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Miles Davis' It's About That Time: 'creativity' and music

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a professor of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago... and an authority on creativity.

The way his theory of creativity works - is that if you have what you feel is a great and novel idea... and potentially you get these ideas all the time... and maybe you also happen to dapple with art and have done some paintings recently that your friends like, and you're a good cook, etc.... this sort of 'stuff' doesn't make you creative. It makes you interesting and talented:
- one who experiences the world in novel and original ways
- has 'fresh' perceptions / insightful judgments
- an innate ability to do something very well, etc.

What separates this type of person from someone truly Creative (with a capital C) is that a Creative person leaves a trace in the cultural matrix... does something that allows humankind to go beyond it's present power... more specifically, he or she:
1. masters a domain (i.e. art, physics, law, music, etc.) and develops something 'better' within that domain that is understandable to others

"The old Italian saying applies here: Impara l'arte, e mettila da parte (learn the craft, and then set it aside). One cannot be creative without learning what others know, but then one cannot be creative without becoming dissatisfied with that knowledge and rejecting it (or some of it) for a better way."

2. that 'development' then needs approval of the experts in the field, and finally,
3. it must be included in the cultural domain to which it belongs -- a very difficult task, obviously.
So, Steve Jobs is creative, Bill Gates, Edison, Picasso, Einstein, Nobel Prize winners, John Lennon, etc. whereas a 'personally creative' individual contributes nothing of permanent significance -- sad, but true.

So, yes, by this definition, "van Gogh's creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art... w/o such a response, van Gough would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases."

It's therefore so ridiculously difficult to develop something of 'lasting significance' -- would we be better off primarily listening to music by these truly Creative people who are so unique? Or should we just stick to what we 'like'...

There was a study done that measured the happiness of people who favored trying new foods versus those who mainly ordered meals they knew they liked. The result: people that simply ordered what they knew they liked were happier with their selections, overall... but that's just a random study I remember from college -- and I don't think it applies here, because when someone tried a new meal, it wasn't from a Creative chef.

In terms of music -- I'm not sure there is an answer. However, this week I have a song (actually, part of a song) from one of the most influential musicians of our time, Miles Davis. If you listen and don't like it, all I think it means is that you haven't heard enough of his stuff -- that's about it. But, given Miles Davis is who he is - the burden is on us to figure out why it's good. I personally happen to like this song because of the way he builds the tension... the song is sort of like going up the front part of a roller coaster - the further up you go the greater the suspense, as you're waiting anxiously for something drastic to happen. Same thing with this song, only rather than there being a steep cliff to release the tension - there is a symbol hit at the apex of the tune... and they tease you a bit as well, making it sound as though you're about to reach 'the top' when you haven't just yet. Quite honestly, it's one of those songs where in order to get the full effect you kinda need to just chill on your couch and close your eyes. They build it up really slowly though -- whenever I pay close attention to the entire tune the tension they build can be quite fascinating.

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