Parisian Thoroughfare

curated by
Alexandre Pierrepont

Creativity, Reflection and the Greater Antenna

Wadada Leo Smith in conversation with Théodore Doumic, Alexis Estève, Thomas Garabetian, Nick Modrzewski and Alexandre Pierrepont

Wadada Leo Smith                                                                                                          ©Jon Grönroos

Thomas Garabetian: Do you think there is a unified culture in creative music with common codes, masters and behaviors?

Wadada Leo Smith: Yeah, I think there is a common ground that connects creative music and in creative music you have such music as free improvisation; you have music where people don’t necessary play free but use creativity as part of their composition practice. And frankly I think that all music, starting from the very beginning when mankind discovered how to make music, I think that there was a creative process then and that that music has lasted and has been shared across to the day that we, the living people today that practice creative music, are just supporting that same stream. And that is the largest stream in the world. It’s larger than formalized or classical music or ceremonial music for courts – like the Japanese got something named the Gagaku, it’s only for the emperor and his associates to hear. It’s something larger than any other kind of music. So yes it’s easy to prove that creative music has its history that is as old as mankind. And I predict, even if I’m not a prophet, I’m not one of those magicians, but I can predict that creative music will last, will continue, just as it is now. I don’t mean it will sound like it is now, but it will continue to progress and will remain special to human kind.

Garabetian: What is creative music?

Smith: Creative music is any music where the musician is allowed to add something to it, to put it simply. And it doesn’t matter how much that musician adds, whether he adds, like, twenty seconds or five minutes or half an hour or longer. It must have a moment where he or she adds to the music that they’re playing. For example, say that this wine is the music we are playing. If I add water to that wine, I’ve added something to it.

Garabetian: But what about classical musicians who interpret sheet music? For instance, they can play something a little longer...

Smith: Only solo they can do that, but when it’s conducted everything is metrically marked. But when I say creative, I’m not referring to the process of performing created music. I’m referring to a music that can’t exist unless you make something more than it is already. And in classical music, let’s say Beethoven and Mozart for instance, to begin their creations they had to improvise. I know that those two individuals were probably great improvisers. But to have music that is made from improvisation – or creative music – one has to play variations enough to organize it and have it made for the future. They did not. And the reason they didn’t do it is because at the time of Bach, Beethoven and other great masters of Europe, their problem was that the technology they had was paper. Whatever they did, whatever they created, they immediately went back and tried to write it down. And by doing that, they lost the possibility of creating a music of creativity. What they created was classical music. Now, classical music sure can be creative. Any person that plays a piano concerto or any orchestra that plays a symphony, they all play it differently – that’s creative. But that’s not “creative music;” it’s just being creative with the scores. So there’s a big distinction between the reason why improvisation didn’t last in Europe and the artist didn’t add much value to it. It’s because the printing press made it possible for them to get their music into the next community. Those guys didn’t travel much – the early ones – most of them were court musicians, most of them worked for organizations like the church, or some rich guys.

Garabetian: So are you saying that when you write something down, when you record it, it removes the moment of creative music because it is cemented in stone, so to speak?

Smith: Basically it does. When a creative artist creates, he does it in the moment, in the musical moment. That is as powerful a statement as can possibly be made. To write something down is to reduce it for that moment. Let me give you an example: many people have written John Coltrane’s solos down, or Louis Armstrong’s solos down, and when you hear them play it, it’s not the same solo. It’s the same notes but not the same solo – no matter how good they are. It never comes out as the same solo. Why? Because it’s something that was created in the moment. And that moment should be respected as being a valuable moment. And technology is making an impact now, because you don’t have to write anything down. You just record it and it is. Even through phonograph records, that possibility was there.

The thing about creative music in modern times is that it’s all recorded. We don’t have to ask what Louis Armstrong sounded like. You don’t have to read files and papers to ask that. Maybe, as they have done with Beethoven and Mozart, he sounded like this blah blah blah ... Nobody knows how Beethoven sounded, the instrument he used back then is different. It was a different sound. Actually, it was a different music. Whoever played Beethoven and Mozart played on a different instrument and it’s not the same sound. And the conductors, nor the historians, nor the musicologists; no one knows what they sounded like back then. But now, if we look at the music played in America, we have it recorded since the very beginning.

