Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

What sparks your creativity?

Question: What sparks your creativity?

John Harbison: I think composers are people who have not heard exactly a music that they would like to hear. That is to say, I think if all the music you wanted was in the world, you’d probably be a performer if you wanted to be a musician. But if there is something slightly different or radically different even, I think that’s what composers do. They look for something that they feel is missing. I wanted to hear . . . I wanted to hear something that carried the qualities, that joined the qualities of the music that first gripped me, which was really in equal parts the dramatic improvisation, the live kind of improvisational quality of jazz, and the intricate structures of Bach. And that’s really, I think, always been what has attracted me, that there was a region there that I thought could be fertile and could be broad enough to keep doing it a long time. I’m working on a piece which … part of it is a large poem, one of the last poems by Newash, who I’ve said before … this was again, just what I referred to. The overrun of not quite having found my way of where I want to be with him. He’s a difficult companion and sometimes digressive, and sometimes in a very pleasing way, self-centered and unapologetic of how much in the face of every event he still seeks pleasure rather than plume. So I think I need that, but I’m trying to settle a score with him. And it’s a very large poem, and it has tremendous segments which are not easily solved musically, which is interesting and sometimes discouraging. And then I thought that was the piece, but then at a certain point as I started something about his attitudes in the poem disturbed me. I needed an answer to his attitude to consequences of loss. And so the first thing that happened was a response in the form of a poem by … for another singer. So I then informed my commissioner there was another singer and more music. And then that required a response because it felt formally upsetting to have a singer sing, and another singer sing, and not account for some other voice which might sum up two very, very, distinct viewpoints. So I then used a translation of a real good poem in which they could sing together in different characters than previously in the piece. So the text of the piece has been additive, and the approach to the piece also. And it’s a larger piece than I started out with.I have to catechize myself. I have to talk myself into it. I think we’re all instilled with various levels of confidence. I’ve always been interested in reading Benjamin Britten’s statements. Almost his whole career is described in terms of level of confidence. I wrote that piece I was on a high level of confidence. Some people have that in great abundance, but others have to cultivate it like a garden.

Recorded On: 6/12/07

On composing around the digressive, self-centered poetry of Newash.

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

Videos
  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Personal Growth

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast