Sam Newsome

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

Five (5) Inspiring Quotes on Originality

Here are some inspiring quotes that I’ve collected over the years.  I’ve always loved how a quote can sum up in a few words, what otherwise might take several paragraphs to say--and what might take a life time to figure out. These particular quotes address the topic of originality.

1. "You were born an original. Don't die a copy." ~ John Mason

To understand this quote, just observe any small child. They have such an original take on life and the things around them; however, through conditioning and so-called education, they’re taught to squash their own uniqueness and become like everybody else, unless they’re fortunate enough to be brought up in a creative environment that nurtures their originality. Otherwise,  I imagine they’ll  find that following the masses will be a more comfortable and less challenging option. Who wouldn’t?

2. “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” - Benjamin Franklin

This quote makes me think of Wayne Shorter. You can always hear that Wayne is influenced by a lot of people, but he rarely makes it too obvious. Even Coltrane referred to Wayne’s ability to conceal his sources as “scrambling them eggs.”. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who quote players that they’ve studied, verbatim, almost as a badge of honor, as though they have more of an informational agenda than an artistic one. 

3. "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else." ~ Judy Garland

This seems like a no-brainer, but many fail to share this point of view—at least in practice. On a personal level I would never plop down fifteen bucks for CD to hear a second-rate version of one of the masters, no matter how skilled. I rather hear someone with less ability, saying something original and personal, than showing how well they can walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s a more difficult path, but the rewards are much greater for the player, the listener, and the music.

4. “You laugh at me because I am different; I laugh because you are all the same.” Daniel Knode

Being someone who has traveled an unconventional path, at least since the Terence Blanchard days, I’ve certainly endured my share of being frowned upon. Whether it was switching from the tenor to the soprano, forming my group Global Unity, or making solo saxophone recordings, whenever I’ve explained to people what I was working on at that point in time, it was usually greeted with smirks, more often than not. Even though I never coined it quite as succinctly as Daniel Knode, the basic principle of what he’s saying has served as a source of empowerment for me since beginning my unconventional journey.

5. The principle mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.  - Arthur Koestler

So many players come to mind when I read this: Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk.  When I think of them, perfection is not the first word that comes to mind. However, what they’ve done musically has redefined how we perceive jazz and their respective instruments. You might say that they’re perfection is demonstrated by them being the most perfect representation of themselves that they can be.

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