Garabetian: So you say that recording ...

Smith: It’s definitely writing down.

Garabetian: But it’s not as good as being there?

Smith: Well ... Listen, vitamins are not as good as eating food. But they’re cheaper.

Garabetian: So writing music down on a sheet of paper is not as good as playing it or recording it?

Smith: It’s not “less good.” It’s not the same thing. There’s a difference between good and bad. But we’re not talking about good and bad; we’re talking about what actually is and what is not. A few musicians write all their music down. You can do that in a creative way, but you cannot say that the music was created in the moment.

Nick Modrzewski: Do you think you can be in a state of “being in the moment” as you write – for example, fiction?

Smith: I think the basic confusion here is that you’re thinking of creativity in a single, universal way. I am not thinking of creativity in a single universal way. What I am saying is that creative music is a music that requires every one of its practitioners to be able to create music; that is, to improvise. In a symphony orchestra, what is required is that every person plays the music that is on the page. It’s different. But both can be creative, because I am not placing a value on creativity, I’m identifying a form. So if you ask: “Is classical music creative?” Or: “is popular music creative?” Or: “is rock music creative? I’ll tell you yes, but you couldn’t play creative music because that is to improvise. Even when you’ve got this possibility to make a little “turn” in the music; that is, in western opinion, a practice of decoration, that’s not creative. And everybody knows those little “turns” exactly as there are learned. They teach it, teach it to them, and they play it the same way. That’s not creative music. There’s a big misunderstanding about music. A lot of that is not creativity – in terms I am using to refer to creativity in creative music. A lot of those practices are learned from generation to generation and used from generation to generation, using the same “turns” that they’re taught to use. And they pass it off as being fresh and original and new, but it’s not. If you hear pieces and you really think about your observation, you hear the same notes coming up and coming down. They do exactly what the teacher did. If you play Louis Armstrong beside them, and let’s say begin in bottom hand, you will have an entirely different picture of playing in the moment.

Garabetian: Do you think that musicians who play, for example, “jazz” or “blues”, are willingly trying to create a culture? Or, for instance, trying to make the behaviors of the music evolve? And is that what you want to do with the AACM or with Ankhrasmation? [Note: Ankhrasmation is a method for improvisation using image-based scores. Each musician individually interprets the score and molds it into a musical representation.] I mean, are you trying to make the conception of music evolve by spreading free improvisation?

Smith: I see it this way: my main goal is to be creative. Not to spread, not to teach other people this language. I’m not into that. I’m not into introducing everybody to a big old something and everybody doing it. What I’m into is this: for my own ensemble – I have three musicians – I would like each of them to be able to understand and perform Ankhrasmation music. But the reality is that they can’t. Some have different levels of information and knowledge – because they are smarter than others – and some don’t. Like, for example, in my band right know, I think that John Lindberg has more information than anybody else in the band. But if in fact they really want to get deeper and deeper into it they would have to work harder to get closer to it. Now, I created Ankhrasmation for myself, to make my own sound, my universe, my paradise, my complete point of view as being a force that has reality. I don’t want other ensembles to play Ankhrasmation because they think they need to. People do, from time to time, ask me for a score to play, and I give them a score to play. But in the practice I am not interested in others playing that music. I just want to make Wadada Leo Smith’s music sound just like it sounds and to keep it fresh – a fresh stream of music that no-one else has but me.

It’s super important for me to follow the same tradition that Duke Ellington and other guys followed. The tradition that Louis Armstrong followed – their bands didn’t sound like the next guys’ bands. And it was their personalities and also their musical skills and knowledge that made them sound like that. They didn’t have to create a language then because they used what was there. But I thought that what I would do is to create this special language and to use it alone with the ordinary language that was here from my musical ancestors.

Garabetian: Is Blues Music “creative music?”

