The artist at work is God in his own world.
But in that world he is not always welcome.
When creativity flows by itself, all is well.
When it does not, artists, and others pursuing creative
and innovative endeavours, develop techniques to
get unstuck, methods to somehow reposition their minds
and get back to their creative work fresh and anew.
In this documentary we are looking at eight
recipes for creativity, tricks of the trade,
how to jump over a wall, twelve meters high,
when trapped inside without inspiration.
Method one: constraints.
Intuitively, one would assume that the more
freedom an artist has, the easier it becomes
to create something interesting.
But regularly, the opposite is true,
as we shall hear in the following story.
Neil Biggin is a producer of music for video games.
He tells me how his compositions were shaped by
technical limitations when he just started in
the early nineties, because computers could only
spit out bare electronic sounds in a scanty sequence.
It was a fun time of being pushed to be inventive.
When video games first started,
things had just moved on from sounding
like a digital watch to... to sounding
uh... like four high-quality digital watches
playing at the same time, so...
In-in theory it was joyless, but it became, um...
it became a really exciting uh... challenge
to-to try and create something as...
from-from something as restricted as that,
to compete with the other guys that had...
that were already out there.
So yeah. Squeeze in as much... as I possibly could
out of a very tight situation. It was a lot of joy.
I never sat there bored. I never sat there, thinking:
''Oh, well there is nothing to do here. There is no...''
There was always something.
So, they wanted a bunch of games
(lets say ten, fifteen games) to be for sale
on the opening day of the machine.
So, they picked their favourite Amiga games,
and said ''Okay,'' (the biggest selling ones,)
''we wanna sell these. So can you remake this game
with CD music, more sound effects.''
And all of a sudden, I've-I can use a full studio.
I couldn't believe that opportunity.
No restrictions in terms of sound any more.
I could get a guitarist in, a singer in,
whatever I wanted.
I could have endless sound effects,
and I could have... endless music.
Neil's manager told him they wanted
a full orchestral composition,
something that is a cross between
the soundtrack of this movie and that movie.
Although Neil was a talented bloke,
up until then he needed no great musical
But now, having complete freedom,
Neil did not know where to start.
I'll never forget it.
I'll never forget the position I was sat in.
I'll never forget the look of the keys.
I literally sat and stared, open mouth,
the keys, and thought:
''I'm done. That's is. The last idea is gone.''
In stead of feeling more creativity,
having now the luxury to compose anything he wanted
resulted in an overkill of choices.
Today, decades later, Neil regularly
still is aware of how constraints can actually be fruitful.
It's an interesting point, I think...
The subject of this conversation about restrictions
and creativity and things like that.
I think... you know, necessity is the mother
of invention, and all that stuff.
I think when-when you... when you [are] faced with
a lot of challenges, when you really have to...
squeeze something to get... get some joy out of it,
when it's harder, you work harder at it.
When it's easy, when it's all on a plate,
you get lazy. And I am including myself in this.
Does this work? S... s... I could... Now?
This is my dad, composer and musician Alan Laurillard.
Okay. Constraints in the creative process
have really been handy for me and I think...
And I, I actually believe in it,
it makes you... focus on what's left over
and you can go much deeper,
and you are not worried about the...
about uh... all the information, all the possibilities.
It doesn't limit your creative process at all.
I think... and I am thinking about it now,
it makes your creative process... more depth, more focused,
and your final product b... might be better.
That's, you kn... in any case that's my story, yah...
Using constraints possibly works so well
because human creativity seems to have its origin
in precisely that: solving practical problems.
You know, you can t..., you can put all
all the stuff on the table
or you can just put a couple of things
on the table when you are gonna cook.
You can make real good food with
just a couple of ingredients also, you know...
You have created a game for yourself,
so you got to work within those parameters.
It's really... um... uh...
Gives you freedom. Makes it easier.
This is also what the French writers Raymond Queneau
and François Le Lionnais searched for when they founded
in 1960 a group called Oulipo, which practised and studied
potential literature techniques centred around deliberate constraints.
For example the novel La Disparition,
translated into English with the title A Void
by Georges Perec, a notable member of Oulipo,
a book written entirely without the letter 'e'.
The relationship with the audience is one worth looking at.
If the artist wants to, he can consider the outsider
as part of the configuration of the artistic expression,
and play with it.
Not letting the expectations of the audience
control what you do, but deciding some of those things ahead of time
and allowing them to be constraints that inspire you.
