“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”—Edward Elgar
The mountains, gorgeous; the rivers, majestic: the lakes, peaceful. Just having returned from a family vacation at the Tetons, I am reminded of how important it is to take a step away to recharge. I’m not “really back” yet, but I thought I’d share a few quick thoughts.
Jonah Lehrer writes about this in his new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. (It’s a very good read, by the way). In the opening section he talks of how Bob Dylan was burned out from touring and simply quit, disengaging from his career. He moved up to a cabin in rural New York and simply dropped off the radar. That is, until the muse hit him again. Being a creative person he couldn’t avoid it. It was the hustle-bustle activity of touring that blocked his creative focus. Thankfully, he dropped back in after resting.
Rest is not the point, even though it is a nice thing to experience. It has more to do with providing the space to allow the creative process to happen. Classical music is filled with stories touting the effectiveness of getting away. Mahler escaped the rigors of a conducting career in Vienna to compose at small Komponierhäuschen or composing hut in the Austrian countryside. Also inspired by nature, Beethoven took frequent walks. John Cage would meditate on the I-Ching.
Lehrer’s book cites impressive research that explains why this works in the brain. But while understanding the science tells us how it works, our commitment to the personal experience confirms why it is important.
“It is always the same with me; only when I experience something do I compose, and only when composing do I experience! After all, a musician’s nature can hardly be expressed in words.”—Gustav Mahler
About 30 years ago, I received an interesting summons from a professor. I was a senior in college, on the road to a musical career, and was a serious overachiever. This professor, Dr. Donald Hamann had done important research on musician burnout. He saw in me the potential for success, and the potential for burnout if I wasn’t careful. If not for him, I may not be doing what I do today. He told me to make sure I spent a part of each day, week, month and year “not” doing what I thought I needed to do. Interestingly, he encouraged me to make a routine of it.
So, whether it’s off to the wilderness or off to walk the dogs, I gladly take the respite to recharge the batteries. Thanks to Dr. Hamann, all those years ago. Now…where did I put that score I was studying?
Copyright, 2012 Robert Baldwin