Smith: Blues is creative music if the artist who’s playing it is creative. Like, for example, Buddy Guy. If you listen to those guys who came up playing rock ‘n’ roll like Chuck Berry and you listen to the mainstream of rock ‘n ‘roll, you will see that Chuck Berry is very creative. When he plays, it sounds like a waterfall. Same thing with Muddy Waters, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley – that phrase, he used it all through his career. Not the same phrase, but very similar. That’s creative, that’s very creative. When he plays solo lines, that’s something else. So, any form can be creative for a creative artist. I can take a Bach melody or a blues melody; I can take anything and make it creative. ‘Cause the thing that trumps is this creative spark, which beats everything. ‘Cause all the people in creation who ever were creative, and there was a lot of them, got it from the same place. Inside them was a spark that they didn’t know before and it came like that [claps hands] and if they aren’t carful, it goes like that [claps hands]. It passes through you and you can miss it. Inspiration comes like this and it’s finished, but you need to retrace it to get everything out of it. You can’t get it like that ‘cause it’s based on how sincere you are, how skilful you are, and whether you understand what you just received. That is, your psychological state. So, it’s a big thing, making art in the present. Jackson Pollock – is he just a painter? No. He’s a creative painter. He stands in line and follows the same chronological history as creative music does.

So that’s how I feel you know, these days in art and in life and the biggest thing that helps a society to be whole and authentic is creativity. Government, if they not creative, eventually they reduce their society’s standards of living. They need to be creative too. Politicians today are dumb, non creative and greedy so society is suffering. We could be a much greater society today if we didn’t lose our way and allow these politicians to be our masters. Cancer would be cured; all these things would be solved. International travel would be easy. The notion of so-called terrorism would evaporate.

Alexis Estève: Can you talk about how creativity comes and goes?

Smith: Yeah, it comes whenever the person is reflective enough to receive it.

Modrzewski: Can you define “reflective?”

Smith: Reflective means you are able to get rid of your distortion (that is, everything you see outside of you) and focus within yourself. And that portion you reflect within yourself, isolation from your environment, that’s reflection. And that looking inward is really one of the best qualities of the human being. Because it is through reflection that everything on earth came about – from this building, to that light, to this box over there. See, reflection is a door that opens in you and allows for your “antenna,” for lack of a better word, to connect to the greater “antenna.” Because creativity is all in the air. It’s all around us but you can’t tap into it unless you change this distortion of everything that’s around you. Let me give you an example – right now you see the room and us all in it, right? In order to minimize distortion, drop your eyelids. Don’t close them. And as you drop them, you wipe out 85% of the distortion. The other part is hearing. That’s harder to do. If you just focus on a point, like all these masters of meditation talk about, it reduces the listening part of you too. Reflection is the same thing except it’s done by all people, not for religious or spiritual means, but to get in touch with your self.

Modrzewski: So do you practice reflection regularly?

Smith: I practice reflection everyday and I recommend it to my students too because your reflection is the key to imagination and imagination is the key to creativity. Without it you’re not going to find much, you’ll find something but not much. What you find won’t be powerful. But if you can have imagination, you step into another door that’s deeper than just the outer portion of the room; you step into another part of the building.

Modrzewski: Do you think that the “distortion” you talk about comes from the way we try to categorize and analyze everything?

Smith: See, I feel this way: there’s a time to be analytical and careful. But if we take a few moments for ourselves and practice reflection, it makes our quality of looking at these other things much better. The truth is – when we cross the street we need to keep from getting run over, we need to make sure we get to the right destination. But we can do all of that. It’s a different kind of vibration that’s in us.

Théodore Doumic: When you improvise, what brings you to silence? How do you conceive silence as a moment in improvisation?

Smith: There’re two things that bring me there. If I’m totally in tune with myself and I’m playing and I finish a phrase or portion of what I’m playing, I stop. And the reason I stop is because I don’t know what else to play. And that moment I stop and with a little bit of reflection in that silence, something else pops in and I continue. So that’s the physical definition of silence, why it comes into my plain. The other reason is this – it’s important for the music to breathe, and if you play all the time from start to end, then the music has no real structure in it and it isn’t connected to breathing. Having said that, there are times you can play straight across and it’s appropriate.

Doumic: So when you have nothing to play you stop and use that time to think about what else to play?

