October 22, 2009

George Lewis' notion of the mutuality of creativity

In an interview at All About Jazz Mr. George Lewis came to speak of his understanding of creativity. He assumes a neuronal base of creativity in every person's brain, not only in those who are actually expressing themselves creatively. In his words:

But this is where I begin to depart from the anti-essentialists. I feel that there is an essence of creativity that is a human birthright that doesn't go away, and that we are all basically born with. It's not just the province of a few super-people. I feel that when people are listening to music, they can do it because of the sense of empathy that allows them to respond to the creativity of other people by feeling their own creativity. In other words, those neurons start firing and those experiences, those bodily feelings, start to resonate with the creativity that's coming from outside, because they've got it within them.
So a listener is as creative as a musician, but in a passive way? I like this thought. However, we should not oversimplify: Listening and making music are still quite different modes of creativity with a different potential for perception as Lewis exemplifies in an earlier part of this interview, where he spoke about his own experiences:
My period of greatest learning about this music [i.e. the avantgarde jazz of the 60's and 70's] was being a participant rather than being a listener first and then thinking, wow, I'd like to do this. Taking part in it helped me to understand it. I still remember the power of it, that energy, kind of hitting me at a certain point. And it may be that the experiences of the people who are listening to it and the people who are doing it are similar, but diverge at certain points.

No comments: