Something New #3

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If John Lennon was hard on other people, he was harder on himself. But he was never Nowhere Man. Today it’s his radiant honesty that’s remembered, a shining sincerity that sometimes got him into trouble but more often – and especially since the senseless tragedy of his early death – won the much longer battle of hearts and minds.

Lennon’s originality lay, I think, in his capacity to touch a raw nerve. There was no formula, no going through the motions. His music always retained an improvised edge.

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Lesser artists are often shameless crowd-pleasers. The great ones are themselves usually their own toughest audience. They lead rather than follow taste because what they give us has come through such rigorous quality testing. And the most important quality is authenticity.

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Image result for originality quotesIs it too far-fetched, I wonder, to compare artistic originality with escapology – the evasion of constraints to liberate the self from chains or, to push the analogy, from convention? And if there’s any magic, perhaps it’s in the sudden realisation of freedom. Truth is the touchstone.

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Good news, then, you don’t have to come up with anything new! Let’s stay in the 19th century for confirmation of this.

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Nietzsche once said that, without music, life would be unimaginable. Time perhaps to consult a musician …

Nifty link, huh, even though all I did was type Originality into Google Images?

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Another comparison comes to mind, originality and alchemy – the transformation of base metal into gold. If that seems too supernatural, consider the miraculous implications behind this next idea.

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We may not be original but what we do can be. New writers are often given the following piece of advice.

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After all, it’s one of life’s truisms that we can only ever start from where we are. Duh! But, as so often, Philip Larkin comes to the rescue.

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Ah, takes me back to those ‘possibilities of being’ that were the plus side of Pirandello’s ‘multiple identities’! Perhaps you remember them from Something New #1? And let’s cheer ourselves up some more with a photograph and a playful comment from the person who took it.

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Playfulness is another facet in the jewel that is originality. I play with my granddaughter and marvel at how she naturally and instinctively incorporates whatever happens to be lying around in the creative games we play together. She connects me to my younger self like a bolt of lightning links heaven and earth.

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Striking image, eh? 😉 And speaking of striking images, how about this one?

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The trouble with the visual image, though, is that it can’t really capture the inner nature of an abstract concept like originality. Surface not substance, pose instead of profundity. (Enough alliteration already. Ed.) 

Ah well, let’s plough on …

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Playing with whatever I find online is fun, though I usually try to acknowledge my sources. Too many to list here but just this once I’ll risk the lawsuits in the interests of, er, art or whatever!

More seriously, a general point emerges – however original people are, or try to be, they should  always credit their guiding influences. And as my WordPress friend Curt Mekemson put it: Creativity emerges from clashing ideas.

I would venture to add that the most vital motivation is a moral imperative – put simply, we care. Which brings me to my final sequence of images.

Luigi Pirandello wasn’t wrong about mutual incomprehension and multiple identities and the clash of vibrant life with inert forms, structures or templates. But William Blake’s law of contraries holds that every negative contains its own positive – much as the Buddhist higher worlds (Learning, Compassion, Realisation) are said to emerge from the lower worlds (Hunger, Anger, Animality, Humanity) – a source of much comfort and no little inspiration to me.

Turns out there’s light at the end of every tunnel.


Who knew?

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Oh, and don’t get me started on Tribute Bands … deep breath, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 …

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Ah, that’s better! I’ll end this circuitous exploration with somebody way beyond imitation …


18 thoughts on “Something New #3

  1. I don’t really like the word originality, nor do I like authentic. Everything we are and do is a mixture of where we’ve come from and where we are. You can’t TRY to be yourself (or to be original or authentic). You mentioned children, and that’s exactly it–they are unselfconscious, open and curious, and willing to make mistakes and try something different. The problem is that that’s very difficult to do as an adult out in the world.
    I don’t mind the occasional crowd-pleaser, either. (K)

    1. Your comments have given me food for thought. I suppose my love of originality must stem from an instinctive dislike of mindless conformity that appears content with simplistic slogans and too easily leads to scapegoating and exclusion. I’m drawn to oddballs who have somehow managed to keep alive that childlike openness you mention in the face of closed thinking across society, which masquerades as adult and responsible but too often is essentially infantile and preoccupied with self-gratification. Nothing wrong with pleasing a crowd, either, if you manage to stimulate and perhaps challenge them too. Otherwise, why bother to perform?

      1. Those who consider themselves unique and different also exclude those they consider ordinary. I think that we are too quick to categorize everyone and everything these days. There’s certainly plenty of mindless parroting going around, but it’s not exclusive to those we disagree with or don’t like. I thought I was a non-conformist back in the day, but we had our own groupthink. As I and my (liberal) friends do now. (Although I still think I’m right!)

        1. I agree that we are all becoming too polarised these days. There’s a sense that people are settling into separate camps and waiting for something to kick off. Misinformation on both sides, as you say, hence the tendency towards clumsy categorisation. My sympathies are with the underdog because of the manifest inequalities in too many societies. It’s not a level playing field, alas!

