("chops") can be fun, and it may be a dizzying experience for a young musician to "blow everyone away" with sheer speed. It supposedly builds ego (and I am not sure that this ego is the kind that we need to build or even encourage) . . . but what about the beauty of a few well-placed notes, the empirical rightness in the music of a Dexter Gordon or a Miles Davis?

It is not about fast or slow or loud or soft or any of the yin-yangs that one might imagine. It is about creativity.

Original creativity springs not from study, practice, modes, teachers, politics, religions, or rules. Indeed, originality, creativity, and deep inner awareness are the natural state of an open system of living, learning, and growing. Closed systems will always fail. Open systems are inter-connected and rely on each other for survival and for achievement.

Individuality is a form of creativity. The very identity a person possesses flows freely if left unimpeded.

It springs from the human soul, the place of governance where any differences are - or should be - celebrated and accepted. It is very much like the freedom to think or feel as one pleases, not as one is taught (or forced) to think or feel.

It is impossible to have creativity within a boiler-plate model, in any closed system. Creativity is the antithesis of rules and laws. It is not about politics, nor is it about religion. And it is certainly not about learning, note-by-note, how to sound like Monk or Coltrane or Miles.

They are all now dead. It is time for you to lead.

Again I submit: It is not possible to have a rule-governed creativity.

I may soon postulate that it is impossible to have a rule-governed government, but that is another, less enjoyable topic.

JW, Aug 11, 2013


-JW, Aug 11 2013 -dedicated to my love