Making lasagna is not a random creation.
It is subject to presets.
Your freedom is limited.
If you deviate too much, it is not longer lasagna.
We are looking here at form, which -is- a constraint,
albeit a conventional one.
It is a bit more of an assignment.
An agreement between the maker and the audience.
Here, my friend Ole Juul joins the discussion.
He is.... he is... not so easy to classify.
A man with many interests, Danish by birth.
A sonnet is a constraint.
Some people can speak fluently a lot of sonnets,
I don't know, Edna Saint Vincent Millay, she is brilliant.
Uh, whether you like her or not.
Uh, uh, and, and Shakespeare certainly was.
Uh uh, uh uh, uh uh um...
In that form. You, you take a form a-a-a-and, and uh, uh, uh.
Uhhh, you take deliberate constraints.
A-a-a-an-an-and, uh, what does that give it?
It gives it tonality. I-I think it does other things.
The constraints are the language
because without the language
y[ou]... it's... it difficult to communicate to somebody.
I... really believe in that kind of thing.
Although I do see the beauty of conformity,
I personally am unsure of the value of caring at all
about what the observer finds of your work.
But -if- you somehow decide to deliver a specific type of art,
your form is set, and now you can only ponder over the parameters
within the boundaries of your selected art form.
That is not to say you cannot temporarily shift.
On the contrary, as I put it forward here as
technique number two: shapeshifting.
Think of an architect, stuck without inspiration,
committed to design a building for a client,
can use this technique to first sit down to design a
piece of jewellery, which he then later transforms into a building.
Such a shift is substantial. But also possible
is a relatively smaller shift.
An advertising copywriter, being paid to
write a sales letter persuading housewives to
buy a laundry machine, could decide to first write
a letter to his own wife in which he tries to
interest her into buying one.
We want to disturb conventionalism.
■ typical ways to start a reggae song
■ typical shapes and patterns on totem poles
■ typical topics to cover in stand-up comedy
Form. And that is all fine if you are comfortable with
doctrine, and never get bored with the tolerance
that is left over.
But making something conform expectation can remove suspense.
And that is what this documentary is about:
how to fight artistic stagnation, and bring back excitement
to start producing again.
So, shape shifting. By assigning a different form,
even just for the moment, you trick yourself
into a world with different laws
and thereby free yourself from common assumptions.
Here I am in dialogue with Emmy nominated
screen writer, novelist, song writer and vocalist
Pauline Le Bel who describes having used
such a form metamorphosis.
I had to write something.
I was writing... a-a book.
And I had to write about something that was really,
really a painful experience, and hard to write about.
So I wrote it as a poem first.
And it was kind of, um...
I-it suggested what had happened.
And you certainly got the feeling of,
um, of sadness and distress by reading it.
So when I put that in the book
and then the editor had a look at it,
and she said: "I'd really like you
to expand on this and do it in prose."
But, I could not have done it in prose,
if I had not done it as a... as a poem first.
And then I could work from that.
Because it allowed me to...
um... to feel it, and to move through it.
Kedrick James, poet, musician, multi-media artist,
professor at the University of British Columbia
in the faculty of Language & Literacy
teaches this method to his students.
I use a term for that which I think of as 'genre bending'.
Which is, you know, a joke really.
A play on gender bending. But, um...
Genre bending would speak to exactly the same,
uh... practice of stepping outside of the form
in which you are most familiar
or which you have made a routine practice of
in order to reinvigorate that form and find something new.
But if I were to, uh, write a sonnet,
how can I use genre bending for that?
Uh, you could use genre bending,
I think in a whole lot of ways.
So, you may decide to generate your sonnet
out of, uh, other texts.
You might decide to combine two of these different
uh... provocations, or creative provocations.
You might decide...
Ah, I have a good friend, named Wreford Miller,
who is also a poet, who wrote a whole series
of sonnets in which he would take two different texts,
often counterposed against each other, so...
A-a-a romantic text, and, you know maybe,
(I'll exaggerate, this isn't a real example), but
like a Harlequin romance and a[n] engineering textbook.
And then he would create them using those rhyme schemes,
so you know, Shakespearean or Petrarchan, or what have you...
Um... so that the A-line, the A rhyming line would be from,
say, the Harlequin romance, and the B rhyming line would
come from the engineering text.
And he would very carefully go through
and weave those... sew them together.
