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Jason Silva of Shots of Awe, in one of his videos talks about art out of pain.
Our yet-to-be-released original single, Jalam is influenced by a tragic incident that happened in India - the Andhra farmers’ suicide.
Pain or lack of peace of mind does help one make music. We made some good music after a long time last week as we were feeling a bit disturbed. We decided to channel our negative emotions towards making music. This made us analyze our past behavior and look at instances when we had created some great music. An interesting pattern emerged out of that activity - we had created some of our best poetry and music when we were feeling down.
This reminded us of the video in which an artist confesses as to how he feels guilty in using his wife’s death’s pain as an inspiration to create some of his best work.
This phenomenon of making art out of suffering has been mentioned by Annie Dillard in her book, ’The Writing Life’ as follows:
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New York - based filmmaker, Kirby Ferguson made a four-part video series called Everything is a Remix that applies to all realms of creativity. He draws examples from Led Zeppelin to iPhone and argues that nothing is original and everything is a remix. In his TED talk, he mentions that:
Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made, we are dependent on one another, and admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness. It’s a liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and to simply begin.
He supports his arguments by quoting other visionaries as follows:
In his video series, he starts off by saying what remix is and how remix has been used widely in different disciplines.
Remix - to combine or edit existing materials to produce something new. Most Hollywood box-office hits rely on the existing material perhaps because the audience seeks familiarity. We’ve got stories that have been told, re-told, transformed, referenced, and converted since the dawn of cinema. New technologies often map their appearance and their features to technologies we already understand. This is called Skeuomorphism. Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.
Again, he supports it by quoting yesteryear’s visionaries.
Kirby then, goes on to define creativity, it’s different elements and how technology encourages this act.
The act of creation is surrounded by fog of myths. Creativity isn’t magic. It’s by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. Put simply, copying is how we learn. All artists spend their formative years producing derivative work. Nobody starts out original. We need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding.
These are the basic elements of creativity - copy, transform, and combine. This is social evolution. Its who we are, its how we live, and its how we create.
The interdependency of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas. But, technology is now exposing this connectedness. We are all building with the same materials. Sometimes, by coincidence we get some of the results, sometimes innovations seem just inevitable.
Henry ford supports this notion.
However, there are some system failures that hinders this creativity process.
For almost our entire history, ideas were free. But the growing dominance of the market economy where the products of our intellectual labors are bought and sold produced an unfortunate side effect - original creations can’t compete with the price of copies. This gave rise to loss aversion - we hate losing what we’ve got and we get territorial. When we copy, we justify it. When others copy, we will fight.
Maria Popova in one of her talks emphasizes this idea using the story of a tribe.
Our existing education system is not very encouraging to this phenomenon of combinatorial creativity even when it comes to reading books.
Here are more examples of geniuses who had employed combinatorial creativity in remixing works of art that has contributed to humanity's progress.
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A few days ago, we wrote the first part of this series. In this one, we will share the perspective of the book, The Long Tail by Chris Anderson on the same topic.
According to sociologists, hits are hard-wired into human psychology. It's a consequence of a combination of word of mouth and human conformity. As artists and fans, we tend to assume that
hits are a far bigger share of the market than they really are. Instead, they are the rare exception. This is what Nassim Taleb calls the 'Black Swan Problem'.
This assumption happens because we have a hard time putting rare events in context due to power-law distribution, where a few things sell a lot and a lot of things sell a little.
While this notion holds true in the world of scarcity, the long tail of digital world has established a market, where the biggest money is in the smallest sales, that rivals the hits.
This change is hurting the music industry for sure but, it's hurting the hit-making side more. That said, it's never been a better time to be an artist or a fan since the internet is now the ultimate discovery engine for new music.
Musician and author, Amanda Palmer in her book The Art of Asking shares the story of her struggle to get a record deal. The story emphasizes on our obsession with the hit culture and familiarity with the music.
One of the reasons her band struggled to get a deal was that it didn't sound like the then current favorite bands. Despite selling 25,000 records, her band was still considered a failure by the record label. The band was not in the hit-making business but, it believed in the connection it makes through its music. Since internet enabled us to connect with our own fans directly Amanda's philosophy about her music is illustrated in the following excerpt.
A 2010 Princeton University study conducted by two economists concluded that money DOES buy happiness, but only up to the point (which turns out to be an annual individual income of about $75,000) where you have your basic needs met along with a few extra comforts. After that, the ability to buy happiness with money nosedives. Right: it’s not rocket science. We need to eat, we need shelter, a meal in a restaurant is nice. But there’s a satiation level, a happiness threshold you hit when you have enough. I don’t know of any such formal studies of working musicians, but I see the same patterns in artistic success. The happiest artists I know are generally the ones who can manage to make a reasonable living from their art without having to worry too much about the next paycheck. Not to say that every artist who sits around the campfire, or plays in tiny bars, is “happier” than those singing in stadiums—but more isn’t always better.
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This is how a creative human works. Collecting, Connecting, sharing.
Says, Amanda Palmer in her book The Art of Asking.
Collecting dots can either be experiencing or emotionally and intellectually processing the world around us: the ingredients that go into the poetic metaphor or the wider and longer-term collection: the time it takes to fall in and out of love, so that you can describe it in song, or the time it takes a painter to gaze at a landscape before deciding to capture it on canvas.
Some artists prefer to connect the dots from the already collected dots. For example, a novelist who takes five years to perfect a story or a musician who takes a decade to compose a single symphony to attain an excellent piece of art. All artists connect the dots differently, though.
We all start off with all these live, fresh ingredients that are recognizable from the reality of our experiences ( heartbreak, a finger, a parent, an eyeball, a glass of wine) and we throw them in the Art Blender. My songs are personal and intimate; a lot of them chronicle my inner life. I mine the depths of my own experience and lay it on the page, sometimes naked, sometimes in costume. I fictionalize to protect myself and my targets (though I’ve still had to organize several apology dinners with ex-lovers to ask forgiveness).
Most stage performers, however, are interested in the final phase: sharing, even though it's difficult.
This impulse to connect the dots—and to share what you’ve connected—is the urge that makes you an artist. If you’re using words or symbols to connect the dots, whether you’re a “professional artist” or not, you are an artistic force in the world. When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn’t visible before.
Some artists even follow a monastic schedule. A balanced artist/musician knows which working style works best and when.
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