artthoughts

Selected Art #1 + Thoughts on Artistic Intention

By April 21, 2019 No Comments

Intent is a frequent point of discussion in our home.

It’s been particularly prevalent since Max has been reading a book on spiritual guru George Gurdjieff. I had zero idea who Gurdjieff was before but word on the street is he was an influential early C20th European spiritual leader and grade-A mystic. He coined the spiritual school of thought called ‘Fourth Way’ that is also the name of Mike Nock’s famed 60/70’s electro outfit.

Another intriguing concept Gurdjieff developed was the practice of ‘self-remembering’. When Max explained it to me my interest was piqued. I’ve since done some reading online on it and will attempt to summarise the general gist: basically, one consciously remembers periodically there is a higher level of consciousness we are able to exalt and exist in, free of self-consciousness/self-awareness. Something like that but hmm maybe best you check it out yourself tho, hey. This site has good quotes from some of Gurdjieff’s plus the man himself. –> http://www.gurdjiefffourthway.org/pdf/SELF-REMEMBERING.pdf A nice quote from that link goes: Self-Remembering is ‘…a state of consciousness in which a person is aware of their own presence and being: I, here, now’. 

Now, the idea of a plain of higher/altered conscious is something I’m open to. Call me what you will, but I reckon you only have to meditate to see how drastically one can alter their thought and perception.

But the other, more pertinent idea within “self-remembering” Max and I were so attracted to was just that- remembering: the wilful and constant recollection of ones intent as a method of reinforcement. For Gurdjieff it was the will to reinforce his intention to remain conscious to an altered state of being. Max and I floated the idea that really any intention could be employed to reinforce any particular idea, say, one’s intent whilst improvising…

And as we began to unpack that idea it occurred to us there is indeed quite a strong parallel between Gurdjieff’s spiritual intention and our improvisational one, namely the shared will to operate on a level free of self-consciousness and evaluation. A present-ness. Wait but what does that offer the perfomer? The ability to service the music and it’s energy with a purity of reaction, as well as a ability to unleash deep emotional energy, which happen to be two of my musical intentions when playing.

Maybe allow me to expand on ‘purity of reaction’…It sounds fucking cliched hey but when I/you/we/they are improvising I/you/we/they are attempting to react to the moment with as a pure a musical response as possible (right??); expelling sound generated from a place of honest, musical integrity. That means reacting free of self-consciousness, evaluation, critique, judgement etc. But yeah, not always so easy. Those things too easily pop up and steer the intention of one’s improvising into more vain avenues. Some common, ego-driven lines of enquiry include: ‘Is this good?’, ‘how can I make it better?’, ‘Do people like it?’, ‘how can they like it more?’ etc. Although of course it doesn’t manifest as these obtuse questions usually. I feel it’s more a skirting across a continuum running from pure intention to egotistic intention, with internal + external factors including: the music, the audience, preparedness affecting where I float around that line.

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And so recently I’ve prescribed myself a little exercise to challenge that: to sit round the house at/with an non-tubular brass instrument and expel a short, private solo performance. Whether it’s at the piano, drums or guitar, my intention is to play without internal monologue critiquing or judging- to play in a state of meditation where musical choices are guided by pure musical consciousness as opposed to the ego-driven part of my conscious. Allowing to me more faithfully expel my intention- whatever it may be.

(In fact, one of these improvisations is the foundation of Track 5 on my solo record ‘In Bloom, In Blend’Find it by clicking…here <–)

I elect to do so on an instrument besides the trumpet because frankly, my relationship with my primary instrument is complex. I imagine it is for all of us really. I feel I’m often analysing each aspect of my playing at the quantum level which can be debilitating in the way I lose focus of the more macro musical modus operandi.

In my mind that’s the draw of the Keith Jarretts and the Mark Rothkos- those who’s artistic practice invoke a “spiritual space”. My interpretation of their artistic philosophy is the ability- or at least willingness to remove the bias and conditioning from their “instrument” and utilise their technique to create in a state of unfettered flow. Whether you like their art or not is your call but isn’t it incredible to consider art can be a tangible byproduct of such an incredible conscious energy!

I also remember reading in an interview Ambrose Akinmusire describing how he left behind a period of extended writers block through realising that composing is merely a submission to a higher power. Edit: I found this quote on a sticky note in my room today. It details that idea more generally. He said:

‘…and sometimes submission means getting rid of your ego, or what is should or shouldn’t be, or what it is or is not. Is this jazz? …that gets in the way of submission. The end result is submission’

Seems to me that is in the same vein as what I’m rambling on about- be it composing or improvising, we are creating in the hope of being a conduit for the greatest energy we are able to tap into.

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Another activity I feel draws me closer to the act of honest creation is drawing.

Fun fact: When I was a grommet I used to be an art-head. Really early on I thought my path was art, not music. Then things went and happened the way they happened but I’ve never ceased to enjoy having a lil scribble from time to time. Drawing has always been able to instil me with creative satisfaction and a cathartic release. I’d say that’s partly because always draw stream-of-consciousness, but also in part due to being unabated by ego when pencil hits paper. I have nothing to prove with my visual art and so I don’t subconsciously fret how the result reflect my identity. My creative decisions feel directed by more pure acts of consciousness. Hmm, yeah that’s how it feels anyway.

So, last year after messing round with different mediums, I began a period of artistic study, using only felt-tip and 2B pencil. I found I enjoyed the dichotomy between the sure, black edges of felt-tip against the gradient and dynamic nature of pencil. To me it feels like concision meets detail in a beautiful way.

Hmm a classic dichotomy. Let this not be the first nor final time I tell you how dichotomy seems to be such an influential idea in my creative process. I just find it so damn fascinating; how one thing can have it’s greatest essence extracted by an antithetical thing- like how a “beautiful” chord seems even more stunning when it’s employed in contrast to an atonal theme- even how I approach writing this blog is built on a dichotomous concept: pairing the casual and vernacular with spurrings of more obscure words and ides.

And so I guess the obvious conclusion from the above is the entirety of my output, across all mediums, are connected more than I may have previously acknowledged- these words, those composition, that solo etc. etc. All by a single intention, if you will :0

So the decision to publish selected pieces of my art here seems like a natural move to reveal another part of the personal web of my creative identity. Below here are 10 selected works from my current sketchbook. All have been done within the last 12 months. Let me know if you want one. I’m happy to give them away x

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#10 – 9/12/18

#14 – 22/12/18

#18 -8/1/19

#23 – February 2019

#24 – February 19

#12 – December, 2018

#26 – 6/3/19

#9 – 9/12/18

#8 – 7/12/18

#22 – February 2019

 

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Speaking of improvising from a pure, present place how abut Derek Bailey. How about this album of him de-constructing/re-constructing some jazz ballads. Woah this is a sick record.

 

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