And they flowed as if it were one... voice.
But the language keeps shifting gears on you.
And... So that's, you know, just... just one example of
if you were going to write a sonnet.
How could you... uh... use genre bending,
or form hopping, to do so.
That... that would be one example of... that being done.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Each tiny part, freed from desire unbranched being one itself a complete flower.
Self is untouched so finely divided in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling,
eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, speaking, small, scaly, white
flowers opening and closing on the poorer soils.
Others offer all "ray" and the yellow "disk" in the fire of deepending on the ideas of the individual.
Arching blooms about June kindled here, in this life,
the weed concept arises from the wide Achillea,
conquered by those present everywhere, pungent Brahman, if crushed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This was the first half of the poem called 'Yarrow'
by Wreford Miller, with sentences taken from
'Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to Know in British Columbia',
and 'The Bhagavad Gita.'
Wreford Miller took splinters of text
he found and reused them to make something new.
We stumble here upon a third methodology for
escaping a creative headlock: theft.
Incorporate someone else's work, either temporarily,
midway the creative process or permanently,
and either blatantly or after a graceful transformation.
Doing it blatantly, that is to say without doing
much modification, will easily receive criticism.
But, there are also examples wherein the original artist
expresses appreciation of the minimal twist.
The tube he assumed to be empty,
still appeared to squirt toothpaste.
Bass player and composer Tony Overwater
with his idea on the contrast between
acceptable and unacceptable artistic borrowing.
I think the selecting of the idea of somebody else,
and... and putting it into a new context is never really theft.
Uh, I think it's theft:
■ When you, sort of, copy a result
■ When you... copy... somebody's success
■ When you want to create a certain success for yourself
by using somebody else his, uh... achievements.
I mean: music is language.
Uh, and language is constructed.
And th[e]... these constructions are...
is the grammar that we use, to musical grammar.
And we cannot prevents to use certain sentences,
uh... or to use certain structures that... that we all
use every day, or that is being used.
[Singing:] Before lord god made the sea and the land
he held all the stars in the palm of his hand...
Pauline Le Bel.
[Singing:] ...and they ran through his fingers like grains of sand.
And one little star fell alone.
And so, what I did...
And this was the first time I have done this,
this was a couple of years ago...
I took the...
Cause I love the harmonic structure ― it is so exquisite...
So, I took that harmonic structure, and just started playing with it.
Just started playing with it.
And then I came up... with a song... about kissing.
Ha, so, the melody is completely different.
You'd never know that this was related in any way.
And it's about a completely different topic.
And uh... yah, so that's my biggest theft.
And the thing is, th-the ha[rmonics] the chord structure
was even pretty d[ifficult]... (and I am playing it on the piano,)
it was pretty difficult... to play.
So I... it wasn't exactly a copy,
just because... I knew when I recorded it
I was gonna have to play it,
so I had to make it... dumb it down a bit.
But it's still, like...
And people just say:
"Oh, I love it, I love it."
And it does have a really, really beautiful...
I mean the chords are exquisite...
Every time I play it...
Just, I get, you know... the hair... on...
And it's because of Kurt Weill.
Thank you very much. One of my...
One of the most wonderful composers.
[music: Pauline's version]
Could it be a sign of the times?
There is so much there already.
Rather than creating things rare and unusual
you simply add things to a gigantic pipeline
full of information.
We have parallels of clutter and overload between
■ our information environment, from horizon to horizon
available stuff you can
□ look at
□ listen to
■ and our physical environment - like when you live
in an overcrowded city.
Here again: Kedrick James.
I think that's, to a degree,
why remix-culture became so significant.
[It] was the idea that you are already barraged.
And to create something original or new...
(maybe not new) but to create something original
seemed almost impossible.
You're... It's always already been done.
So people started looking at ways
that you could work with what was out there:
■ gathered up
■ reprocess it
■ and make it something new
You know, in a sense that whole idea of
■ and recycle
applies really well to the information environment
as it does to the, uh... natural environment,
uh... [mut...] physical environment.
You can buffoon all you want when reusing.
And here again it is the creative you in charge
of deciding how to reuse someone else's work.
Don't copy, but modify.
You attach, get fertilised, detach, and cultivate.