Smith: Yeah, and there are ways of getting there. There’s an exercise I give to my students. None of them do it. But my responsibility is to point it out to them. So, you go and take some time once a week or twice a week, and you take your instrument and you don’t play a single note unless something comes inside of you to play. If it doesn’t come in the first minute, you put the instrument down and walk away and that’s it for that rehearsal. This exercise allows you to be authentic in what you play. Most people play because they cannot stop. Tons of them. I play with so many bands that have played so many endings that I sit on the floor and wait till they get tired. Because, look, things have beginnings and endings and they are not artificial, they are natural. So I give this exercise, nobody does it, I know they don’t, they write it down, I smile and keep moving ‘cause I know they aren’t going to do it. But maybe they will when they’re older. But I’ve done my part. My part is to inform as best I can.

Alexandre Pierrepont: But if a student does the exercise, are you able to tell if they did it?

Smith: No. Because it’s based on sincerity. It’s him or her that’s being tested.

Doumic: So is there for you a distinction between full silence and partial silence? For example, there’s still music playing but one musician stops?

Smith: There’s still music because silence itself is music. Silence is part of music; it is stronger than the music that’s actually being heard. And theoretically speaking, if they had an instrument that could measure the production of music while it’s being played and the character of silence within that music, we’d find it’s the strongest. There’s no instrument that does that, but it is measured by us psychologically. In the history of Jazz, early Jazz, the idea of “breaks,” where someone does a slight pause and someone else starts, then the original guy starts again – that’s an example of how powerful silence is. That’s the first silence you described, where the full ensemble comes to a halt. Psychologically, that boosts the energy so high and the expectation is so high that it’s difficult to fulfill it. But it can be like Charlie Parker’s break in “A Night in Tunisia;” Miles Davis’ break in “A Night in Tunisia.” They fulfilled the expectation because they used the energy to project them high in their music. And if you listen to the music in that performance, the breaks are the most powerful.

Doumic: So for you, you must play the silence as you play a note?

Smith: Yes, exactly. And playing the silence in this case is being aware and using it to enhance or elevate your art.

Doumic: In other forms of art, in paintings or in dance, how do you represent silence or show it to the spectator? Like in dance, how do you show the idea of “silence” in the dancers’ bodies?

Smith: I know what you mean – let me give you an example – Paul Taylor, a modern dancer out of New York. Listen. Paul Taylor was influenced by John Cage. His piece was called “4’33.”“ There were a bunch of aesthetic writers that came out and propagated this kind of stuff. And so Paul Taylor goes on stage and does the exact same thing that John Cage does – he comes on stage and sits down. That’s not silence, by the way. I have a real silence that was done in 1968, a piece called “Silence;” it’s 16 minutes long, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins and Wadada Leo Smith, and it’s a real silence I made to challenge John Cage and those guys. Because sounds don’t exist unless there’s something before and afterwards. A break is a real silence. To do nothing, that’s anarchy. It’s not real silence. And people love that piece by Cage but it’s not a real piece. It’s a theatre projection of some intellectual idea that Cage was interested in. It’s a piece of theatre that’s about Cage’s intellect. It’s not music and it’s not silence. People hated it at the original performance. But then after that, the aesthetic writers started writing about how now we have reached the end of art, and art has reached such an advanced state that you don’t need to do anything to be an artist. And it’s all bullshit.

Garabetian: So a dancer going on stage and not dancing, could that be considered “holding one note?”

Smith: To me, let’s say it this way. Music has a particular requirement. Something has to happen. And that something needs to have mobility. One note doesn’t create mobility. It may sound like music but it’s not. It needs mobility. Even people who deal with the psychology of sound, they can put all types of dressing on it but it’s not sound. It needs mobility and activity. A radio can buzz as long as you have power, but I can’t call that music. Even if it’s one of John Cage’s pieces. I say: Cage, sorry buster, it’s not music. You need activity.

Modrzewski: Is it like light and shade? Variation?

Smith: You could say variation but the real word is activity. Activity means action. You need to have action.

Doumic: But isn’t it an action to come on stage and stay still?

