"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Sound-Centered Approach to Improvisation

Being that our sound is the first thing that people hear, it’s ironic that it’s not our first priority when we play?  Imagine a top fashion model being more concerned with her voice than her face, or a writer being more concerned with his style of font, rather than his story. You would probably think that they have their priorities in all of the wrong places. The same can be said of a musician. If you are more concerned with what you’re going to play, than the sound you’re using to play it, you, too, may be a voice-conscious model, so to speak.

One thing that all great jazz musicians have in common is being able to tell stories with their sound. Sidney Bechet, Johnny Hodges, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis—they moved people just as much with their sound as they did with their ideas, if not more. When we think of John Coltrane, it’s usually of his technical virtuosity and harmonic innovations. But one of the most unique things about his playing was his concept of sound. I’m a firm believer that if want to have an original vocabulary you have to start with an original sound.

This distinction between sound and ideas has led me to realize that there are, in fact, two schools of thought when it comes to improvisation. Whether it’s consciously or unconsciously, many players seem to have either an idea-centered approach or a sound-centered approach. Even though these two approaches overlap, they produce very different results.

Idea-centered playing, as I see it, is when you first realize the idea and the sound produced is a by-product of implementing the idea. In other words, you think of something to play, and your sound is what’s heard as a result of trying to play it. There are a few advantages to this approach. One, you are playing something that’s well rehearsed, so the execution of the idea is often precise and accurate. Two, you have the comfort of knowing that the idea will serve a particular function melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically.

One of the cons, however, is that the idea might sound forced. It might work melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically, but not musically. While I was a student at Berklee College of Music, I remember attending numerous jam-sessions knowing what lick I was going to play on which tune and on which chord. Like most developing players, I figured why practice something if you're not going to play it, even if the situation does not call for it. This type of approach can make one sound very uncommunicative, isolated, and technical. And by technical  I mean playing ideas that sound premeditated rather than inspired. Technique in this instance is not a means to an end. It is the means. If you notice someone's technique apart from his or her music, chances are that he or she have not figured out how to musically integrate it.

Sound-centered playing, on the other hand, is just the opposite. This is when the primary focus is on the various nuances of your sound, and the ideas heard are a by-product of the various ways in which you manipulate these nuances. One advantage to this approach is that now that you are maximizing each note, exploring its timbre and textural possibilities to the fullest before moving on to the next note, your ideas now take on a more vocal-like quality. Not to mention, with your sound now the forefront, listeners can tune into its subtleties—which, by the way, is how listeners will ultimately come to recognize you.

These two distinct approaches first dawned on me many years ago after I attended a concert at the “old” Iridium Jazz Club (when it was this hip, chic place, with a modern décor, located in the Lincoln Center area). That night featured two bands. One was led by tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, and the other by an up an coming tenor saxophonist, who will be referred to as “The Young Tenor Player.”  Both players sounded great that night. However, being able to listen to one after the other, I noticed there was something distinctly different about their approaches. At first I thought it might have been the generational difference—with Dewey being in his sixties at the time and “The Young Tenor Player” being in his early thirties. Then I thought maybe it was the stylistic difference. Dewey’s style being the bluesy-tough-Texas tenor, laced with flurries of Ornette Colemanisms and “The Young Tenor Player’s” style was coming straight out of the hard bop era, paying much homage to 1950s Rollins and Henderson. But then it dawned on me that difference was this: Dewey was leading with his sound, “The Young Tenor Player” was leading with his ideas --or licks, for lack of a better term. Now when I say “leading with his sound.”

When listening to Dewey play, because his approach was sound-centered, his ideas sounded more inspired by what was happening musically.  He never played something technical just for the sake of playing something technical. Even when he played fast flurries of notes--ideas that would be perceived as technical if they were attempted by others—it sounded more like abstract forms of sound manipulation, that were part of a much broader melodic and musical statement, than well-rehearsed licks which fit perfectly over the changes. Players who play this way tend to leave me feeling more inspired. And I’m not really sure why. I think it may have to do with the fact that sound-centered playing tends to be more spontaneous and organic in nature, which tends to engage me more as a listener--which probably holds true for the players who are accompanying them, too.

