25 Oct 2006

getting inspired

My previous two posts reminded me about two posts from Signal vs. Noise: Inspiration is magical and Finding fresh inspiration. The latter starts from a wise anecdote told by Tony Bennett:
Bennett: Mimi Speer on 52nd Street taught me popular music and taught me to imitate musicians rather than other singers so I wouldn’t sound like somebody else and be one of the chorus of some famous star. She said, “You listen to the musicians on 52nd Street and pick [it] out.” I liked Art Tatum on piano and then Stan Getz. He had a beautiful honey sound. And Lester Young. Those three artists really gave me my start.
Tavis: Your teacher taught you to imitate musicians and not artists.
Bennett: Right.
Tavis: What’s the distinction? What’s the difference?
Bennett: Well, the singers — you know, Frank Sinatra was the rage in those days and his big competition was a guy called Dick Haynes and then there was Billy Eckstine. They were so popular that she said, “If you just sing like they do and imitate their voices, you’re going to sound like one of the chorus because everybody’s doing that”. She said, “To be an individual, listen to musicians and listen to what they’re doing and imitate musicians rather than the singers.” It was a very creative teacher that told me what to do about just being myself.

The anecdote was a starting point for Matt to expand a little the widely-used advice "find inspiration in everything": look to the past, look to a foreign culture, look to nature, look to a different medium - all of them very nicely illustrated with further links. Sounds like common sense ? Maybe. But truth is most of my creative colleagues keep on claiming that they do look for and find inspiration in everything - but what they generally mean is that they do look at loads of commercials and Archives and that they read many ad articles and interviews (and very rarely if ever go outside the ad box), and that they go out and spend time with people, by which they generally mean going to the same clubs with their very alike friends or simply going home mechanically, on the same road everyday. When they say they think about the people in the target audience, they mostly think about themselves. They just go with the flow, without even realising it. I'm not saying that this is wrong, i'm only saying that i don't think it's enough. In my opinion, "find inspiration in everything" implies, as the quoted post underlines, to actually look somewhere else and from a somewhat different perspective, when everyone else is looking the same way for inspiration, since this is more likely to bring a fresher view, idea etc.

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