Smith: Maybe, if you want to take that as the position then maybe the audience members are the real artists. But art is different from what real people do. Any person observing that piece can go out there and do it perfectly. I don’t think a normal person can go out and play a solo trumpet the way I play it, even though some people have accused me of not being able to play the trumpet. They can’t do it. Because it is connected to your mentality and the centre of your being. And art is special. It has something to do with the changing of human beings in the present moment and in the future moment, and the changing of their state is to make them better humans so society itself can grow and prosper.

Modrzewski: When someone goes to see or hear art, in what way are they improved in that sense?

Smith: Well, improvement is a secret. When you’re on stage, you don’t know who you touch or communicate with. But that same person will take that communication that you or he or she had and allow it to become part of their memory. It begins to have a say in how they see things. That’s why we like certain types of stuff, why we appreciate art and science, ‘cause we’ve allowed these things to become part of us and therefore it’s us now and it’s us forever. That’s why it’s stupid for me to say: “I don’t like this or that type of music,” ‘cause once you’ve heard it, it’s a part of you. It’s part of your baggage, either subconscious or forward. And the person reflects through it in real life and brings it forward when they need it and let it go back when they need it to go back.

Modrzewski: Can you talk more about the relationship between the subconscious and art?

Smith: First of all I will recommend you to a little book; it’s called Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky. That little book was written when he was 26 or so years old, and that’s the age of youth and exploring and new ideas, up until you reach about 35 that zone is the freshest possible, and that age is meant to explore that realm for civilization. He did that reflection and it talks about a lot of things in there and he says that music is the apex of art. It’s the highest in art and painters won’t accept that. Dancers won’t accept that. The reason for that is very simple, and I’m going to explain it in a few terms, not a lot of terms. Paintings, no matter how abstract, are something we find on earth. If it’s the most abstract, even Jackson Pollock, we find those colors on earth and some of the particular shapes we find on earth. It is not so in music. Show me the music on earth anywhere and don’t tell me “the train.” Don’t tell me that because you can “hear” the nervous system in a sound proof room where there’s no sound. That’s bullshit. It’s not music. That guy, the German guy, who wrote on the sensation of sound, he would describe it as noise. I studied him, even though he was born in the eighteen hundreds, I studied with him because I read his book, it’s a constant companion of mine and I learnt about it through Ornette Coleman which means it must be a constant companion of his too. The name is On The Sensation of Tone by Hermann Helmholtz. I have his book and it cost me seven dollars. But the notion about spirituality and the meaning of something, it can come out in different ways through religious convictions or scientific beliefs. The truth of it is very simple: the human being has more than one “being” inside him, a physical manifestation and a spiritual part. Humans have more than one person inside them. Most people accept the spiritual part that life transcends death, and that’s why the notion of paradise is there. If we think that the physical part of our being is the only bit worth recognizing, how can you have a dream state that represents a whole lifetime journey? How can just your physical characteristics wake you up in the morning? It’s not possible. It’s your spiritual and mental side that wakes you up, ‘cause you need to remember that you’re not awake.

Modrzewski: When you say “spiritual,” I translate to mean that you’re talking about the right and left brain and how the right is connected to what you previously described as “the greater antenna” – the creative side. Are you saying that that side survives beyond death?

Smith: No. I’m saying that the way we define death has misled us to believe that when we are finished in this life, we are dead. The Hadiths and traditions of the prophet – Mohammed The Prophet, peace be upon him – he talks about people who are in paradise ‘cause he had the vision to see that. There are other Hadiths, which means “traditions of the prophet,” and they go into the ground to bury someone. Some of them, placed on the grave on their right side, speak to the person not with their mouths but spiritually, and they record those things. So, that tells you that there’s more to it than just that we are a physical being.

Now, the subconscious: the left side and right side of the brain? Look, man, if I cut you in half, nothing works. So I don’t believe in the subconscious. I believe in the conscious and I think its whole. Scientists can talk about compartmentalizations but I like to think of the brain as one dimension with multiple cells in it. To me, the brain is a brain and it’s the greatest instrument in the world – the brain itself and the mind – ‘cause the brain can’t exist without the mind. They are the greatest instruments in the world, the largest vehicle for anything we can imagine or hear or be told about. The brain is such a fascinating instrument ‘cause you can damage it and it grows back. Imagine that! It grows back. They are going to find out eventually that the brain is so powerful that they can cure all the disease by realtering and reshaping parts of the brain. And the reason we haven’t gotten there yet is ‘cause of us – all the people – you and me and the rest of the people out there, over there and over yonder, everyone down yonder.

