Monday in Santa Fe

02010-02-01 | Uncategorized | 10 comments

It started with this Dilbert blog entry, which begins with the statement:

A lot of what passes as creativity is just combining things that aren’t normally combined.

I received an email with the link and quote and responded:

Combining things that aren’t normally combined IS part of the creative process. Other elements of creativity:

and, of course, a dynamic range

(((Please feel free to add to that!)))

Then I went for a walk and kept thinking about the creative process. It seemed to me that association may be the most important part of creativity. That is evident in every art form. Association is what makes for great poetry. Sometimes the association can be very stylized, as in a Haiku. Often the references are cultural. Reading three lines about cherry blossoms might seem merely beautiful or pretty to a Western person, but to an Asian, and certainly to a Japanese person, the cherry blossom always speaks about the brevity and fragility of life.

As long as I can remember my brain has always jumped sideways with lots of associations, like rapid-fire lists of connections and references overlaid on everything I see, hear, feel, taste, touch.

I don’t know whether I turned to art because my brain was shaped that way, or whether art shaped my brain. I think that both statements are true. And my meditation practice (((I have meditated since I was 15 years old))) probably increased the association activity as meditation creates connections between the two halves of the brain.

Associations can feel like happy accidents. Like trains jumping their track and suddenly veering into a new direction. Neurons flying off the beaten path and creating new connections within the brain. One walks down the road thinking of one thing and is suddenly hit by an idea for a seemingly unrelated subject!

Associations can be the result of play or work (((or playful work)))… finding connections, combinations finding a new meaning in an old feeling, finding new words or colors for an old situation.

I think these associations can grow more intense with age because there are more reference points in one’s memory. I write “can”, because some people seem to give up that wonderful and magical ability we are all born with, the ability to let go and play.

I didn’t used to be very aware of how I created, working mostly from my body/heart, I suppose. But, partly because I have been asked so many questions in interviews, partly because I find it fascinating, I have tried to figure out HOW I work. I didn’t contemplate much while recording Nouveau Flamenco in 1989. I didn’t have time for that. I was working a day-job, performed several evenings per week around town and somehow was able to write, record and mix the album under a deadline. I just made the music I wanted to hear. There was no cleverness involved on my part. I didn’t think about combining elements of Flamenco with a Pop-song structure and a strong melody. Sure, later I recognized that’s what I did, but at the time I was just making an album, aware that I had a wonderful opportunity to simply create something different.

I can find a melody over just about any chord changes. I am not sure how that works, but it’s always been easy for me.

to be continued…
Here is a very interesting TED talk I watched last night:


New Logitech Touch Mouse Turns Your iPhone or iPod Touch into a Wireless Trackpad and Keyboard | BLogitech
iPhone and iPod touch owners: If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, go to the iTunes App Store and download our cool new Touch Mouse app. It turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a wireless trackpad and keyboard for your computer, so you can point, click, scroll and type from afar, in any application, on a Mac or PC.

It works over Wi-Fi, so you can use it anywhere in your house and is a great way to control your computer when it’s connected to your TV and you’re lounging on the couch. And to make typing easier, text is displayed on the screen of your iPhone or iPod touch as you type, so you can see what you’re doing without having to continually look up and down.

And the best part is, the app is free!

Nice. Haven’t tried it. Jon said it works quite well. Next step: turning the iPad into a trackpad and making it work with ProTools. That might be the only thing that will get me to update my studio computer, which is an ancient G4 Power Mac with Dual PowerPC processors running at 1.25GHz and OSX 10.3.9.

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise: Listen To This
The new book is a panoramic tour of the musical world, touching variously on Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Verdi, Brahms, Marian Anderson, Frank Sinatra, Cecil Taylor, Led Zeppelin, Björk, Radiohead, Mitsuko Uchida, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Luther Adams, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Bob Dylan, and the Malcolm X Shabazz High School Marching Band. In the Preface, I say that the aim is to “approach music not as a self-sufficient sphere but as a way of knowing the world.”

Thank you ochazuke, for this:


  1. Panj

    Thank goodness I hadn’t any fluid in my mouth when I read that, there would have been fluid all over my screen…what an understatement!!!…LOL…you truly are a ‘hyperspace jumper’…a bit spooky…:-)…but what a Supreme Blessing for us to have you!!!
    …btw…I believe a Birthday Wish, ‘Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!’, might be due sometime around now, no?
    LOADS of Health, Harmony and Happiness to you Ottmar!!!

  2. Ottmar

    The three important H-words!. Maybe we can shorten that to HeHaHa… (((or HeaHarHap?))) Thank you Panj!

  3. James

    Happy Birthday Ottmar. May all your wishes come true!

  4. Boris

    Happy Birthday, Ottmar, from a still cold Brussels (but hardly any snow, totally different than all over Germany).

  5. Panj

    HeHaHa!!!…sounds so happy…:-)))…and with the 3 exclamation points it adds up to 9 characters…so Luck is thrown in too…:-)))

  6. Brenda

    Happy Happy Birthday Ottmar – Enjoy all those candles. God Bless you Bunches! Thanks for sharing your thoughts in writing , as your wisdom shared and knowledge is multiplied geographically, the circle of Ottmar Friends is always good.

  7. marijose

    Happy belated birthday and early journalversary!

  8. Gerry

    Associating and referencing – definitely the two most important for me! I’ve recently started composing my own music (after 35 years of listening). I spent the last 5 years wondering if I could create – now, I’ve found that I can. I have a melting pot of musical references (including OL, JG and SD) in my head and I seem to randomly access these when I create something. I don’t want to analyze the process too much though – I may dry up!
    Great post – Happy Birthday!

    I’m so happy – special thanks to you Ottmar, JG and SD.

  9. Thomas Faes

    As always inspiring Ottmar, makes me add this:

    Creativity thoughts:

    I feel much, much more guided by the things i CAN NOT, then by the things I CAN. (in life and on the guitar that is)

    To NOT DO certain things, even if one could, is a big part of the creative process. To e able to WAIT (like a knight in front of the dragonhole:)

    When the artist absolutely KNOWS what he is doing, then the outcome is not art – it’s craft.

    Greetings from Switzerland. Lots of snow here.


  10. Carol

    That’s so clever, Yumiko!


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