■ Design a hat in addition to an existing dress
■ Then omit this dress
■ And create fashion that matches the hat
■ Hum a solo on top of an existing music piece
■ Omit this music piece
■ Play that solo, but now on bass, and in reverse
■ And then write your full composition on top of that
How typical principles of an art form really are
is much easier to see when you are an outsider.
Does all tango music seem the same to you?
All graffiti? All types of licorice?
On the flip side, as visitors in a world of cultural esoterica
we are blind to details that the insiders value.
The people who listen to tango a lot
can quickly say for themselves
which tango music piece they value.
The musical form, (what makes tango tango,)
-shelters- the internal creativity,
and many artists do not usually touch such essential criteria.
They do not redefine what tango really should be.
And this refers back to my segment about form.
The creativity is applied on common attributes,
and that is how you make tango that has enough
authenticity to get respect from the insiders.
But, if are you going through an artistic depression,
then let's not only play with common attributes.
■ Go beyond expression within the normal realm
■ Discover your blind spots
■ Take note of the things you have not questioned
■ And notice how much room there is for ideas of an unusual sort
Expand into different dimensions by being playful
with atypical attributes. Change the rules of the game.
And thát is our fourth way to ignite creativity.
What is cola? - you ask Pepsi and Coke.
Well, cola is a delicious soft drink
and it has an identity, a brand.
Coca Cola's brand for a long time was stronger than that of Pepsi.
Then, back in 1970, Pepsi made a smart move that falls into
this category of prescriptions for creativity: they changed
an attribute outside of where the normal competition took place.
Here is what they did: A big part of the identity of Coke
was its distinctive trademark, the hourglass-shaped bottle.
And for many years, at the cost of millions of dollars
Pepsi fruitlessly studied new designs of their own.
But then, and here comes the clever move,
they introduced for the first time 2 litre bottles,
which it had discovered consumers found more convenient.
Coke had apparently not seen this consumer interest,
possibly because it was blinded by its own success,
concluding that it was on the right path.
There was no good way for Coke to sell 2 litre
bottles and maintain their unique design,
because it would make the bottle too tall for
shelves in supermarkets.
And so Pepsi beat Coke by nullifying Coke's advantage,
and changing the rules of the game.
How do we apply this in art?
You change something that you usually don't.
Okay, I can think of something here.
The piano is normally this certain sound
and when you... place... these objects in the piano,
and things aren't as you expect them,
when you play them. They come out differently.
And it's quite surprising, uh, and... it can be quite...
um... quite... a surprise to hear...
the-the sounds that-that you can make with the piano,
especially some of the... the things.
I also work with Denman Maroney, in New York City.
He showed me a few things that are really wonderful,
where you can actually make the piano sound
a little bit like a motorcycle, or like chainsaw.
And you are not actually hurting it,
because of all this research to do it carefully.
Uh... But the things where you prepare the notes
where they don't sound like how you are expecting,
or... in the course of playing things shift slightly,
and the note that used to be a sweet note
is no longer a sweet note, and um...
I think that that, sort of, tension that that
creates, um, is really wonderful as a performer.
And then when you are playing something
and it doesn't sound...
The-it's almost seems sort of mystical
where these sounds come back at you
that seem to almost have very little to do
with what your hands are doing [...]
[...] and you can have this relationship with
the sound that is really fresh.
My father's music group The Noodband consisted of a double trio.
Two drummers, two bass players and two saxophone players.
Just that setting alone, something plenty bands
do nothing interesting with, made everything else that
followed in opposition to the expected overall sound.
First of all, it was a practical choice.
There was a... two good bass players around.
And there w[ere] some good drummers, friends, good players.
And one other good saxophone [player, and also] I played saxophone.
And the kind of music which I, kind of, envisioned,
even before I started writing, um...
And I wanted to do something different also.
It's nice... So...
But I k[...], I, and that... with that case
I really envisioned the music before I started making it.
And I can do that with, hey, two bass...
I can w[...], I can work. One low, one high.
These characters are good characters for this music.
These two drummers, I just tell him... and that
was the hardest part, telling drummers what to do.
So, one drummer does one thing,
and the other drummer has to do something complimen-mentary.
That was tough. Cause the drummers are difficult.
Now the sax players just play
what they're supposed to play, now that was easy.
In one particular piece, my dad did something else
that is usually left alone in modern Western music.
So-so, wha-what... I did one piece,
it was supposed to s... sound kind of,
it is... it was called Vietnam, the piece,
and we tunes ourselves a quarter of a tone, [a]part.
