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TRUTH AND MATTER | Why Artists Create And The Power Of Being Useful

By William Beauvais on January 17, 2017

(Photo: via Flickr)
(Photo: via Flickr)

“…and from nests the owls called…” Linda Hogan

A few days ago I was walking up my street and saw a neighbour salting his section of the sidewalk. This was one of the warmer days, and we had seen little evidence of ice in the surrounding blocks, although there was some. I thanked him for doing such a good job, and he told me that there was black ice out there and he was worried about that. My wife had slipped on some a couple of years ago and spent several months on sick leave as a result of the tumble. I could understand his concern, but continuing home it puzzled me because his path was so clear.

Perhaps he saw it as a prayer, that by sending his positive thoughts out into the world, others might follow his lead. This one small gesture was an invitation to a social one and just maybe, those who really needed to salt their walks might follow suit. This was a noble thought, one that sought to improve our collective lot.

Perhaps this is what we creators do as well: we send our ideas out into the world in the hope that we might offer something useful. Perhaps a poem with the idea that refreshes the way we look at the world or helps to reinvigorate our language. A painting that forces us to examine the way we look at a tree or even the way light falls onto our street. A dance helps us remember the joy of movement, and reminds us that even walking can be expressive. A song may introduce new sound patterns to our brain engaging us in new thought sequences, or it may touch us, waking up long forgotten feelings.

As creators, we send our work into the world hoping to find an audience, but not only for that reason. We send it out mostly because we believe in it, we care about it deeply and show this by sitting in our chairs or standing at easels day after day revising and revising.  Through this enormous patience, we make our love manifest.

Our performers also put these feelings out into the world: a conductor imagines sounds before calling them forth from her orchestra, and continues to reimagine them as the work unfolds. Every performance is a new one, the reverberation changes how one must pace the music, and the temperature in the hall may affect how fast a work must be played. One of my teachers insisted that in very hot rooms you had to play faster to prevent the audience from falling asleep. The first three notes of a crescendo may imply a greater intensity than normal. Numerous factors change the way we play the same music and help us present it anew. The opening notes of a musical piece “… contain the seeds of its own unfolding…” [Gwendolyn MacEwen, Afterworlds], and a skilled performer has explored that, creating a sense of the inevitable even in four notes of an Alberti Bass.

Like the man with the shovel, we put our thoughts out there where it might not be needed, in the hope that it will inspire others to follow suit. When you share your thoughts with the world, it is impossible to predict how people will respond. A fellow creator once quipped that you keep releasing CD’s until you’ve made enough different ones that people will notice you from the sheer quantity. Another composer said that you must regularly produce because you only get a few inspired ideas in your lifetime, but if you have worked assiduously, you will know what to do with the good ones when they arrive.

My heartfelt blessings to the creators and performers in our midst for an expressive year ahead.



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