I had an email this week from a close friend who told me that she had started writing children's stories again 'I have started writing again and it seems to help be have a balance... it is an escape from academia... and a way to create new realities.' I recognised the wisdom in these words that it is important to have spaces in which to create that are different to the spaces we normally inhabit for work. And the things we create are often stories.. quite apart from any other artefact that emerges.
In the last couple of months I have been cultivating a space with one of the members of my band (G) in order to try and create a musical. Every song in it is a story and together they make a single overarching story. This is a significant undertaking in time, effort and challenge. We began in November throwing some ideas around and shaping a narrative and I'm now well and truly inhabiting this space on a daily basis. I know I'm fully engaged when I can't leave something alone I have to keep going back in and tinkering and I wake up with an idea of how to improve something, or the idea comes to me when I'm doing something else.
Our process is fundamentally a story making and story telling process through words and music. Over many years G has written many songs with some great tunes. He is very talented. We began by creating a narrative that provided scope for incorporating the songs. It's a typical boy meets girl, they fall in love, they have a baby and fall out with parents, they struggle, they grow apart, he messes up, they realise they do love each and come back together so there is a happy ending. We have selected 25 of G's songs and effectively we are repurposing them as the objects in the story. We will have a narrator but the emotional engagement will be through the songs. So my contribution has been to develop the narrative (the spoken words of the narrator) and re-write the lyrics so that they reflect the story. Like most things the more effort you put in the more you get out and this week I have put a lot of effort in rewording ten of the 28 songs. I have put all our recordings onto my website and I listen to the tune while I rewrite the words. G is away at the moment so I have been emailing the revised songs to him for his approval. The process is one of adaptation but the final effect will be to create something entirely new.. It fits the idea that much of our creativity involves taking something and combining it with something else to make something new... in this case we are taking existing tunes repositioning them within a narrative to produce a new song.... then all the songs and the narrative add up to hopefully a new and substantial (for us) creative work - a musical story..that has never existed before.. Then we will move to the next stage which is performing it with the help and involvement of other people.. I think this picture which I adapted from an picture by David Kananga nicely captures our process.
Yes it is really good to have a space for creativity that is very different to the spaces we use to express our creativity in our working life. Its not so much a particular physical space in fact I realised that this type of project happens in lots of different spaces.... we have a rehearsal room (specialist space) where we play (experiment and try things out) and record, but the work of creating can be done anywhere.. sitting here at my computer, out for a walk on the hill...(in fact that is a good space), strumming a guitar in the living room or driving somewhere. It is an ecology in which there is a constellation of places and spaces for both of us but we only physically come together in one space/place the rehearsal room.
Invention takes place in a combination of physical spaces that contain within them the mental/emotional spaces in which words, lines, stories, images and tunes can be imagined, searched for, discovered, played with, refined and recorded. While its possible to be creative without technology (you can hum a tune and put words to it and sing it) technology really facilitates the process. We use instruments, recording devices, computer and resources on the internet (rhymezone is particularly useful) and the internet (my website) enables us to curate our recordings and narratives, and communicate and share ideas via email as they emerge, rather than waiting for some future moment.
Here's one of our songs G singing and playing guitar me on drums 'It happened Suddenly'