So pulling the mouthpiece out
so that the notes are quarter tone difference.
Yah, they're off... they're off perfect pitch.
Oh, but right, b[ut] for... for somebody with
ears like mine, uh... uh-I... I am not even gonna to notice that.
Yah, you are gonna notice,
because it is gonna sound really out of tune,
the two saxophones.
But if you...
Oh, from each other.
From each other, yah yah yah yah.
So then, if ya... if ya have, like, twelve notes
in one saxophone scale, and the next sapho... saxophone
begins a quarter tone [lower,] so you got twenty-four notes.
It's not all that easy as it sounds,
but that was the plan in any case.
Technique number five: Alternate Craftsmanship.
When I was 19, I started a small advertising agency
and fell in love with copywriting.
I noticed that writing on an old typewriter
produced an essentially different text than
when writing on a computer.
My typewriter was ancient and did not have a backspace key.
So, you better know what to write before you start typing.
And if you regret the first words of a sentence,
you are then faced with the challenge to somehow continue anyway
if you do not want to get messy with correction fluid.
And so, this is what I mean with alternate craftsmanship.
Find an irregular way to accomplish the same thing.
Disturb conditioned automatisms by using a different
■ or working environment
to evoke new fertility and avoid paved cowpaths.
With Pauline Le Bel I talk about various ways to use the human voice.
Uh, is there... a different way of singing.
For example with a corset, or with...
after inhaling helium? Uh...
You would sing very high, he he he.
Well, I had to sing in a corset.
It was this awful show I had to do. It was terrible.
You just... Yah, it's pretty hard to sing with a corset
because you... you're not getting the massage
of your internal organs that you really need to sing well.
I don't know how they did it in the old days...
How about hanging upside-down?
Ah, no, I don't really like hanging upside-down.
But it would certainly change your voice.
It would. I mean, yes...
Maybe not for the better.
C[ause]... should I try it now?
Okay. Let me just see what I could do...
As long as it's...
Oh, I'll just hang over this in here.
Well, actually, it makes my voice deeper, doesn't it?
Ha ha ha, ha ha.
Okay, now I know how to do...
I'm at... This afternoon I am going to record
a friend's song. Because, uh, he's recorded it before
in English, but he's written it... it w[as] translated
in[to] French ― cause he is approaching Radio Canada
with this... plaything he's-uh-'s got.
So, um, oh this will be very good for actually singing, uh,
singing that song. Cause I-I think I wanna have gravitas
when I am singing that song, so, eh, that's a good
thing to try. Thank you very much Tristan. Ha ha ha.
So, we are adjusting the variables of fabrication,
composition, or just generally how to go about
doing what you do.
■ A different procedure:
Doing at the very end what you normally do in the beginning.
■ A different working environment:
And I am not talking here about getting inspiration
from working in unusual surroundings,
(because we shall look at that too,)
but here I just mean changing the lighting in
your workshop, wearing ear plugs, or sitting
in another chair.
■ Using different instruments and material:
Like attempting calligraphy by imprinting your boots into show.
In my own example of writing text on an old typewriter,
this mark made by the production process obviously
remains, also if the words are then later transferred
to a different medium.
Here is Kedrick James about such permanently
enclosed distinct aroma of a text.
Um, the materiality of a text.
We need to under[stand]...
It is almost that idea that Walter Benjamin has
when he, uh, talks about, um... the idea of the
materiality of the text having an aura, and that...
You know, he is making a comparison, um,
about works of art where there is a unique example of it
or a mass-produced example of it,
and its original state... sort of absorbs
a lot of the energy around it.
I think that the material processes involved in any production,
um, imbue the final product with intent.
And then [in]tent continues to resonate, uh,
long after that thing has, you know, left its original creator,
or what have you...
Um, that and... and-and th-the material circumstances of its creation,
are... deeply significant.
There-there is a big part of the spirit,
or as you mentioned, the kind of soul of...
the work that comes through its manufacture,
the actual a-a working things, um... shaping them.
So, operation elements impregnate
the work, and will continue to reside there
comfortably and noticeably.
Look at a piece of furniture made with hand tools
where the woodworker had to carefully select the wood,
sharpen his chisel, strike his mallet.
This chair or table will come alive,
develop personality in the process,
and radiate it for good ― the conditions
of the craftsmanship, with which you can goof around,
and the emotive force the artist put into it: the intent.