“The Young Tenor Player,” even though he had a very nice sound, it seemed to always take a backseat to the things he wanted to play. Which is very common amongst modern players. My theory is that there is so much music and musical vocabulary readily available through CDs, iTunes, books, YouTube, not to mentioned live performances, it puts a certain pressure on us to think that we need to play everything, all the time. Lester Young probably had a handful of influences on his instrument, whereas a young player today probably has three times as many--making it possible for them to have a lot of ideas to play, often times at the expense of lacking clarity and originality.

This, by the way, is where focusing on the sound helps. Since not all ideas sound good with every type of sound, knowing your sound will help you to know which ideas or approaches are a good match. If Paul Desmond had Ornette Coleman’s harsh and strident tone, he may not have developed the lyrical style for which he was known. The fact of the matter is, that if you’re going to play fewer and more sustaining notes, you are going to want them to be nice, warm and pretty—which by the way, personifies Desmond’s approach. 

If want to hear more extreme cases of sound-centered playing, improvised music is a good place to start. This is actually one of the more intriguing aspects about free players like Albert Iyler and Anthony Braxton, and not so free, but open players like Pharoah Sanders and Billy Harper, is that you get to hear improvisation which is based on emotion and sometimes sonic sensationalism than the typical jazz-lines-oriented vocabulary. This approach can sound non-Western and primitive at times, with players making “noises” that sometimes sound environmental and animalistic.  However, if you’re just learning to improvise, listening to these types of players may not be how you learn to navigate your way through chord changes, but are great resources for studying how to convey raw human emotion and hearing sounds they go beyond the original scope of your instrument.

As students of jazz we often feel that it’s OK to borrow other peoples concept of sound--until we can find our own, of course. And why not, you can’t copyright a sound. Even though it may not be copyright infringement, it is, however, a type of artistic plagiarism. As artists, we never want to lose sight of how important it is to have our own sound that is as unique and interesting as the things we play, and not just be musical dispensers of licks, ii-V-I patterns and transcribed solos. Many people have expressed to me that when they listen to the radio, they can’t tell who’s who. Which is my case in point. If they are familiar with your music, they should know before the DJ even announces your name.

If you read some of Downbeat magazine’s “Blindfold Tests,” you notice that the interviewees rarely guess whom the modern players are. And in all fairness, many of the participating musicians did not grow up listening to the kinds of modern players who are played as they are with people like Joe Henderson and  Keith Jarrett. But on the other hand, I’ve probably listened to two John Scofield records in my life, but I still know his sound, even if what I’m hearing are others imitating it. As did all of the before-mentioned players, this is why it’s important to go beyond the theory, the ideas, and the harmony and learn to embrace music’s mystical and spiritual sides, the unexplained and the unexplainable, which will undoubtedly prevail the real you.

There was a popular TV game show in the 1970s called “Name that Tune,” where contestants would test their knowledge of musical songs by bidding against each other, seeing who could identify a tune hearing the fewest notes. And the contestant who made the strongest case, would say, “I can name that tune in (blank) notes. ” Now wouldn’t it be great as jazz musicians if listeners were so confident in the originality of our sounds, they would have no hesitation saying, “I can name (you fill with the player of your choice) in two notes.”

This article was originally published in Jazz Improv Magazine. Date unknown.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sound and Silence: The Democratic Aspects of Improvisation

Through the lens of politics, jazz is democracy in action--individual and collective liberties being negotiated in real time on the bandstand. Jazz, since it's inception has operated under the basic principle that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, a brand new shiny Yamaha soprano saxophone that is completely disassembled and displayed as keys, pads, screws, springs, corks and various pieces of metal is almost worthless in comparison to the perfectly assembled and functioning one, complete with all of its parts working individually and collectively  as a conduit for expressing musical ideas.

This concept is probably more easily seen in a group comprised of several players. But how can this type of democracy be seen when playing solo?--particularly solo saxophone. The answer: silence.

Silence, when used effectively, allows the performer to create a type of call and response during the performance. It's similar to comparing giving a speech (playing without silence) to giving a sermon (playing with silence). During a sermon, particularly those given in African American churches, it's usually a dialogue; a call and response between the pastor and the congregation. The democracy is seen in the respect each has for each other's role during the sermon. The pastor feels less mobilized  without the countenance of shouts and amens of the congregation. And the congregation is without direction and purposed without the pastor's spiritual and fiery message. Again, an affirmation of the democratic process in action. 

