Question: What IS Musical Creativity?

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Carl King Podcast: What IS Musical Creativity?

Hello, this is Carl King, with another hybrid podcast / blog. It’s sort of a Blogcast? If you will, as it were, as such, and so on and so forth, ad nauseam. If you like hearing Carl King talking to you, consider supporting all of my creative projects through Patreon. I upload rough mixes, stems, music notation, journals, and other behind the scenes materials for members only. That’s Patreon.com/CarlKing

OK, In this episode: I’ll first give you a Carl King Life Update. Then I’ve got TWO new Carl King things for you to go and look at. One is a new website I’m launching and testing, and the other is a blog I wrote for drummers. At the end, I’ll answer the simple question from a reader, “What IS Musical Creativity?” That should be super easy to answer, right?

Carl King Life Update

COVID or No Covid, it’s important for me to get out of the house, away from my home office, walk around, be in nature, look at the trees. I try to empty my mind, stop thinking about problems, stop thinking about work. I try to get out of my head and use my senses, connect with the physical world around me.

Carl King on a recent walk.

I like to do daily 30-minute walks during the daylight hours, because every time I do, two things happen. One, I feel better. Mentally and physically. Two, creative ideas start flowing.

If you feel stuck at your computer, try going outside for 15 or 30 minutes. Even if it’s cold where you live, some outdoor time is good for you. Be a hippie. Feel the air. Listen to the birds. Be in the present moment. It’s good stuff. Quick mention before I move on, I have so far lost 6 of the 20 pounds I put on since March, so congratulations to me. Let’s keep that going. 

Two Things To Look At…

Next, I have TWO THINGS for you to look at. Hey, who wants to go look at things?

First one, I have soft-launched a new website called CreativeMusician.com. There, I’ve posted a 13-minute Q&A video: How To Come Up With Musical Ideas. It’s a good one. I’ve also uploaded the 3-HOUR The Making of Carl King’s Grand Architects of the Universe documentary. Both of those videos are included in the low subscription price of 4.99 per month. I plan to add more content regularly. But I’m testing this concept to see how much work is involved, and whether there is an audience for it. So go check it out, CreativeMusician.com

Hey, it’s CreativeMusician.com!

And Second thing to look at… I’ve posted a pretty long blog on my site called 3 Ways You Can Be A More Creative Drummer. It references clips of Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang, Anika Nilles, Travis Orbin, and many more. Too many more. You can find it at carlkingdom.com/blog. Go read it! Let me know what you think. Also, sorry about the horrible blog layout at the moment. It should be completely redesigned by next week. 

What IS Musical Creativity?

Time for this week’s QUESTION, which was submitted by Nils Rurack, purveyor of delicious mayonnaise and smooth jazz metal. He asks:

“I would like to hear your thoughts on the creative process and the underlying emotional state of mind. I don’t understand any of it and I’m a fairly creative person. I can tell you all about what kind of music I write, what I do in a song or what theorem I apply in a solo. But I can’t tell you why I get ideas in my head and when I do.”

Nils Rurack

Nils, I can confirm that you are a fairly creative person! I think your question can be condensed to: “What IS Musical Creativity?” 

To be fair, I am no scientist, so I can only tell you The Carl King point of view. 

First of all, to get a little bit philosophical, I believe we have no free will. (You can thank Sam Harris for this.) I think Free Will is an illusion, and we’re all just kind of watching a movie. Tricked into thinking we’re in control. If I observe my own actions, I don’t really have conscious control over anything I do. For instance, if I am asked to think of a 3-syllable word, Spaghetti pops into my mind. Why? Did I consciously choose spaghetti? No. My subconscious did. If I were choose spaghetti, that would require seeing the entire list of 3-syllable words, going through them and evaluating. That would take what, hours? Days? No, this happened in an instant. I can’t honestly take credit for it and call it freewill. 

You can try this experiment yourself, like I do. Every thought I have simply emerges. Even the words I am typing here. 

If you have ever tried meditation, you will find that in your mind, there is an endless chaos with thoughts, images, sounds generated at random. It’s one thing after the next.  

I can attempt to premeditate an action, but what caused me to try to do that? I didn’t pre-meditate to premeditate. It’s an endless chain of consequences. If I believe in cause and effect, everything I do was caused by something else. So, how can my consciousness ESCAPE cause and effect, and initiate a cause from nothing? Why would my consciousness be the ONLY THING that can initiate its own cause? Maybe it’s all effects, all of our behavior, everything that happens in the universe, possibly leading all the way back to the Big Bang. But what caused THAT? I don’t know. As I said, I’m no scientist. But as an atheist that’s what makes sense to me. I’m OK with that. I suppose I have no choice but to be ok with that. 

This is all to get around to this idea that creativity can be simply listening to your subconscious. Listen internally for the music to happen. This is something called Audiation. It’s the process of mentally hearing music, like melodies and harmonies. To be honest, I’m not great at it. My internal understanding of pitch and harmony is pretty crappy. For me, it’s mostly rhythms. I can listen to crazy drum solos all day long in my mind, generated freely out of the gibberish. I suppose that’s why I’m so drawn towards that area of musical expression. 

Sometimes you meet people who have endless creativity that they can’t even control. I think someone like Jon Schnepp was lucky that he had such immediate access to endless creative imagery. It was like a bizarro movie was happening in his head 24 hours a day, and all he had to do was describe it to others by turning it into cartoons. Frank Zappa also seemed to have an entertaining subconscious like that. No shortage of funny ideas there. 

Outside of plucking ideas from our own subconscious, there are also methods we can use for creativity. It can actually be a systematic process. I recommend The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit. It’s a 12-hour lecture series with tools you can use to generate new ideas.

The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit. I recommend it!

One last thing I’ll suggest before wrapping up. It sure does help me to be in a good mood when I’m trying to make music. If I’m worried and distracted by major problems, it’s probably not the right time. I suggest setting yourself up with a time and place for making music, like I do. Before I do any composing, I like to take care of any tasks that might nag me. If I’m hungry, or thirsty, or the room is a mess, or there is an errand to run. I get those distractions out of the way quickly so I can then focus for a few hours. Try to get as much uninterrupted time as you can.

Recommended Books

Regarding productive work and focus, I recommend reading Cal Newport’s books if you haven’t yet. Here are three of the titles.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Deep Work

Digital Minimalism

OK, that’s it for this episode of the Carl King Podcast Blog Experiment. I TRIED to keep it shorter this time and focus mostly on one topic. To support this content, as well as my other creative projects, join my Patreon. That’s Patreon.com/CarlKing. And if you have any questions you’d like me to answer in an upcoming blog, you can email ask@carlkingdom.com.

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