Intent. Can we make art without it?
Yes we can, and it even has a name: aleatoricism,
and this is number six in my list of creativity kick starters.
Yes, aleatoric meaning, uh, dice.
And, a roll of the die, uh, which of course
get its... glorious, uh, birth in
Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Chance... [sic]
Um, in which he creates a poem rolling dice.
And using the dice to select the lines and the words and...
To me it's-it's a beautiful...
It's a beautiful, uh, concept, and I-I-I...
You know, I can't put the exact date on it,
but I think it's about... It's the 1860's he publishes that?
And, I mean, just... opens a whole world to... how...
not only literature can be constructed, but how it can look.
Mallarmé was brilliant
at being able to do that particular...
thing of just radicalising our engagement
with language and what it could possibly be.
Mallarmé went quite far
but did remain selective and responsible
with where to incorporate random elements.
And you must, to not produce unidentifiable
You may feel introducing something randomly generated
removes authorship. But it is questionable how
much authorship you have in general,
as we easily, and without always being aware of it,
use ideas picked up elsewhere. Unconscious theft,
as also discussed earlier.
And, alright, let's say you become less the creator,
the one giving life, perhaps it is okay
to shift to the role of the selector.
With the right software you could quickly generate
a hundred ideas, a thousand, and then you need to
look at them all, absorb them, and select only a few
interesting ones. Serendipity. And, then there is
always the option to still change what you find.
You are starting with something... anything somewhat usable,
to then apply creativity while you overthrow and reconstruct.
The source of your input does not need to be
human or computer generated randomness per se.
It can be just data from an unrelated source.
When you have water damage, or other urban
or domestic decay somewhere, take a photo.
There are beautiful shapes there.
Walk through a forest and see
how tree stumps look like castles.
Or how about choreographing a dance based on natural,
primitive movements already known to the human body,
such as those seen in footage of riots.
Improvising piano player and composer Lisa Cay Miller
wrote her doctoral thesis about the emergence of language
in her infant son, and recorded musical compositions to go with it.
So there were seven movements.
And the first one was called I Cry,
and it was all about crying
(I don't have them all memorised.)
Uh, uh-one was Scribble Talk, which was the uh,
inflective kind of speech that children have
when they don't have...
They're [going]: mne ne me ne ne.
So it... the-the inflection has meaning
but there is no words yet.
And then there was... he, for... um, when he was about...
eight months to a year and a half or something.
He spoke in sound effects. So he had about forty different
sounds and they were consistent.
Um... so I wrote a... that's one of the movements
and it was called Da Tuk [The Truck], because...
he had... um... well that was one of his first
words. But he had:
■ ghop-ghop-ghop-ghop was duck,
■ and sss-sss-sss was sweep,
■ um... krrr-krrr was bike,
■ eeeh was bird
And, there... it was wonderful.
We tried to teach him... um, sign language.
Because that's a thing that you do now,
you teach your kid sign language.
And he never grabbed onto that.
But he gra... he had these sound effects
that he spoke with, and that was really, really
fun... period when he... he was doing this.
And, some of the other movements move onto
a more abstract representation of grammar.
So there is a whole album for me that's... that
was inspired by... my son's... emergence of language.
And my doctoral thesis was about that.
It will be clear that such a pursuit is also about mimicry.
But central is to, at least for the time being,
take away decisions of the artist, as she goes hunting
for secret, hidden, creative currency in unexpected places
that are not the realm of her own art form,
as would be the case with technique number three, theft.
We move on to the next method to ignite creativity, immersion:
Inviting artistic crosscurrent by exposing oneself to a different
infusion, or placing oneself in a different environment
as this could fuel your own novel ideas.
It is not about grabbing and incorporating
something you discover in the wild,
but about using it to set astir the soul.
I ask video game music producer Neil Biggin,
if he had the task to make music for a horror video game,
would it help to first go sit in a dark cellar
or walk around on a spooky graveyard.
In my opinion it absolutely works.
I have very specific environments that I like
to write music in. And if my environment changes
my music changes. No doubt [a]bout that.
There came a time I had to do a game
called Loaded, for... the PlayStation.
And they said we... we'd need it to be
dark, aggressive, moody.
Well, I'd never really written dark, aggressive, moody.
So, they were all written at night.
In the winter, with the blinds shut.
And just a little orange or red light on in the room.
Really a dark, closed environment.