We have a lot of politicians who take control of our lives. All medical research today is sponsored by who? Corporations and pharmaceutical companies, not people who actually want a solution. They’re looking to make medicine whether it’s needed or not needed. That’s what medical research is about today. If we take back our society we allow the possibility of it being creative again and many of these problems will be solved. For instance, racism and sexism. These are elements that have affected the largest proportion of mankind since the very beginning up till now. Why can’t they solve that? They can be solved but there’s an advantage in it not being solved.

Modrzewski: Do you have a theory on how to “take back society?”

Smith: Yeah, limit your politicians’ jobs by not giving them tenure; that is, limit how long they stay there and make it only one time so they can go back home and make a living rather than staying there and robbing the public. Challenge the food industry, not through propaganda but get a box as big as this table – everyone can afford that – get the best soil you can and grow your own damn food and challenge the food industry and they will stop making this bad food and make good food. Up till 1957 we ate real food and since then people have had processed food most of their life. And what else … educate your kids in the right way. I believe education is broke, ‘cause it reflects the same philosophy as industry does, that you should educate a kid so he can make a living and get out of your house. That’s wrong. Educate a child so he can sustain himself in the best natural means that the planet offers, instead of giving him a big idea about himself being more important than other people and that he should be the one that controls society and all that stuff. Teach them humility and dignity. Now, that’s easily said and hard to do but it’s not impossible. It’s practical and I can show you a number of people throughout history who have suggested the same thing, like Leo Tolstoy – he devised the idea of non-violence, not Gandhi. He was a practitioner of it. Many people have solved new ideas for education – the spiritualist guy from, ah, what’s his name? He’s Indian. He started schools around the world about human beings being brought up in the right way. He had a lot of debates with scientists about creativity and spirituality and stuff like that. His famous book is called Actuality and Reality.

Modrzewski: My last question is a lot of people say that artists need to “say something” or have an intellectual purpose. What do you think about that?

Smith: The art itself is a purpose. You don’t ever need to say anything about your art. It’s right there. We have people who write these notes, and it’s okay but it’s not needed.  I used to, before every performance, write these notes hoping that it would be clear for the people who were listening. They still misunderstood. I stopped. And sometimes people have talks before concerts. I don’t like them. A concert is somewhere where people when they step through the threshold, through the door, they should be ready for something profound to happen to them they shouldn’t talk to their neighbors or the people beside them, they should be in a state where they lose the distractions from outside and become induced in the space they’re in and wait for something spectacular to happen to them.

Modrzewski: So would you say you’re just trying to create art rather than use your art to say something else?

Smith: I know what you mean, let me say this – when you see a Coca Cola in its bottle – it’s a fairly nice drink although it’s poison. But it’s not reduced from the politics and the sociology of the people that made it and the work that they created from it, and their destruction and wiping out of cultures throughout the planet. So even though my art is just for what it is, everything about it is a reflection on me and my society and my comment on my society and what I see around me.

Modrzewski: But do you have that consciously at the forefront of your mind?

Smith: No, no, it’s just the fact that you’re a thinking being and you have a consciousness that’s already there and you don’t need to put it on your shoulder as a badge or something like that.

Doumic: I have one more question about reflection. You said that “writing down your music was not actually a musical moment.”

Smith: Yeah, what I said was this: there’s a difference between making art in the present moment and making art after the present moment. That is, when you make art in the present moment there’s no space between your inspired moment and the actuality of you carrying it out. When you get inspired as a composer and you write it out, that’s the second stage of that moment and there’s a space in between. That’s the difference between the music I define as having creativity as part of its form – not as a part of its quality but as a part of its form. Free improvisation, for example, is all made in the moment but some of it is the most boring shit you can ever hear, ok? But it still is made in the present moment and would I call it creative? No. But it is part of creative music. The music of Bach, for some people, can be very boring ‘cause it’s the same formula throughout. But for a person like me, who’s interested in form and structure, I find it fascinating and you ask me “is it creative?” And I say “yes.” It was creative when Bach conceived it and made it into those compositions. But if Bach found that inspiration and just played it, for himself or for a bunch of other people, that was the most important part ‘cause it doesn’t have that separation between receiving and transmission.

