Where Everybody Knows Your Name

So, now that the semester is over and I can actually relax a bit, I got the urge to play some piano. But sheet music is kinda like clothing - it's always more fun to learn something new than to re-do a song you've played a million times. So I got a wild hair and downloaded the "Cheers" theme song. It's suprisingly easy to play, which is quite satisfying. Even with my rusty and much-neglected piano skills, it's almost smooth, and I just got it yesterday. The drawback is, playing it makes me want to drink beer.

I also got a call from the "Make a Wish" foundation this morning. I totally hate that. I mean, I'm unemployed. I have NO MONEY. Yes, I feel terrible that these children are terminally ill, and won't live to see Christmas, and I'm a heartless jerkface for not helping make their dreams become a reality while they're still here. I'd help if I had money! I know these people are just doing their jobs, but if I know I can't afford to donate, and I ask them not to send me an information packet, that's actually saving money for their corporation! I could just be a dweeb and tell them to send me the stuff and promptly toss it in the trash - I'm sure that's not uncommon. But then they're wasting valuable dollars on printing and shipping and such. Send that stuff to people who can actually help. But please, leave me alone about it!...No! I told you, I don't have fifteen bucks! Go away! Sheesh!

I also got a hankering to watch "The Ultimate Showdown (of Ultimate Destiny)" again this morning. It's a little flash animation with a decent song to it. If you haven't seen it, you must have been living under a rock for the past year. It's crammed full of pop-culture references (from the 80s, 90s and today!) and is worth two or three minutes of your time. Watching that got me interested in the band who wrote the song, one Lemon Demon. I checked out their site, and they seem to be a lot like They Might Be Giants, but of course, not as famous. I looked through their stuff, and listened to a lot of it, but the only other song they've made (that I've found) that I really think is worth a listen is "Word Disassociation", which is quite creative. Their other stuff is okay, but is sadly lacking the innovation, cleverness, and musical sophistication of the other two pieces. Making good music, even good "joke" music, is hard, and I have a great deal of respect for people who can just create enjoyable stuff. I certainly can't.

Which brings me to a point about creativity and composition. I think the creation of art, either composing music or drawing/painting/sculpting etc., is fundamentally different than the performing of it. This really works better with music, because the person who writes the music doesn't have to be able to sing it, but graphic artists really have to do double-duty here. Allow me to explain. All these things can be taught - drawing, singing, composing music, everything. But it takes a special something, something innate, to do it well. I guess that's what we call "talent". It can't be learned. It is possible for me to learn to draw. But in the learning, I've already missed something. Some people just draw innately, they can't contain it. Doodles spill out of their hands, onto napkins, scraps of paper, exposed skin, everywhere. They don't have to sit down and say to themselves "Okay, now I'm going to draw." It just happens. They can take lessons, and learn different techniques and styles to hone their craft, but they have an inner sense of art, an unspoken understanding of it that makes them by default a better artist than I could ever learn to be.

The same is true with musical composition. I've observed this phenomenon in my father. He creates music, all the time. Songs just pour out of him, like he's merely some vessel or conduit, tapped into a universal creative artery. Of course, it's his talent, his experience, his style and preferences that are expressed - he's not just a medium. But it seems like he simply has music in his head, and he has to get it out to make room for even more music that is constantly bubbling up inside him. Not all of it's great, mind you. But I guess he produces such a volume of it that, statistically, some of it is bound to be good. I firmly believe that my father would create music anywhere, under any circumstances, in any time period - he wouldn't have a choice. On the other hand, when I sit down to write music, it is a slow, painful, stilted process. Now, I'm an innate singer, no one taught me that. And I've spent many, many years of my life studying all kinds of music, learning music theory, and performing in hundreds of different styles. Academically, I probably know more about music than my dad does. On paper, it looks like I should be a better composer. But I'm not. I just don't have the spark.

Not that I mind, really. Composing music is difficult for me, so I don't enjoy it. So I don't do it, so I don't develop experience and confidence in doing it, so I never become better. And perhaps that's what makes the difference in the end. We are all drawn most strongly to the creative outlet that fits us best. I like to sing. Some people like to paint. Other people like to make up crazy songs about sea anenomes. Different strokes for different folks (and so on, and so forth, and doobie, doobie, doobie...)

Bottom line: Find what makes you happy and do it. If you like Lego, or cooking, or designing modifications for the Starship Enterprise, that's no less noble than any other creative hobby. I'm not singing a lot of masterpieces over here. It's whatever's rolling around in my head, be it "Ave Maria" or "Found a Peanut". Just go do something, because I'm done with the post!