I have often spoken of silence as the quiet partner of a solo saxophone performance. The sonic yang to the improvisational yin. In some ways, it almost sounds too easy. Not play? Make music by doing nothing? The reality is that it is very difficult to make use of silence. Which almost sounds humorous to insinuate that they hardest part of playing is not playing. Well, it is true. I have plenty of recordings, my own included, that proves this true over and over again.

On the following video, I'm performing a solo rendition of "Blue in Green." As with most of my solo works, I'm operating within extremes: sporadic and circular breathed phrases; loud and soft dynamic levels; legato and percussive attacks; melodic as well as abstract lines, and so on. Even though I'd hardly call myself a master of the using silence in the ways in which I spoke of earlier, I do feel that my intent can be heard.

The important musical events are as follows:

0:00 -  Silence. I've learned you don't always have to begin your solo with sound.

0:10 - I play the first half of my motif.

0:14 - I left six seconds of silence--which can seem like an eternity while you're in the throws of a performance.

0:20 - I began playing into the strings of the piano, which, while pressing down the damper pedal, allows you to create a very lush natural reverb from the strings vibrating. During this section, you hear the back and forth between sound production and sound reverberation. Again, staying true to the democratic principle of everyone having a say.

1:22 - The melody is played using the technique of circular breathing. This enables me to play the entire melody without a break in sound. This also creates a drone-like effect that adds to the drama. Occasionally I added to this drama by swinging the horn back and forth to create a Doppler-like effect.

2:00 - The melody is played the second time with slightly more drama using increased volume and by swinging my horn back and forth more frequently and rapidly.

2:29 - The melody ends on the V7 to i cadence.

2:31 - Three seconds of silence.

2:35 - The improvised solo over the tune's chord progression begins. This is where the dialogue between sound and space starts to unfold. The democratic negotiations between the yin and the yang, if you will.

4:29 - The melody is played the last time, re-implementing the circular breathing technique until the tune's ending.

So, as you can see, pulling off a solo performance is a delicately nuanced process. It's not just about you playing your ideas or getting to your "shit," as they say. You have to be very much aware of the democracy within the creative process--even if it is between you and your silent partner. You'd be surprised at how profound he can be when given a chance.

And as an addendum, I have two solo concerts coming up this month:

Saturday, March 26, 2016
Rocky Mountain Saxophone Summitt @ Colorado State University
(Masterclass and solo concert)

Thursday, March 31, 2016
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
(Lecture and solo concert)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My appearance as a guest on "The Radical Imagination" on Firehouse TV

On this episode of “The Radical Imagination,” co-hosts Michael Pelias of LIU Brooklyn (shown 2nd from the left)  and Jim Vrettos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice (shown on the far left)  sit down with world-renowned jazz artists, Sam Newsome and Stan Harrison to discuss the future of jazz, their individual creative processes and the inspiration behind their music. Plus, watch clips of performances by each of the artists.

Sam Newsome is a soprano saxophonist, composer and jazz studies professor at LIU Brooklyn. He is most known for his time in the Terence Blanchard Quintet and Global Unity. He has also released six solo saxophone albums and most recently authored a book entitled “Life Lessons from the Horn.”

Stan Harrison is a saxophonist, composer and founder of the Mud Music Ensemble. He has toured across the country with artists including David Bowie, Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen as well as written music for television.

Firehouse TV’s “The Radical Imagination” airs every Sunday at 8:00 pm on MNN1 (TWC 34 & 1995, RCN 82, FiOS 33 or streaming live) and repeats every Thursday at 8:00 pm on MNN4 (FiOS 36, RCN 85, TWC 67 & 1998 or streaming live).

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Jazz Jam Session: Using the Wally's Model in the Classroom

The jazz jam session is a very important entity that has been instrumental in shaping the very essence of the music: the ethos of fierce competition wrapped in benevolent camaraderie. The jazz jam session can be so cut throat that I could see certain musicians "cutting" their own mother if she didn't ascent to the musical occasion. It truly is survival of the fittest being acted out not in the jungles of the Amazon, but during the democratic forum of the bandstand. Not to mention, it's also a great model for teaching in the classroom.

The classroom is often looked at as a safe haven for intellectual nourishment. But sometimes safe is not always a good thing, especially if it means stunted growth and an unrealistic perception of one's abilities and understanding of the material being taught. A classroom that's too safe won't give students a realistic perspective of their capabilities. And this is where the jazz jam session becomes a great model for learning and self-assessing.

