Ok. This post is going to be a little hooky. I'm warning you up front. Because everybody gets a little hooky sometimes, right? Sometimes people start speaking nonsense due to exhaustion or adrenaline or caffeine; other people (like me!) don't need those things to speak nonsense. It sort of comes naturally. Hehe.
Nonsense is the natural end and goal of all sense. Sense is the natural end of all nonsense. I mean that if you were to take any perfectly sensible thought all the way down to its reasonable, stoic root, you would find that its root was utterly nonsensical. And likewise, if you were to then take that utterly nonsensical root all the way down to its clownish heart-of-hearts, you would find (perhaps with a smidge of disappointment) that its heart-of-hearts was through-and-through, completely sensible. Sensical, if you'll allow me to use the word. And so, every thought of every moment of every minute ought then to be cyclic in regard to its sensibility. The dive into sense, the discovery of nonsense, the dive into nonsense, the discovery of sense: all very confusing, I'm sure. It's like digging a hole all the way to the other side of little Terra; assuming you can withstand the heat, the core is very much the nonsense part of your straight, cylindrical digging work. The analogy is actually quite astounding in regard to its accuracy.**
Anyway. Don't worry about all that. That was my intro.
I was just thinking about Originality. When I first started playing "original" music, stuff I had made up, it was very often that I'd hear from my sisters something like, "Uh... no. Somebody already wrote that one." Or "Pete, did you make that up?!" "Yes!!", I reply. "Wasn't it pretty???" To which they reply, starkly, "No, you didn't."
Well it is a common enough idea among the wizened that if you TRY to be original, you'll never be original. And I struggle with that a lot. But I recently came across a quote by Thomas Carlyle, which I just adore (the 'which' of this sentence tells you it's the quote I adore, not the Carlyle. Just clarifying for the people in Gastonia.) The quote goes like this: "The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity." And it's true! This goes back to what I have said in the past about honesty. My thought is that I can reverse-engineer his quote and use sincerity to produce originality. And I can. It always ends up the same way: (you won't like this part if you don't like it when I talk mushy. Fair warning.)
If I sit down at the piano with the intention of "making a new song" or some such derivative thereof, the result is nearly universally a pitiful potpourri of sour sounds; unoriginal and ugly. But if I sit down with the sole intention of "expressing what's going on inside" (inside the man-cave, as one of my employees says sometimes), what comes out is music.
And isn't that exactly what music is all about? Expression. "Music is a language," we hear often enough. But think about that! Those who keep their noses in Bach and Chopin (nothing against the men or their music), are like people who spend their whole lives reading, but who never utter a word of their own. But those who bashfully jump into the great unknown of "expressing through music" (as Bach and Chopin did), are the people who actually speak. Music is a language, yes. So speak it.
But there's always a struggle. The struggle between me 'trying' to make music, and me 'letting myself' make music.
Or does the music come from Someone else?
Sometimes, when everyone else has gone to brush their teeth and get ready for bed (or...[gasp] allow themselves to be subject to the mind-dulling, conscience-numbing flashes of the television), I turn off all the lights and sit at the piano. And I close my eyes, and say "Lord, help me to express what I'm feeling right now." And I start to play. And when I open my eyes, what has transpired is nothing short of mind-blowing.
That's when I think to myself, "Pete! Come on, man. Why isn't anything like *that* on your album?!" And then I go to bed.
Good Sabbath to you and yours!
** because if you were to jump into the hole, you'd speed up more and more until you got to the core, but then you'd keep falling, but it would be more like "falling up", because you'd be nearing the surface of the other side of the world. And you'd come to a gentle stop right at the surface. Then, suspended only for a brief second, like a ballerina, you'd plummet back toward the core to repeat the same fall and rise. You're actually orbiting the core in a very skinny orbit. That's what I've heard at least.