          1. So sadly true. If only we could be truly open and not pre-judge. If only we could be truly willing to share. I’m as guilty as anyone else of falling short on those counts.

          2. Er, me too! Still, hard to buck the trend when we’re all in the same leaky boat. Specially when the captain goes crazy and starts threatening to make us all walk the plank … 😉

  2. I can’t quite even begin to imagine what was in the least bit original about anything John Lennon recorded post 1972. Some Time In New York City, Mind Games, Walls And Bridges, Rock ‘N’ Roll were all very, very much sub-par. There couldn’t be more than half a dozen tracks between all of these albums with any musical merit. As for Double Fantasy – double travesty, more like.

    1. You could well be right, for all I know. Maybe the difference in our point of view is an age thing. I grew up in the 1960s when JL was a big cultural influence – thoughtful lyrics inspired by Dylan’s example, zany English eccentricity feeding into psychedelia, the way the Beatles helped alter the class structure, his blisteringly honest early solo work, his anti-war stance … all in all, for me, a big cultural influence. I didn’t find his later attempts to rediscover his rock ‘n’ roll roots particularly convincing but, hey, I’ll cut him some slack for the sake of what he did achieve … thanks for your input, though, got me thinking!

      1. Of course, some years ago I might not have had the guts to admit that was in fact my opinion about his music. I find no such difficulty today. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly which point the Lennon that we knew morphed into something else entirely. It seemed to me (at least) to be around that point in New York, pre-feud with Yoko, when he gained the unwanted attention of the FBI. Followed by that whole Los Angeles recording studios scene where all these cocaine heads working that scene were most detrimental and he was churning out the industry standard mediocrity that plagued everything that had been decent with American music. Unless of course, as millions did, one could stomach the perennial Joni Mitchell and newbies Carly Simon, Eagles, and the mandatory Crispy, Stools, Hash & Dung etc. In short, one can draw a line and the Lennon we knew who made essential music effectively died in England, late 1971.

        1. With hindsight I think there was a problem when Tin Pan Alley (the Biz) caught up with the runaway underground 60s and turned it into product. Everything got a little stodgy – countrified soft rock or jazzy prog noodling. There was good stuff – Gram Parsons, NRPS, Steely Dan, Little Feat, to name some of my likes – but we probably needed Reggae and Punk to wake us up and take us back to the roots. Dunno where JL was in all that, probably playing catch-up like everyone else. Doesn’t change anything for me, though, hopelessly nostalgic for the years of my youth … 🙂

          1. Oh of course Steely Dan and Little Feat – but they weren’t big sellers and leading the field, representing the pinnacle of the scene etc. The Dan were a cult, particularly as they only did one college tour in `74. JL was semi-comatose in a Thai stick haze in his bedroom chez Dakota. He didn’t wake up until 1979 when he heard the B-52’s doing Rock Lobster. It took McCartney’s Coming Up to shake him from his inertia and to actually do something – why that grabbed his attention is unknown. I didn’t think we needed Punk at all, most of which was pretty terrible, least of all a return to any roots; and a particularly daft concept considering post-punk was almost entirely electronic based as it had been going since the advent of Prog. I blame Rick Wakeman on ice-skates!

          2. Most of punk was indeed pretty terrible but it was an inevitable return to the 2 and 3 chord simplicity that any garage band could manage – just as UK skiffle had been the popular response to rock ‘n’ roll and a reaction against trad jazz and cheesy crooners. Punk was a new-generation reaction against the bloated baroque futility of Rick Wakeman and other Prog noodlers. Once saw Yes and hated them – other late 60s bands played together but Yes were all over the shop. Thanks for your info on later Lennon, all news to me as I’d got back into folk music by the late 70s having lost interest in rock posturing. As for the 80s, even the guitars sounded like bloody keyboards …

  3. This is good! Intelligent and thought provoking. I sometimes find myself despairing over the idea that “it’s all been ‘done’ already so why bother trying to write or make anything original?” That’s my fear and ego getting in the way of course. But I do believe that while each of us is intertwined and exponentially affected by our experiences, each of our lenses is completely unique. When I’m keeping my vision honest and looking through my own lens and not worrying as much about the peripheral stuff, then sometimes I can take what’s maybe already been done in some manner, and do it a little differently. That always feels like a small miracle to me. Thank you for this post. Inspiring!

    1. Very glad to hear my post found a positive reception. Like you, I sometimes – well, quite often – struggle with fears and insecurities about writing. I want to say or perhaps create something genuinely new but my awareness that my viewpoint might be sunk in cliché and cluttered by cultural baggage can act as a big disincentive to make the effort. I think that’s why I thought of escapology! I like Beefheart’s idea of art helping you emerge from a trance, in that YouTube interview I included in SN#1. Reassembling wreckage seems a good comparison … if not creation, recreation? 🙂

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