Thursday, May 15, 2014


... or at least it might. It's my belief that creativity is at the very heart of the fabric of our reality, i.e. that it has an ontological status. It's all about being and becoming - and therefore, I also believe that as human beings, creativity is the most fundamental element of our existence. It is what has allowed us to become, i.e. to evolve into increasingly self-aware and complex beings who aren't just in the world, but also add to it in substantial ways. Creativity also exists elsewhere in nature but the lack of self-awareness in other species make their creativity look a bit different and more subtle. 

The ontology of creativity was in fact the subject for my Master's thesis back in '99. In spite of this, I don't suppose I quite grasped the massive implications until just recently. What it really means is that you'll be alright as long as you can keep your creative juices flowing. It is the one thing that will help you through the challenges of life because while you're creative, you're in touch with the very life force itself. Sadly, in our decadent society we lose touch with this energy more often than not, and go about life in a deploringly mechanical way. One has to become conscious of the value of creativity in one's own life and try and keep the flame alive. There are at least two things you can do to support this process. One is to engage in creative activities regularly, and not fall into a rut, and the other is to meditate at least once a day for a minimum of 20 minutes (preferably 30 or 40). Focus on allowing your energies free flow and feel the rise of the energy from the very base of your being and imagine how it connects with your mind. Of course you also need to try and avoid giving into self-doubts and the need to please other people, which obstructs the natural creative flow and takes away from your feelings of accomplishment (see previous blog entry).

My latest sound collage references Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous theory about creativity and flow and imagines what the creative process might sound like. The experience of creative flow is a peak experience and therefore, I would argue, also liminal in nature (see previous posts). The creative process in itself is, however forever ongoing unless obstructed. This piece contains many references to space and water, two powerful symbols of creativity. One suggests that it can be an otherworldly experience that has something in common with flying, and the other that it requires a connection with the intuitive and emotional world of the subconscious mind.

You can also hear it here on SoundCloud, but the version above is slightly improved.

These two polarities are therefore metaphorical of two areas of our inner selves, the lower and higher regions of the psyche or the two ends of the spectrum of consciousness. To make it easier to imagine, consider this image. In Hinduism, there are two god figures, Shakti and Shiva, that represent these energies. Shakti (earthy, watery) lies within the unconscious sphere as raw, physical energy required for all forms of conception as well as the very potential out of which creative manifestations arise, and Shiva (ethereal) is pure consciousness, i.e. the spiritual aspect that manifests as creative inspiration. They are said to be in a dance-like play with each other while giving rise to our personal and collective reality. You could say that these forces function as theses - antitheses = synthesis. In a sense they represent a mentality of generosity in a personal as well as impersonal way. I believe this is how our reality arises all the time, without cessation.

If we live naturally we will automatically be creative (as artists we just happen to make art but it could be any other pursuit). It's really a wonderful thing that should be celebrated. Our subconscious mind is an immense storehouse of ideas and I believe we must let it come out the way it wants to come out, and not question it. We will then express who we truly are. I find it helps a bit to try and believe that we all have great creative potential outside of our normal consciousness.

The soundscape wasn't easy to construct, as it was quite complicated. I didn't plan what to put in it but advanced in an intuitive way, gradually getting the bits together. I listen for all sorts of sounds that make sense to me, based on some general idea about the atmosphere and message. I thought the piece was going to be more about the state of flow but in actual fact it became more about the process. Towards the very end I had to ask Martin what he thought of a couple of issues. I took his suggestions to heart but all the changes are my own. All the found sounds need to be stringed together in a way that makes sense. Sure it will sound like a collage, because it is one, but it  also has to make a sense in a musical way. The snippets of melody (a few of which I constructed from entirely from scratch, i.e. from single notes) are suggestive of the way the research phase of the creative process, when various ideas present themselves and beg to be tested. There are also times when it all feels difficult and one might even feel stuck. Once a sense of flow sets in, it's like flowing with a stream but also diving deep into the bubbly underwater world of the subconscious mind. The tinkly sounds represent excited, creative energy. The piece starts with some space sounds from the Earth's atmosphere and ends with it too, because we always have return to Earth after our adventures in other spaces (don't we?).

Once the piece was finished, ironically, I just couldn't think of an evocative title - everything seemed banal. Referencing the famous creativity researcher's Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's amazing Hungarian name (/ˈmiːhaɪ ˌtʃiːksɛntməˈhaɪ.iː/ mee-hy cheek-sent-mə-hy-ee) in the title was in fact Martin's idea - rather tongue-in-cheek. He also suggested "chill out mix" which is quite funny. In the end I settled for a simpler title that suggests that the only way we can be truly happy within ourselves is by being in touch with the creative spark.

In this TED talk, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow." (from the TED website).

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