While I was a student at Berklee, my saxophone instructor Andy McGhee always encouraged me to go and play at Wally's Café, a nearby jazz club located in the South End section of Boston, affectionately known as just Wally’s. The club itself was not very impressive aesthetically, as is the case with most jazz clubs, but it's role and importance in the development of generations of jazz players is immeasurable. In fact, the smoke in Wally's was so thick that your clothes would be un-wearable the next day due to the stench of cigarettes and cheap cologne.

Typically the musicians who played there were juniors and seniors, who in my opinion at the time already played at a professional level. I used to think, "Why are they even in school. They should be in New York making thousands of dollars." I was so naive back then.

But they all were excellent players. Most of them did go on to do great things. While I was in Boston, we used to sit in with people like Bruce "Bud" Revels, James "Saxmo" Gates, and Ron Savage. They sent me and my Berklee classmates home many a night depressed and hopeless that we would never learn how to play. We called it being sent back to the shed.

What's most revealing about jazz jam sessions, like those that took place at Wally's, is that your strengths and weaknesses become very apparent--much more than when you do a regular performance, where you are well-rehearsed, knowing exactly who you're playing with, and how long you'll be playing. Jazz jam sessions are more about surviving than just showing off your talents. You're constantly on your toes, never quite sure what’s coming down the pike. You're forced to improvise. So after a jazz jam session you know if your sound is big or small, if your rhythm needs improving, and how well you can hear chord changes--especially at those sessions where musicians are playing songs in unconventional key signatures. Most of all, you come away knowing that you have much work to do.

How can this understanding help you in the classroom?

The jazz jam session in many ways is nothing more than a pop quiz. A pop quiz on how well you know jazz tunes, how well you can play in different keys, how well you can play fast tempos, etc. The one thing that jazz jam sessions and pop quizzes teach us is where our strengths and weaknesses lie. We know exactly what we need to do in order to improve those areas in which we are deficient. Wally's taught this to me more profoundly than any of my final exams at Berklee. 

As educators, we need to take our students to the bandstand of the classroom and put them in situations that challenge them and force them to assess the various aspects of their learning, the way that a jazz musician does when confronted with the challenge of having to play "Cherokee" in the key of B major. I'm not just speaking of music-related learning, either. And these pop-quizzes can come in many forms of assessment: written essays, oral presentations, multiple choice, fill-in the blank, or sometimes just talking off the cuff. Comparable to when we're performing at a jazz jam session, we can even have students collectively elaborate on a related topic--complete with background figures and all. 

As a teacher, your main job should be to get your students started, or count off that metaphorical tune, but then let them intellectually fend for themselves. Like the jazz jam session, this is an opportunity to take information and deal with it in an informal way. This is a chance not only for the students to take chances but also for teachers. In order to create new perspectives on learning, you have to just try things, you have to experiment. Otherwise, you’ll just keep repeating the same thing over and over. In fact, the jazz jam session is one of my favorite contexts to hear musicians play. Not only do they sound more relaxed, but they are often taking chances in ways that they don't when performing during more formal settings. I have fond memories of hearing many of the jazz stars of today at Wally's in a relaxed and informal setting: Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, Don Byron, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and numerous others. One night, Freddie Hubbard even stopped by and played a couple of tunes. But, unfortunately, I was working elsewhere on that particular evening. 

Besides, as professors, due to the fact we are a part of the university paradigm, we can't totally replicate the informality of the jazz jam session--particularly 1980s Wally's.  After all, we have various members of the administration to answer to. Be that as it may, just by merely borrowing from the jazz jam session’s model of informality, it will allow us to get away from our syllabus just long enough to take notice of the latent opportunities for learning just waiting to reveal themselves. Frankly, speaking, If we aren't putting ourselves in the position where we are always the smartest ones in the classroom, we will allow ourselves to also learn while teaching. And as teachers, anytime that we can replenish our pedagogical licks, we, too, will become more inspired, and maybe even more inspiring to those around us.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Do We Judge College Music Students too Harshly?

I've written in earlier posts on how many of us critique college music students for sounding alike or being too technical. 

But do we actually judge college music students too harshly?

