Taking Creative Stock: Reviewing Your Year

The end of each year comes replete with the requisite top 10 lists: Movies, Songs, Concerts, Celebrity Deaths, and on and on.   I actually enjoy reading these, not to see if I’m on the list (alas, not this year), but as a reminder to do my own checklist of artistic and creative accomplishments. 

This is more than simply living in the past or worrying about the future.  Taking stock of our preferences, accomplishments, and successes is a way of being in the present, and thus fosters further creativity.  After all, we can only think, act, and create in the present moment.  The past is over, having already existed as its own moment, as will future moments yet to come.  Each blink of the eye can be thought of as a gateway from past to the future, worthy of its own reflection.

It is important to do this in a non-judgmental way.  I have had my share of successful concerts in the past year, as well as a few that did not go as well as I had hoped.  For both, the reflection must include both considered failures and successes.  To help illustrate, I offer the following exercise.

Try this:

  1. Make a list of your accomplishments, everything you have done in the past year: concerts, art works, poems, whatever. You may want to use your near-expired calendar to jog your memory.  List everything: every piece played, every book read, whatever you want to include. You may want to make different lists for different types of things (work, family, play, hobbies, etc.).
  2. From that list, choose 10 things that you feel represent your very best work.
  3. Similarly, choose 10 things that represent your least inspired work.
  4. For each item, reflect on WHY it was successful or lacking.  Be tangible.  It’s not enough to say: “I didn’t practice enough.” Nail it down further: “I didn’t master Mozart’s articulations.” Aha, now you are getting somewhere. 
  5. Looking forward to your upcoming projects, incorporate your findings for a better chance at upcoming success.

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Learn from Your Mistakes.”  I couldn’t agree more.  But we also must “Learn from Our Successes.”  We have both; every year, every month, every day.  I will have many more of both in 2013.  That’s all but guaranteed as I start the year conducting Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring!”  Now, on to the score study…

Happy New Year!

Copyright, 2012. Robert Baldwin

From Garbage to Music: Transcending Trash

An interesting new movie is being made documenting a slum in Paraguay that exists on top of a landfill.  The horrid conditions would make one believe that the residents would have no use for music, something higher on Maslow’s Ladder than the basic necessities.  But music and art cannot be denied.  Check out the trailer for this amazing story here:


Director of the Landfill Harmonic, Favio Chavez, sums it up this way:

“People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly.  Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”

Worth remembering at this time of year and always.


An insightful post from a fellow blogger that makes the salient point that mistakes and imperfection are how we learn, express and ultimately, feel. So, make mistakes, and revel in your imperfection. That is just where we may find truth!

That's How The Light Gets In

I couldn’t let this pass unremarked.  The title of this blog was inspired, of course, by Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ with its chorus:

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

An editorial in today’s Guardian notes that scientists in Trieste have discovered that the reason why Guadagnini violins produce such exceptional sound is because:

the tiny irregularities introduced in its construction that give it an edge over symmetrical instruments. In other words, its perfection comes from its imperfection.

The explanation comes in a report in the Telegraph two days ago in which Dr Franco Zanini, a physicist and amateur violinist who examined the violin at a laboratory in Trieste, explained:

We noticed there were a lot of asymmetries in the instruments. In principle they have no reason to be there, but it is possible these imperfections were made to remove the unpleasant…

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