The venerable Igor Stravinsky
Today, we are pleased to have received a stirring short essay entitled "Style and Idea", written by the accomplished composer Justin Melland from Los Angeles, CA.
The essay is a convincing plea to not lose our ideas in the name of style, and to not lose our style in the name of ideas…eventually getting to the point where we can create, name, and own our own highly specific style with ease.
Here, Melland hits on the point of how we should integrate what is inside of us (ideas and creativity) with that which is on the outside (a clear external personal style in everything that we do).
By Justin Melland
Arnold Schoenberg wrote a series of articles called Style and Idea.
By simply reading the title, one can garner that these two elements represent a very important part of the creative process. Style and Idea; these are words that have many interpretations, and can be the source of many rich and entertaining discussions. Nonetheless, whatever these words actually mean, they are deeply rooted in the mechanics of creativity. The style may inspire the idea, or the idea may inspire the style, or, in a perfect impulse of creativity, both elements are completely understood in one moment of perfect genesis.
Style is perhaps the most long lasting, and controllable element in the creative mind, and must be present in order to create anything important or exciting.
An idea cannot live without style.
The idea’s home must be built of a construct, and that construct is its style. The style is the frame work which allows the idea to unfold and is infinitely tied to it. Ideally, the elements of style and idea must be balanced in the human being who is creating works of art. One who is focused too much on the style, may be neglecting the pure genesis of the idea, and one who is too focused on the idea, may find himself without the tools to properly present it to life.
Just as an idea cannot be divorced from the style in which it is presented, one cannot divorce the style of the creator from the creation itself. At the moment of birth, the mother and the child are one. At the moment of genesis, the idea and the creator are one. There is no end to the level of creativity the artist can have when designing the style of his own vessel of inspiration.
Personally, I believe that all aspects of the creators life must be engaged and dealt with on a highly unique and deep level. As a composer of absolute music and of film and television scores, I meticulously maintain every aspect of my womb of creativity. Everything is customized. The space itself is designed with the utmost care. All of the furnishings are chosen based on how they will be received visually, aurally, and on the level of comfort. Then on an even more practical level, the instruments I choose are also highly individual. They are instruments that speak to me before I can judge their aesthetic value. Instruments my soul deeply wants to play.
The amazingly elegant Maurice Ravel
Then, there is the man within the space. The creator.
Infinitely vibrating within the construct of the studio and within the construct of the idea being generated. There is the food eaten, the quality of the coffee ingested. There is the quality and quantity of sleep, and one of my most favorite aspects, the quality of the clothing caressing the body of the one diving into the unknown to mine for ideas.
Just as I feel an immense passion for the tools with which I create my art, I equally feel a passion for the way I dress before entering my creative universe.
The dressing is not for the world around me, but rather for enjoying and nurturing a deep impulse of self expression that comes from the same place as my desire to create great works of art. While it is not even possible for me to divorce my personal style from the rest of my activities in life, I can’t imagine being unable to express my most external self right along side my most internal self.
It is a tremendous part of my artistic process.
There is a general misconception that the artist’s only responsibility lies in mining his universe for ideas. My argument is that without unifying the external expression with the internal, the artist is not completely engaged in the process of creating art. A piece is missing.
It is not enough to simply let the outward expression of one’s self go on autopilot. It must be crafted the same way that one pays strict attention to the tools of creation themselves. When the unification of external, internal, and environmental elements is achieved, the artist is approaching the highest level of human expression, and is a force to be reckoned with.
Claude Debussy. Need we say more ?