You need a tangible idea to get you going

You can’t just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however miniscule, is what turns the verb into a noun — paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Let us prove our minds are set on beauty and true excellence

Let the people bring out their talents, and have the variety within them brought forth and made manifest so that we can behold it, like the variety in the works of nature. See the variety God has created—no two trees alike, no two leaves, no two spears of grass alike. The same variety that we see in all the works of God, that we see in the features, visages and forms, exists in the spirits of men. Now let us develop the variety within us, and show to the world that we have talent and taste, and prove to the heavens that our minds are set on beauty and true excellence, so that we can become worthy to enjoy the society of angels, and raise ourselves above the level of the wicked world and begin to increase in faith, and the power that God has given us, and to show to the world an example worthy of imitation.

Brigham Young, Journals of Discourses, 11:305

Replacing portrayals and performances that are depressing, demeaning, and destructive

Dallin H. OaksPresident Brigham Young (1801–1877) gave us some practical advice on how to recognize Him whom we follow. “The difference between God and the Devil,” he said, “is that God creates and organizes, while the whole study of the Devil is to destroy.” In that contrast we have an important example of the reality of “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Remember that our Savior Jesus Christ always builds us up and never tears us down. We should apply the power of that example in the ways we use our time, including our recreation and our diversions. Consider the themes of the books, magazines, movies, television shows, and music we in the world have made popular by our patronage. Do the things portrayed in our chosen entertainment build up or tear down the children of God? During my lifetime I have seen a strong trend to set aside entertainment that builds up and dignifies the children of God and to replace it with portrayals and performances that are depressing, demeaning, and destructive. The powerful idea in this contrast is that whatever builds people up serves the cause of the Master, and whatever tears people down serves the cause of the adversary. We support one cause or the other every day by our patronage and by our thoughts and desires. This should remind us of our responsibility to support what is good and motivate us toward doing this in a way that will be pleasing to Him whose suffering offers us hope and whose example gives us direction.

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Atonement and  Faith,” Ensign,  April 2010

See also, Dallin H. Oaks, “Powerful Ideas,” October 1995 General Conference

John Harbison: “I’m trying to defeat the idea of style”

AG: All of your works are so very different from each other, and there’s a quote from an interview with you from years ago in which you said that your main interest was to make each work different from the others—to reinvent traditions and to create fresh new designs.  Do you approach each new piece in a completely different manner?

JH: I’m trying to.  And I’m trying to defeat the idea of style. I think the composers that I’m interested in also were more interested in finding the character of the piece, or the peculiar circumstances of the piece, and defeating the idea of the style.  Bach does it in a peculiar manner really because he’s someone who developed so many resources for how he could write that in his case, it’s really just a lavish kind of equipment.  If you track him from one week to the next, right in those two years when he’s writing a piece a week, the astonishing thing is that he’s not working off the previous week at all.  You walk away completely thrown by how unreliant he is on where he’s just been, which is staggering to me, particularly because the timeframe is so small.  If you were to say, well, Wagner writes Tristan and then he writes Meistersinger, and his vocabulary is so wildly different. I mean, it’s incredible self-discipline that he makes the sound of those pieces so different, but you’re also talking about six year gulfs there.  For Bach, it’s like six days.  So I think that trying to re-attack is really important.  I try to set up situations where I kind of have to do that.  Like when I wrote this piece for the Vatican, and they looked over a bunch of my motets in this little committee, and they sent me a commentary sheet.  The pieces where I use triads are all identified as something they like.  That’s the way they were in the 14thcentury too, so I thought the premise for the piece then ought to be that there’s nothing in the piece but triads.  That became a really interesting premise because if you then try to write seemingly linear textures, actually they’re up and down.  They’re constantly registering triads. It becomes an interesting set of problems, to not make the listener or even the analyst aware of this, but if you are crazy enough to actually look at it moment to moment, you notice that’s what happening.  That seemed like a great opportunity to clear the air, and to be doing something completely unlike whatever I’ve been doing.  So I look for chances like that.  I did a piece years ago called The Most Often Used Chords, and a couple of my friends in California said, “That didn’t sound like anything you would write.”  I said, “Well, I’m really happy to hear that because given the a priori sort of games that I laid out, movement to movement, there wasn’t much of any way for it to sound like things I’d written before.”  There are a number of peculiar things that go on in that piece, based on not exactly musical principles, like almost statistical; say certain chords will be around a certain percentage of the time.  To me it was what music would be like if a bunch of really goofy theorists thought you should do things according to the way you could actually describe them. I think it’s fun to find places where you have to do it in a way that you don’t really know how to do it.

NewMusicBox Interview with John Harbison, December 1, 2011

Thoughts about creativity

Joseph Smith taught that in knowledge there is power and that the very power of God is related to knowledge and intelligence. You can be creative and make solid contributions in . . . history, art, literature, and communications. Challenge yourself to be in the forefront of some field of creativity.

—Truman Madsen

Why should we all use our creative power…? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.

—Brenda Ueland

Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps subconsciousness—I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.

—Aaron Copland

It is art, and art only, that reveals us to ourselves.

—Oscar Wilde

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

—Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

—Pablo Picasso

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

—Joseph Chilton Pearce

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

—Henry Miller

Art is coming face to face with yourself.

—Jackson Pollock

Life is not what is said, but the process of saying, not the created picture, but the creating.

—Gerhard Richter

Art is just another way of keeping a diary.

—Pablo Picasso

You begin with the possibilities of the material, and then you see what they can do, so the artist is almost a bystander while he’s working.

—Robert Rauschenberg

The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.

—Piet Mondrian

My destination is always the same but I work out a different route to get there.

—Henri Matisse

Experience, even for a painter, is not exclusively visual.

—Walter Meigs

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The act of a man creating is the act of a whole man

The artist, the writer, and to a new degree the scientist seek an answer in the nature of their acts. They create or they seek to create, and this in itself endows the process with dignity. There is “creative” writing and “pure” science, each justifying the work of its producer in its own right. It is implied, I think, that the act of a man creating is the act of a whole man, that it is this rather than the product that makes it good and worthy.

Jerome S. Bruner, On Knowing (1962, p. 17)

Beauty of soul, truth in art

In an age like ours, confined to the surface of things, “beauty” inevitably comes to be thought of primarily as beauty of appearance rather than beauty of character or mind (or ”soul”). Thus, contemporary performing values stress smoothness, homogeneity, and glamour at the expense of all other qualities — despite the fact that these other qualities compose seventy-five percent of art, which is great, when it is great, not because it is beautiful but because it is true. Composers like Mussorgsky, Mahler, Berg, Britten, and Shostakovich — for whom the articulacy of sound is so critical as to teeter perpetually on the verge of speech — can be utterly obliterated by performers and critics whose interest is in beauty rather than truth, form rather than being, the score rather than the mind behind it.

Ian MacDonald, The New Shostakovich, p. 259.