Context

Today I started listening to the book How Music Works by David Byrne.

I was struck by the opening sections, by the thesis he lays out, and am looking forward to hearing how he develops it further.

context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually backward from conventional wisdom, which maintains that creation emerges out of some interior emotion, from an upwelling of passion or feeling, and that the creative urge will brook no accommodation, that it simply must find an outlet to be heard, read, or seen. The classical composer gets a strange look in his or her eye and begins scribbling furiously. The rock-and-roll singer is driven by desire and demons, and out bursts this amazing song. This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180º from this model. I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.

My thoughts immediately drifted to the theatre, and how certain choices – particularly the choice of where you stage your show – determine a lot about the overall shape of the production. I also thought about theatre classes I took in college, and the methods of play analysis I learned. Essentially, the whole point of the classes was learning that the context of the play’s creation – the historical and cultural forces at work when the play was written – are fundamental pieces required to help understand the work itself.

These are just half formed thoughts, typed here while one of my kids babbles to the dog in a very annoyingly distracting singsong voice, so I can barely think at all. So that’s the context of this blog post and the reason why it’s likely not coming together as a coherent piece.

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