The Creative Path
Going on a journey is an adventure that never loses its appeal. The act of putting my foot to the path can mean boarding a plane or a train and traveling to someplace I’ve never been, or heading off to someplace I enjoy returning to again and again.
That’s also the way it feels each time I begin the creative journey of writing a new piece of music or starting a project.
When setting out to determine a look and feel for this website, the first stop was to visit my favorite graphic design collaborator and a new web design guru. Our conversations directed me to my digital vault of photos. As expected, a few categories accounted for a majority of the images – family and friends, music events, travel, triathlons, and, of course, salted caramel ice cream in waffle cones from Prince Pückler’s.
What I didn’t expect was to discover a recurring visual theme of paths. There are the human-made kind, like roads, bridges, train tracks, and bike paths; the kinds that occur naturally, like waterways and forest trails; and then there are some where both kinds intersect.
These images resonated well beyond a simple interest in the subject matter itself. They captured an underlying framing of my creative process, as well as the way I navigate through life.
GPS Not Included
The relationship between the journey and composing is present on a couple levels. There’s the Robert Frost-ian choice of taking a particular road. I choose to travel as a composer and musician rather than following a more conventional career path.
Then there’s the actual work of composing and how each creative outing results in a travelogue unique to that experience.
Both of these levels involve a quality of adventure that exhilarates and terrifies me. Sure – at times the road is quite direct. But just as often, there are surprises, detours, delays, and moments when wandering off the path results in wasting time or getting lost. And just to keep me coming back for more, other unfamiliar wanderings lead to vistas of indescribable wonder.
I enjoy the opportunity to connect with conductors and performers who are working on something I’ve composed. On one such occasion, I was present at a youth choir festival to attend rehearsals and performances over several days.
During a break, a young singer sought me out regarding one of the movements they were preparing. His serious eyes and tone of voice caught me off guard when he asked: “How did you write that?” It had really moved him, and he just wanted to know how someone creates something that feels so personal to the listener.
I paused and mentally replayed the memory of composing it. What came to mind was one of those experiences of wandering off the path to a vista of indescribable wonder.
I had hiked down an interesting byway, hoping it contained an answer to the musical question needed to finish the movement. When the bit I was seeking finally revealed itself, I was filled with spine-tingling joy and a sudden sense of awe that I got to be midwife to this beautiful moment. Whether or not anyone else would ever have the same response was irrelevant. The journey to that moment was worth all the work getting there.
Perhaps this young singer had somehow experienced that moment too, in his own journey with the piece.
In reply to his heartfelt plea to know where it came from, all I could say was: “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s just a mystery.”
Because It’s There
These are the treasured mementos I gather from traveling this road. They’re the invitation that draws me to the creative path again and again.
Maybe that’s the most important thing that I’ve learned along the way: Sometimes it’s just a mystery.
Actually, the longer I travel through life, the fewer things I am certain of, but the more certain I am of a few things: the amazingly wonderful messiness of life, the subversive power of love, the gifts of mystery and faith, and that, whenever possible, the best way to travel is to lead with gratitude and kindness.