Uh, writing dark music in the dark,
I couldn't do that in a field full of flowers.
It wouldn't... wouldn't happen.
I think a lot of musicians are influenced
by their environment, but I really, really am.
And... as a... I'm a photographer as well,
and uh-uh, if I am wanting to shoot scary shots,
I have on scary music. There is a horror channel
I find online, that does really experimental
horror music. And I listen to that.
And the work is really really influence by...
the soundtrack. So, even though there is no sound
on the photographs, you can tell by looking at the
photographs that... that-that there is a...
there was a mood there, at the time.
Similarly, I... always found it difficult to...
to create the more... Disney cartoony type things,
because I am serious person.
I-I'm a... funny person too, but I...
I am not a kid, and I am not into kiddie things,
and I don't like... I don't listen to cartoons,
I don't watch cartoons.
So for me to create in that kind of vacuum,
a jolly, happy, uh... childlike piece...
Very very difficult.
But I'm... I imagine, and if I want and sat in a kindergarten
for a week among all those... sights and sounds and smells,
and then set my gear up in a kindergarten,
then that would have an influence and away we go.
So, I... I'd... I definitely believe in that.
To soak up the right creative arousal for his
work as an artist and for a regular fresh puff of air
in his personal and professional life as a professor
Kedrick James decided to buy a ranch in the Canadian wilderness.
So, I am constantly setting up this ranch.
And, to go and commune with a whole lot
of animals, cause it's full of wildlife.
And the wildlife is exceptionally, uh...
I don't know... present.
You know, when I say I'm... having trouble
relating to the... current state of affairs,
uh, partly because I'm developing disciplines
that... take me as far out as I can get...
I-I think that's sort of what I am referring to.
Like, different... approaches to being able to,
uh... be enraptured with... you know, the whole
of creation, so to speak.
And that that's... my drive.
Like, without that, I don't know how
I can continue to... create my weird,
It needs that sense of real otherness,
in order to keep driving it,
in order to keep the sense that...
you got... this time on earth.
You should make really, really good use of it.
Um, but... the... sense for me now is that...
those practices showed me what's... possible.
And... you investigate what that leaves open to you.
Um... the... whole physical, uh... environment...
takes on a very personal... a-uh-eh-a... a... aspect.
It becomes engaging. Clouds become muscular,
and everything is interacting with you.
And-and that's very close to the experience I have
when I'm actually... doing that kind of retreat
and experiencing my time with all the animals,
that... it's a very... communicative space.
The aim is to absorb something foreign.
Deny yourself the oxygen you have grown used to,
because today you will dive in a pool of liquid curiosities,
drown, suck new concepts into your lungs,
and crawl ashore with unassumed stamina,
as an artistic beast whose existence has not been proven.
There are worlds you do not know of.
And until you go there, there are parts of you
you do not know of.
In my interviews about immersion,
at this point the topic of discussion
regularly ballooned into using drugs,
and other forms of manipulating the mind,
getting into a different zone,
which is the last approach we shall look at:
unusual mental states.
For Kedrick this is a topic of some importance.
Coming of age in the late seventies,
he is of the opinion that the art world, or society itself,
has gradually forgotten about the value of changing
the very apparatus with which it functions, the human mind.
There seemed to be a brief glimmer
when that was a subject worthy of investigation.
I-I-I, I think we're now... just way too
far up the creek without a paddle to...
you know, give much credence to people
wanting to explore altered states, um, of mind.
Though... I-uh-uh, you know, I think that:
How then do you have new thoughts?,
if we've... already discussed the sense that
with the barrage of what is already there,
everything is already there.
Well, how do you have new thoughts?
Well, I think sometimes it's by completely
altering... the perception (that is the reception
and the processing) of those thoughts.
Because you won't come up with new ones
if you're using the same... perceptions
and the same processing techniques and tools
that... you know, are being kind of foisted on you
if you're using the automatic version of it,
as opposed to going and exploring it,
and trying to work it out for yourself.
Um, you are not going to quickly or easily...
uh, find the new... or the radically, the...
you know, life changing techniques.
Artificially adjusting perception, thought processes,
affect and drive is for some an art form in itself.
An inventive pursuit to design devices or practices to
■ overcome wonderlessness
■ induce bizarre states
■ and possibly open up otherwise obscure mental faculties.
Finding ways to alter perception that were non-pharmaceutical,
or non drug related. Um, I-I-I think it's important to
experience those states... to go out there.
