Saturday, December 05, 2009


I spent the night editing audio files, a task that although mentally consuming, it does not engage my creative side. When that happens and it is somewhere around 3 AM I start to formulate notions on how I would like to work out problems that my subconscious has been toying with. While these ideas tend to be about sounds of composition that I am engaged in, this morning I found myself considering the difference between composers sand how that maps to a continuum. This continuum is bounded by;
1. Composers who continually evolve and develop new ideas, morphing between different ideas. They could be said to be going outward (Extroversion).
2. Composers who fixate on one idea and develop that. They could be said to be going inward (Introversion).

The ends of this spectrum helps me to see more clearly the topology of the continuum, although I am certain that there should likely be more than these two ends. It might be that this is a multidimensional space where there are indeed other possibilities.

That all said, I began to consider this framework for the understanding of myself and those around me. I am certainly at a point where
extroverted change is what interests me, both in the ideas that people pursue and the topology (I am thinking of the variety of sounds or media or approaches here) of how they pursue them. This of course is also a statement about how I perceive my own work. I certainly remember a time where I would become very fixated on what I believed to be the greatest manifestation of aesthetics. How I have evolved from allowing fixation and refinement to be a central theme to that of variety I think accounts for many of the reasons that I predominantly compose music as opposed to perform the works of others. In considering this, it occurs to me that I still harness this ability to fixate when working on individual pieces, but it is not the predominant paradigm, rather is a component of the process. I am reminded of something I saw in a movie about Charles Bukowski, Born Into This. There was a moment where his editor (of Black Sparrow Press)showed one of Bokowski's last or recent books, I can't recall now. What was striking was that it was a small (maybe and inch or so) and the text went something like this
"Form takes over where inspiration has left off."
I suppose that my experience as an artist has led me to find a strong connection between inspiration and the manic torrent of work that emits when "the muse speaks." While formal considerations have always seemed like something that are a result of having lived the inspiration out, followed the notion on that wild chase into the depths of the night or the heart of bizarre aesthetic moment and then looking back and realizing that it is organized a certain way.

What brought this all back to mind this afternoon was that I was reading a bit in Ken Wilber's Journals One Taste. I encountered a passage (p.104) where he discusses a contribution that he made to a journal and it reminded me of this contrast between intro and extro artistic practices. What is very important is that he broadens the field and advocates for inclusion of all. This is what I read
"And, well, that's more or less what I tried to do- outline a dozen different fields of consciousness studies, all of which need to be brought together in an integral view. I summarized the twelve main schools: cognitive science, introspection, neuropsychology, individual psychotherapy, social psychology, clinical psychiatry, developmental psychology, psychosomatic medicine, nonordinary states of consciousness, Eastern and contemplative traditions, quantum consciousness approaches and subtle energies research. The point was: 'What I have observed in the field of consciousness studies (as elsewhere), is that consciousness researchers tend to choose one or two of these approaches very early on in their careers, usually under the influence of a significant mentor, organization, or academic department. And, human nature being what it is, it is then extremely difficult for them to embrace, or sometimes even acknowledge, the existence of the other approaches. Evidence that supports their position is avidly accumulated; evidence that does not is ignored, devalued, or explained away.' "
In the end of this quote he alludes to the power of the institutional values which people have aligned themselves with early on in their careers. Here is an excellent discussion of the power (both pros and cons) of institutions.

In particular
  • Institution as enabler (professional class)
  • Institution as obstacle (self preservation of the institution is paramount and inevitable)
Considering all of this I am reminded of a comment that Chris Brown made the other day when I was visiting Mills College. We were talking about Clarence Barlow and myself having arrived at the same time in Santa Barbara and what a culture shock it was for both of us. Chris Brown made the point that Clarence is a chameleon, he is highly adaptive. This idea of adaptation to the current situation is something that Clarence and I share and it occurred to me at that moment. Looking now at this personal trait, I can see how it also manifests in music and other people who I have a respect for as artists and people.

Ken Wilber articulates twelve areas of study and I can imagine these translated into the context of compositional approaches. I can imagine these different leanings being mixed with the faders on an analog mixer, or even better with the 3 dimensional matrix of a wii controller assigned to different oppositions. I will need to work out the oppositions and how they are manifest in different persons.

The other quote that I find resonating in my mind is from Stockhausen.
To paraphrase Stockhausen in his 5 Criteria of Electronic Music "Take one idea that I have had and you can build a career on it."
This is not that moment in the video, but this is the video that I have in mind.


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