‘I waited for the idea to consolidate, for the grouping and composition of themes to settle themselves in my brain.’
– Claude Monet –
I’m assuming that most creatives are ‘waiting’ for works to settle and consolidate in their brains, much as Monet expresses. I know that this is certainly true for me. But how long does waiting take, and, if nothing it forthcoming, ought one to abandon such an idea ..?
Listening to what the composer Steve Reich has to say about the imaginative process, my question has been answered. Recently speaking about his haunting composition WTC 9/11 at the Harvard School of Design two weeks ago Reich offered to share the temporal creative process with regards to the 15 minute piece, which he wrote during the construction of the 9/11 memorial.
Although Reich was approached to create a work about 9/11 years previously, he had declined at the time. When approached by Kronos Quartet in 2009 to do a piece on pre-recorded voices, Reich accepted without the remotest idea of what he would do. Then, several months later in January 2010 it came to Reich that the voices would be from 9/11, and from that point on he started creating this memorial piece played here by Kronos Quartet.
The point for me is the 7 year time ‘wait’ taken by Reich. Even though his own home was a mere 4 blocks away from the World Trade Centre at the time, Reich didn’t push himself into creating a piece that wasn’t ready for birthing. Instead, he allowed it to happen at its own time and as the work revealed itself to Reich instead. Having to ‘represent absence through sound’ of a human tragedy of such an enormous scale must have been incredibly challenging, yet Reich writes simply that:
In this piece it was to be, and is, the means of connecting one person to another – harmonically.
Another artist who responded to his New York experience was the French painter, Francis Picabia. In contrast to the tragedy of Reich’s personal response to the 2001 twin-tower tragedy, Picabia responded to the experience of his first impressions of New York in 1913. In an article entitled How New York Looks to Me, Picabia feels the need to ‘… express the spirit of New York as I feel it, and the crowded streets of your city as I feel them, their unrest … I absorb these impressions.’
Like Reich, Picabia needs time to absorb the impressions, whether good or bad, and expresses the need for incubation of such impressions:
I am in no hurry to put them on canvas. I let them remain in my brain, and then when the spirit of creation is at flood-tide, I improvise my pictures as a musician improvises music.’
Incubation pays off the moment creativity flows: I need to remember this.
Currently exploring the possibilities of sonification of my thought drawings, I am inclined to push too hard instead of allowing it to ‘remain in my brain’ and consolidate.
Futher reading of the connections between music and the visual arts:
- Vergo, Peter. The Music of Painting (2001) Phaidon Press Inc, NY. ISBN: 978 07143 6386 3