I've been in numerous master class settings where fellow instructors would form opinions about many of the students as though they were seasoned veterans who have been on the scene for 30 years. Often concluding that they don't swing, they're unmusical, they don't know any music, or that they have no apparent history in their playing. And these are all legitimate criticisms that should be taken seriously. But my issue is that the students aren't looked at as evolving artistic beings, but as green bananas to be immediately picked from the tree and consumed by the jazz world at large--unsweetened and not tasty.

I'd like to challenge the premise of these assertions. If we look at our artistic evolution, there are four stages of development. The argument that I'd like to put forth is that in many instances these students are exactly where they should be.

When I think of the four stages of artistic evolution, it looks something like this:

Stage 1: Acquisition
Stage 2: Practicum
Stage 3: Artistry
Stage 4: Mastery

Most college students are at Stage 1, which is where they're taking all of the knowledge and skills acquired and are trying to make sense of it all. This includes transcribing, learning harmony, rhythm, the jazz repertoire and familiarizing themselves with many different styles and players. When I was at Berklee, I was often told that I played too many patterns; that I was thinking too much; that I didn't leave enough space; or that I didn't swing. And all of these things were accurate assessments. However, as I understood things, I needed to go through this stage in order to make sense of what I was learning. Consequently, if what I was playing sounded forced or mechanical, then so be it. This was a part of my growth process. And I was not going to let anyone rush me through it.

It was when I moved to New York that I evolved to Stage 2 (Practicum). This is where I began to develop my craft more through playing and listening and not just from practicing and transcribing. My ideas formed more organically, rather than from playing solos comprised mostly of patterns and sequences.

This can be a frustrating stage because you're not doing as much individual practicing as you were once accustomed, but you're learning and developing in a different way. This stage of refinement is not linear, so it's not always clear-cut when you're actually growing. I was so extreme that I would be in a situation where I was playing a lot but would be unhappy that I was not able to do any individual practicing. Which is comparable to enjoying ordering from the menu more than having the meal. 

Years later, when I switch to the soprano, this is when I moved to Stage 3 (Artistry). This was an interesting period in that I didn't have more skill sets. In fact, I believe I had fewer. But what I did have was vision, which is the main component that separates musicians in Stage 3 from Stage 2. The latter is what I also refer to as the "stuff" stage. This is where we're more preoccupied with showcasing our vast (or sometimes limited) vocabulary than making a personal statement. Most become trapped in this stage and, consequently, never really move to Stage 3. One just becomes more skilled at playing "stuff."

Stage 3 was very difficult for me because I had to essentially reinvent myself. Which can often be the case when one begins to come into their own. All of my practiced-vocabularies seem to have little relevance as disposable ideas, but certainly served as a melodic, harmonic and conceptual framework from which to create my own vocabulary.

Stage 4 (Mastery), on the other hand, is a complicated one. Even when you reach it, you probably won't even realize you're there. With Stage 4 comes great humility. Not just about music and your ability to play it, but about life itself. This is a stage of musical, spiritual and intellectual evolution. Unfortunately, I have not reached that stage, but I do feel hopeful that it is attainable.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, I think many college students are exactly where they should be--learning and searching trying to figure it all out. And as long as they realize that there are three more stages to go, they'll probably be alright. And if they don't, they'll have plenty of company, unlike those in Stage 4.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Learning to Artistically Recalibrate

The one admirable quality of the GPS system is how singular its objective is: To get you to your desired destination. And when you get off track, what does it do? It will recalibrate and find a new way to immediately get you back on track so that you can continue towards your desired destination.

I see this as a way that we should live our lives--always being ready to recalibrate. No matter how many times we make a wrong turn, or find ourselves going in an undesired direction, the GPS doesn't complain, it doesn't call you a stupid moron or try to shame you in any way. It's only focus is to get you to where you need to go.

Even though I had never thought of this issue in quite the same way, I do, however, see myself as an intuitive "plan B(er). Meaning that, I always have a plan B--an alternative way of doing things. Having spent so many years playing jazz, I've been conditioned to think this way. Recalibrating is at the core of being an improviser. We're constantly having to find an alternative route to our creative destination. Just like driving, playing an improvised solo is not a straight trajectory. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we end up in a place we don't want to be--rhythmically, harmonically and melodically. Sometimes we have to stop, but most times, just like the GPS, we recalibrate our creative endeavors and keep moving.

