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The Column icon The Column: Issue 35

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Creative Zeal
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

My son, now eight, loves to play. I love to play. Play is the fun in our lives. As we grow older, and if we have the temperament to do so, play evolves into creative activity focused towards an end: a poem, a tune, a painting, and for some the need to create brings enrichment that no other path provides.

One Man's Journey

By my early teens my desire to create was apparent but I was yet to find a medium that I felt confident in or to evolve a style that suited my modest talents. Although my reputation as a pianist and composer brought some minor notoriety, it was clear that my potential was limited as a musician and performer. I soon understood it is all too easy to impress with no more than adequate ability.

It was a few days after I had played an improvised piano piece at seventeen to a small audience when a stranger approached me in the music room of the college I was attending. He handed me a white sleeved double album: "You might like this" he said, then smiled before quietly leaving. I didn't know the man although I understood he had attended the concert I had played at a couple of nights before. I looked down and turned the sleeve over. It was a double album, I'd not heard of the musician on the label.

The Bang & Olufsen sound system was the pride of the music department: a great deck, amp and speakers that made the best of any record. The handful of other students in the room were talking in a corner at the time, unconcerned about my actions. I carefully drew one of the sleeve covered disks from its thick cardboard envelope. The sleeve was unusual in that it had a soft transparent inner paper layer that touched the record's surface, a second skin. I removed the heavy black plastic disk from its protective cocoon.

It was a manual record deck so I gingerly placed the disk over the stubby metal nipple that stood central on the turntable with its soft rubber circular mat cushioning the record's fall. I switched the humless amp to "on" then carefully pulled the counter-weighted leaver that raised the arm of the record player. This moved the arm smoothly so the cartridge and needle soon lay over the thinly lined edge of the disk. I moved the leaver downward and the arm gently followed later onto the surface of the disk assisted by the high quality oil dampened gizmo that was a pleasure to behold.

Within moments of hearing the poetry that flowed from those speakers I knew that in my performance I was not destined to achieve the dizzying inspirational heights of this beautiful, vibrant, virtuoso music. I recognized this music instantly as my aural home, a natural jazz with heart, rhythm, and not too much head. Music I had longed to hear for years. I stood transfixed for many minutes, a broad smile on my face accompanied by the constant tingle on the nape of my neck as the music twisted and turned in ever more delicious ways.

The Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett is of great significance to me as it clarified the creative direction I was to take. My potential lay in the creative development of less abstract media than pure music. I was immeasurably fortunate that a stranger had given me the opportunity of listening to music that allowed me to see my potential limitations clearly, self critically, realistically, and at an early age. This experience eventually led me to reject the path of pure performance as a context I might excel in. The path ahead would be far more tortuous than I had hoped or imagined as I moved from composing to song writing, to photography, authorship, design, curation, and eventually to incorporating many media in works that would serve a single aim.

To Have Or Not

My creative zeal burns as strongly now as it did those many years ago, perhaps more so. The creative zeal I speak of is a part of the character of certain individuals. It is not chosen nor sought. It is like having dance in your bones, music in your heart, or humour that ebbs like the wash of waves from your tongue. There may be many motives for that zeal: ones upbringing, the influence of others or their passing, ones insecurity or innate ability. There is however no mistaking it.

Without that zeal the more usual curious creative spirit that characterizes the experience of the majority gradually fades from view. People who are not perhaps so focused by their burning need to express, those curious creative spirits move towards the centre ground away from the discomfort of the unconventional, irrational, and magical that defines the vocational creative. It is only those with creative zeal that are driven to pursue their journey towards more fully exploring their potential, despite cultural, domestic, and economic pressures. Whether they find their voice is however an entirely different matter...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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