I mean, I-I... you know, found myself through a
phase of my life where I was running an art
gallery with the opportunity to build a lot
of those, and experimented with things like,
you know, um, the Burroughs Gysin Dreamachine, uh, stuff.
Created some of my own mirror rooms, and, um...
where you could spin... on a disc
among a whole series of mirrors
that had flashing light, so that...
you'd experience this movement out of your body.
An-an-and... I think those... you know, uh-uh-uh,
states of mind, when you make them really dynamic,
you start to be able to see through the really
formidable walls of perception that we build
and you can actually start to know... there is that.
Y'know you can't teach... the shamanic journey.
I-uh-uh... People try to, I-uh... don't-not really
sure how that goes for them, but... um...
Y-you can't teach those journeys.
Those journeys happen, or they don't.
So, at the same time while we must be committed...
to... allowing... not scientific... or non s[...],
what's the word... allowing rapturous states
to inform us more generally.
So we got to stop being afraid of all that stuff.
And thereby, the list of eight means to stimulate creativity
in times of feeling like a punctured beach ball is complete.
What would be technique number nine, or ten?
Pauline Le Bel wanted to include rituals.
Bass player Tony Overwater saw value in mental digestion,
a conclusive resting and contemplation phase.
Possibly making kitsch would loosen up tension of playfulness:
design something that entirely lacks authenticity
but offers instantaneous gratification.
Prick that bubble of your own standards.
Just for the day.
I left out some obvious ones, such as
collaboration and training yourself.
But I do want to play one last clip
wherein my friend Ole Juul describes
the benefits of getting to a point
where you can work friction-free.
You need to get... a lot of things to-to be automatic.
It is r... really difficult to write a novel
with a dictionary in one hand, and a grammar book
in the other hand, and trying to figure out
how to make a sentence every time you're making a sentence.
If... I-I-I-It really...
A certain basic level of skill makes things flow really,
in a way that is more likely to-to be...
to have that warmth of... that fullness of b-oh...
and the coherence o-of-o-of coming from someone's heart.
...coming from someone's heart.
Lidless. This heart turns inside out.
And just now, the artist feels good,
a melody is born, and the world dances along.
You have been listening to The Nots.
A total of eighteen hours of interviews have been
recorded, and all are available online.
Professor, poet and musician Kedrick James:
[...] and I think that... these different artistic practices
and disciplines are ways of getting... through all the mediations,
so that there is direct connection with the creative proces.
Video game music producer Neil Biggin:
When I was... when I felt... comfortably enough in the position
that I could just write my own music, and [thought:]
'To hell with everybody else,' I think I wrote my best stuff.
[...] and-and for me that's joy...
...liberating possible way of being.
The thing is that there is this
counter... argument that I would voice.
Pianist Lisa Cay Miller:
We just heard a... police car, uh...
If they would ask you to design a new...
Sure. That could be fun.
Or make it like: Weng-áááh-eng-áááh,
like, I don't know. He-he he he he.
Writer and vocalist Pauline Le Bel:
[...] and I f... I felt immediately asleep.
And I slept deeply for fifteen minutes.
I woke up, I knew exactly what that scene needed.
Bass player Tony Overwater:
In India there is uh, what they call the Delhi Belly.
So sometimes some of us would have it
and you would have a... Okay, let's have a drum solo!,
and then... the others guys would run to the toilet,
ha ha, get back on stage.
My friend Ole Juul:
Could you get that?
I'm in the middle of an interview,
but uh... why not?
Oh dear, I'm sorry.
[Automated telemarketing recording: Hi, this is Jennifer...]
It's not Jennifer. It's a recording of Jennifer.
Jennifer, you're a machine. You should listen to me.
He he he. See? Somebody was being really creative there.
There is also a dialogue with art collector Trout Johnson:
So, I went to her studio.
She said: Oh, this is a piece I am working on right now.
I looked at where I left my cup of coffee this morning
and I liked the pattern it left-left in the napkin.
And I was like: Oh. Now I know that I don't like it.
And my father Alan Laurillard:
When you tie your shoes in the morning
do you sometimes try to do it in a totally... different way?
I have done that. But I always go back to
like I did when I learned it when I was... five.
Ha ha ha ha, or four, ha ha.
That's a faster way, but I haven't... perfected it yet.
Ha ha ha ha ha.