I am delving into the question of what creativity is, whether it exists at all. This raises the question of what art itself is. I have this idea that creation and perception of art are almost opposites: In creation the intellectual idea is transcribed into artistic/emotional form by the artist. Whereas the perceiver senses the emotion and then rationalises the emotions to an intellectual idea, which may or may not be similar to the artists idea.
So what is this concept of an ‘intellectual idea’? it could be defined as an amalgamation of separate elements, brought together in a particular way.so what then are these elements?
In in a piece of pop music there are many elements, such as : Rhythm, Melody, Lyric, commentary on culture, commentary on music, commentary on the individual, expression of feeling, direction, dynamics, pitch, genre. I’ll have to look up if there is a formal quantification somewhere! Other art forms can be described in a similar way.
The creation of a piece of music, is simple putting some of these elements together, some familiar, some from fusings of two separate individual elements. Described thus, a random generator could produce a piece of music, so where then is creativity?
A computer can reproduce a score. Indeed, I can play a piece from the score and it will sound clinical. This isn’t music. Music occurs when the performer no longer concentrates on the technical production, switches off the intellect and lets go, allowing the emotions or soul of the music to come out. A great singer will have a number of qualities: technically brilliant, controlled power and the ability to express their emotional interpretation of the music.
There is a sense that this is the creativity. That creativity is allowing oneself to be free and emotional express the music, whilst relying and trusting their body to produce sounds and ideas technically well. To perhaps express the intellectual idea, without actively thinking about it, yet informed by the memory of the intellectual idea.
I play musical instruments. Learning to play them initially consists of learning the technicalities: how to produce notes at the correct pitch, what to do with fingers to produce individual notes. Physically it’s a complicated process, demanding a range of skills. The purpose of this learning is to be able to produce a note at a particular dynamic with specific qualities, automatically without thinking about it, to free the performer to let the music flow, to concentrate on interpretation and interaction with other musicians/ audience.
Every performance of a piece of music is slightly different. Hence something unique has been created by a fusion of various elements. The creation process is tiring because it involves switching off parts of the mind which are focusing on telling you that you are breaking self-created rules, but this is necessary to create.
From this it seems as though the intellect has no control over the creative process, that it is just a pure connection to emotional response. Except, musicians don’t perform a piece of music only once. Between each performance there is a period of reflection. During this reflection the intellect is engaged and hence influences the creation. Both the intellectual idea and the emotional response interact and ground each other into new forms.
No-one taught me what creativity was when I was at school. I had a series of art teachers whom I frustrated and they gave up on me. I remember a lesson where I had to create a couple of different shapes and then apply these shapes to a canvas. I didn’t get it, it just seemed a random exercise. I wondered how I was supposed to create meaning from these random shapes. I think I wanted to know technically how to do the task effectively, rather than just create something. I ended up trying to make the shapes into the form of a rather abstract cat and the teacher complained that this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. This put me off art and creativity for so long.
Years later, I had a go at drawing/painting. I did have ideas of what I wanted to create, but was incredibly slow in learning technically how to produce the desired effects. It applies to music as well. I passed grades on musical instruments at school, I was technically sound, nut didn’t know ho to unleash the ‘creativity’. Recently I’ve been teaching myself accompaniment on the keyboard. I realised I had the technical skills and instead of thinking about what I needed to do and instead just did what the music informed me to do, which was much better.
Creativity can perhaps then be defined as the fusion of intellectual ideas and emotional responses. Great art is produced by people with great technical ability and the ability to express strong emotions though their productions.