Being willing to recalibrate our creative routes can sometimes mean the difference between playing a good solo and a great solo, being a good improviser versus a great improviser, or simply being skilled musician versus a creative artist. And in these instances, recalibrating means finding a new route that takes us to where we need to go, not necessarily where we want to go. These two factors are not always working in tandem.

And this is where it requires some soul searching as well as humility. Having a geographical final destination is easy. You're basically going from point A to point B. However, having an artistic one is more complex. Sometimes it's not as tangible or may have more than one. Only we can know that. And sometimes we don't even know.

But no matter where we're headed, or even where we think we're headed, we have to be prepared for that metaphorical missed turn, that traffic detour or anything that takes us into a direction different from where we intended. And we have to be ready to instantly recalibrate, get back on track. No drama, no fuss, no sorrow. We must simply turn our artistic car around and keep our eye on the sparrow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Let Artistic Freedom Ring!

Artistic freedom isn't just thinking outside of the box, it's being unaware that boxes even exist. I'm not a subscriber to the noble savage syndrome, but I do believe a little bit of ignorance can be healthy to one's creative process. Sometimes being overly informed--or at least not knowing how to turn off the overly analytical part of your brain--can make it too easy to rationalize yourself out of trying something new, or simply just going for it.

For example, only 1% of college basketball players go on to play professionally. If players only focused on this statistic, few would ever even try.  In some cases, you have to put logic and reason aside and just do it. Certainly had I the same understanding of the music business when I was in college that I have now, I may have been drawn to the comfort of pursuing a safer path. 

Here's an example of what would have been my ultimate safe plan: First, instead of moving to New York with my horn, a suitcase and $500 in my pocket (Yes, I was that crazy!), I would have gotten a job teaching in the Boston public school system for a couple of years until I saved up enough money to move to New York. Then, once I moved to New York, I would have gotten certified to teach in the NYC public schools. After I saved up enough money from teaching to purchase my first apartment,  I would have probably had settled down and gotten married and had a kid or two. Eventually, I would have gotten around to starting my career. You can see where I'm going. And this path certainly would have made my mother happy. But being naive and ignorant, coupled with over-ambitiousness, I was able to resist this path of normalcy and traveled one that was very risky but fruitful--thankfully! Had I been preoccupied with the statistics of success probabilities and likelihoods, I never would have bitten the bullet and just gone for it.

Some of my most creative and profound musical moments are born out of this attitude of just going for it--and occasionally, just plain ignorance. Several years ago, suffering a little bit from burn out, I had taken a couple of months off from practicing and I would just pick up my horn and attend jam sessions and play the most "out" and "weirdest" ideas that came to mind. I purposely ignored the chord changes, the form, and sometimes the rhythm, and just played whatever. And you would think that doing something like this would only yield negative responses. Just the opposite. Many expressed that they had never been more impressed. And I can understand why. It was probably one of the few times that people had heard me playing from a space of being totally uninhibited--at least during that stage of my development.

Much of my playing is certainly guided by logical thinking. So my little experiment allowed me to play from a space that others, myself included, were not used to hearing me play from. Again, I was not playing outside of the box. There was no box. 

One creativity exercise I do to put me in this mindset of musical recklessness when I practice is that I pretend that I'm not playing the saxophone and that I'm not really a musician, and I approach playing with the naive curiosity of a small child. I found that this would allow me to venture into sonic areas that would be impossible when thinking within or around the normal paradigm of saxophone playing. Again, I was not thinking outside the box, there was no box during that moment. Just by even creating a box to play outside of, you're already placing limits on yourself. Sometimes it just has to be what it is and nothing else. If it's noise, don't try to make it melodious. And if it's melodious, don't try to turn it into noise. Creativity is not a straight trajectory. Sometimes it makes absolutely no sense. Creativity is random, spontaneous, illogical, and sometimes outside of your control. In fact, part of our job as artists is to get out of the way of creative moments when they're trying to carve out their own unique niche for themselves in our universe. Let them become their own entity.

It reminds me of when we were kids and my grandmother always made us sit quietly on the couch during thunderstorms. We were not allowed to utter a single word. She said we had to "be still" and "hush up" while the lord did his work. Well, in the creative world, we have to "be still"  and "hush up" and let the Lord of Creativity do his work, too.

So the lesson learned: Don't create boxes to ignore, just create.

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