Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writers, Composers, Artists: How to Write, Read and Listen

One piece of advice which seems to be offered many times to many an aspiring author is this: read a lot. This is a good piece of advice, but it can be expanded to this: read, write and listen.

Some of the best writers who ever lived read the works of other writers. The library, whether at home or in a public setting, offer the modern writer a vast array of ideas. To study great works is to understand them better. This type of study can fortify the aspiring wordsmith's own creations, by the examples set by others in the field.

Authors, artists and musicians used to learn how to draw, paint or write stories or music through the study and copying of the works of the great masters. J.S. Bach learned many a musical theory by copying manuscripts by hand. Many of his personal copies of manuscripts survive today, and have been used by students throughout the centuries for study.

If using the hand was good enough for Bach, then it should be acceptable for the current student to do the same. Sadly, it seems that the concept of copying by hand has gone out of favor. Thinks are often done solely on the computer. There is no interaction of hand and paper with a keyboard and mouse.

Writing and reading are two clear ways to strengthen the creative output. Listening is the third in this little trinity of good art. The concert hall is still the ideal method of enjoying music. There are some things that a disc or audio file can never recreate; the live, human element. To see people come together and make music as a unified group is an amazing thing to see and hear. This applies to all groups, small or large, or even soloists.

Bernard Herrmann listened to the works of Charles Ives in concert, and was inspired by Ives use of modern musical techniques; polytonality, microtones, tone clusters and more. (Chaerles Ives is a very interesting fellow. He made money at composing and at the insurance industry. Ives would be an interesting topic for later posts.)

In order to write a good story, compose a great piece or paint a masterpiece, by all means read, write and listen. Don't forget to enjoy it all along the way.