Doumic: Because sometimes people say in poetry that the space between inspiration and what you write is what gives it its quality. Or, instead of poetry, say in Slam, or spoken poetry. In written poetry you’ve gone over it and over it to get rid of the crap.

Smith: You call it crap but what “crap” does – it breeds incest. It makes you reproduce your own children over and over from your own body. I don’t say that as a mean thing. I’m trying to illustrate what the differences are. Let me tell you something: poetry was dead around the planet until rap came in. People sold books in large or small volumes because they were part of a culture stream that reproduced itself as a commodity and therefore they could sell these books but no one lived or breathed by poetry. It was a formality of something they listened to and had and read but mostly through books. When rappers came along, they not only changed the language that people were able to accept as a spoken word or recited poem, they also made a lifestyle around it. They created this phenomena existing round planet right now where people became excited about poetry again. And they use words like “fuck” and “bitch” and that and that and this, and it means that they expanded the possibility of language admissible in reciting poetry. That’s phenomena. You don’t have to like the poetry but you must accept it’s art and it has reintroduced poetry as a living acting phenomena in society. That’s exciting. And the way in which it’s expressed, if you listen to Snoop Dog and the way he makes his poetry, it’s very exciting. You listen to the way Supernatural makes his poetry and it’s very different to Snoop Dog – Supernatural is about competition where they compete against each other and they have rivals and wars. That’s a poetry that’s based ‘round being very slick and crafty with words. Snoop Dog’s poetry is more contained within a social function – he talks about the way he lives and the people ‘round him and there are many ways to talk about rap. There are some forms of rap that shouldn’t be commercialized, for instance a siphon, where you stand round in circle in any public space and just make poetry amongst yourselves in a rhyming way without any concern for the audience around you whatsoever. And all that stuff, any aesthetic form of rapping, has increased and reignited the poetry in society again. And that’s the distinction between refining your stuff – it can be positive, that’s what literature does. Literature is not expected to be all “in the moment;” it’s a craft where you make something powerful but the meaning of literature is not what’s in the book. Why? Because for the person who reads the novel, the expectation is that that person will understand the novel only when they find examples of that novel in real life, not in this artificial zone of what’s inside the cover. Literature is meant to be experienced. And you read it and go out and find that phenomena in society and when you connect with that, you’re powerful. For example, James Joyce talks about a house as a “lemon house.” Now, that reader, are they expecting the house to be bitter and so on? No, they’re expecting a yellow house. And the person who read that novel every time they see a yellow house in real life, that reflection comes up on them again. And that’s what literature is for. It has a different responsibility to live recitation. It is supposed to be pondered over and reflected over and the best literature writer is the one that can hammer it out over and over but can inspire themselves when they work on it. That’s where their inspiration comes in, when they can trigger it each day. And I happen to know that inspiration can be triggered instantly whenever you need it. Whenever you need it. Because the way inspiration is coming to you is: you drop distractions and if you allow your reflection to linger long enough, inspiration pops into you. If you linger long enough and you’re really clever and industrious you will map out how you are being inspired so you can use it over and over again. Little story: Duke Ellington, piano player, and Billy Strayhorn, they slept in the same room on tour. They travelled in postmodern time with little electric pianos. As performers they do fifty one nighters in a row, then afterwards they go to their hotel, they flip a coin to see who starts first. So, Duke Ellington and Strayhorn flip a coin to see who’s going to write first. They sit down and start writing and they pick an hour when Duke wants to be woken up. Strayhorn starts writing first and Duke wants to be woken up in two hours. So in two hours, Strayhorn shakes the bed and wakes up Duke then Duke starts writing where Strayhorn left off. And that music would sound like it had no breaks in it, or personality. But when you here Strayhorn’s music it sounds very different to Duke’s music. That’s creativity, you see.

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