09/13/04: creativity / focus

I think one of the crises of being a creative person is that we tend to feel things very deeply... we experience things on a molecular level. Things that others might just perfunctorily acknowledge (or disregard entirely) are given thoughtful consideration by creative types. We need time to understand everything, roll around images, sounds, ideas and emotions in our heads and file everything neatly away in our collective schema for later retrieval and application. A casual walk down the block to pick up dry cleaning isn't a simple task for me; it's a string of mental processes and observations that need to be filed.

I spend time thinking about the lone ancient sock I've passed on the sidewalk, how it got there, how many times its been run over, where the other sock might be, if its owner is looking for the sock, if it was someone's favorite sock, if the abandoned sock's mate has since been discarded because it doesn't match anything else, how long the sock will sit on the sidewalk.

I breathe and am conscious of the air filling my lungs. I'm not just respirating, I'm experiencing, understanding, acknowledging and cataloguing.

Look, I'm on the sidewalk.
I like the way my shoes sound on the sidewalk.
clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp
songs enter my head which I sing in my head in time with my steps
They say that these are not the best of times, but they're the only times I've ever known / and I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own / now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes / and I can only stand apart and sympathize / for we are always what our situations hand us, it's either sadness or euphoria
The sunlight feels good on my neck
It is a perfect day
The air smells like laundry and browning meat - mmmmmm
I like the way the air smells here
The air doesn't smell good in Wilmington
It's the fifth season in Wilmington, and I am missing it. I am also missing it. It is happening without me.
Things are happening without me.
I can't believe that when I get home Jeremy will live in a place other than the place we got together. I will need a sweater.
I feel displaced.
I feel unimportant. Uninspiring. Unknown.
Holy crap, I am in San Francisco!
There is so much to do here.
I want to meet people and make a mark. I want to be relevant. I am not.
I want my friends to move here.
I am a short flight from Phoenix! That rocks!
Holy crap, I am in San Francisco!
How did I get here?
This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! And you may ask yourself, Am I right?...Am I wrong? And you may say to yourself, MY GOD!...WHAT HAVE I DONE?

The mind just goes and goes and goes and goes.

As the day to day mundane obligations of existence take their toll, these "to be filed" items sit in the in-basket, kinda like the stack of papers on my kitchen table. I am not just walking, I am experiencing my toes in my shoes. I am the conductor of a swelling symphony spontaneously composed by a billion nerve endings and synapses; I am responsible for coordinating their harmony. With every input I accept, no matter how small or insignificant, I am crunching the data through complex filters. I see numbers, calculations, angles, diagrams, measurements. Sounds are visual images, pitches are colors, fire sirens mingle with the hum of a building dehumidifier and my brain dedicates precious clock cycles to deciphering intervals and colors. I cannot interrupt it, even though there are other things I need to be thinking about. I see blue eyes and all I can feel is the key of A major. When I finally get a break in the audio-visual cacophany and am free to move about the cabin and think about pressing topics, I jump at the chance, but every word holds the peril of a tangent, whether the tangent be stream-of-consciousness or a sound that jolts me out of where I was. Bring another person into the conversation and the stimuli quadruples... it's a struggle to stay on task and on topic. But when I finally feel a good flow going, I try with all my might to hold onto it. And if the other person is distracted, I want to jump out a window because my opportunity at clarity was just casually (though unintentionally) tossed out the window in favor of a foot scratch.

Yes, I am distracted. And when I'm not, I am in a precious zone. Being in this zone takes practice.

I am almost guaranteed to be in this zone when I am singing, because it's using that audio/visual thing very heavily, with my processor maxxed out at 100%. If I am singing tight harmony with a group of singers, I am in absolute heaven, because all things in my life are resonating towards the same goal. This is why I spend a week in December in Phoenix singing with Cappella Sonora; because I have the chance to sing the music that moves and challenges me with people I love to resonate with. Singing my duet with Stefan on Alma Redemptoris Mater is perfection; we are tuned into each other, knowing by only The Force when the other will breathe or ritard. Sharing the tenor part with Rob and listening how our voices intermingle and blend to create harmonics that I can see and feel makes me almost cry. We understand how to sing together without ever having to talk about it, and it was like that at our first rehearsal. Similarly, when I first heard Joe Trainor sing a piece that I have sung by myself in the past, I caught myself as an audience member breathing where he breathed, as if I was singing the song with him. During these types of musical interactions, I am focused with laser-like precision. I don't want to check my phone, I don't wonder how my hair looks. I am in the moment, and that kind of focus feels SO good, because it is rare.

Today I found myself listening to a recording of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from our production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I haven't walked down that nostalgia path in a while, and instead of listening to the usual version of that song, I listened to an alternate performance we recorded, and Nick's night as well. Hearing myself functioning in that uber-focused state charges me. It's incredible. I specifically recall that the one night I had a slight vocal blip was on a night I was thinking about someone being in the audience and I wasn't in the moment. That'll teach me.

Recently I was exposed to electronic music as a genre. Previously, I never had a place in my life for it, but I find that it centers and focuses me in a way I don't quite understand. I love the fact that it is perfect, infallible, accurate. The pitches are digitally generated, so they will not be out of tune unless they're planned that way. Beats are constant, sounds are multidimensional in way humans can't produce organically. When I listen to this stuff, whether it's throbbing techno or ambient Eno, I feel that same perfect resonance, like all of the electrons in my internal magnet are aligned and infinitely more powerful and useful than the piece of unenlightened iron it was before.

I had never considered "observing" music as a means to achieving this focus. I look forward to exploring this as a way to have a meaningful musical experience with someone who doesn't share the desire/ability to create music with me. I wonder if it will work when shared?

Life is magic.



Fortune Teller Miracle Fish today tells me that I am: Indifferent. Or maybe it's just cold in here.


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