Bach never ceased being a student of his art

From The New Yorker:

Bach immersed himself in music at an early age, as had generations of Bachs before him. An obituary prepared by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel speaks of his father’s “unheard-of zeal in studying.” That claim is buttressed by a discovery made a decade ago, of the teen-aged Bach’s precociously precise copies of organ pieces by Reincken and Buxtehude. His life was destined to unfold in a constricted area. The towns and cities where he spent his career—Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, Weimar, Cöthen, and Leipzig—can be seen in a few hours’ driving around central and eastern Germany. But his lifelong habit of studying and copying scores allowed him to roam the Europe of the mind. In his later years, he copied everything from a Renaissance mass by Palestrina to the up-to-date Italianate lyricism of Pergolesi. Bach became an absolute master of his art by never ceasing to be a student of it.

Julius Shulman’s glass house in the sky

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One evening in May 1960, Julius Shulman, regarded as the world’s greatest architectural photographer, took this photo of architect Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House. The glass-enclosed house in the Hollywood Hills, with Los Angeles sprawling below it, was one of 36 experimental Case Study Houses designed to extoll the virtues of modernist theory and industrial materials (Stahl House was Case Study House No. 22). The photo has been called “the most successful real estate image ever taken” and Shulman himself declared it as “one of my masterpieces.”

In the documentary Visual Acoustics, which celebrates Shulman’s life and work and was made just before his death in 2009 at the age of 98, he describes how the extraordinary photo above came about quite by accident:

While my assistant was setting some lights for me I went outside and looked at that view just for curiosity. Oh gee, I said, looking at the girls who were sitting there, girlfriends of two of the architects who work with Pierre Koenig. They didn’t know they were gonna be in the picture. They just were in conversation.

Shulman’s photo became world-famous:

It perfected the art of aspirational staging, turning a house into the embodiment of the Good Life, of stardusted Hollywood, of California as the Promised Land. (Time)

Stahl House subsequently featured in numerous fashion shoots, films and advertising campaigns. In 1999 it was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

We need to unlearn not being creative

Author, Ben Okri:

Creativity is our normal and fundamental way of being. It is everything else – our education, our social conditioning, our cultural mores, our upbringing – that imprisons our creativity. If you don’t believe me, watch a child at play. To them all things are possible because they have not learned that some things are impossible. We don’t need to learn to be creative. We need to unlearn not being creative.

via The Guardian

Where creativity comes from

Tom Dixon, designer:

It’s putting yourself into unfamiliar worlds that does it, looking at something from a naive perspective. I’m lucky enough to travel a lot. I go to the local museums and like being exposed to the worlds of sculpture or cooking, or music – anything that is not my core area of design.

Richard Quinn, fashion designer:

I like to try to find something that’s not on the internet. I go around lots of old bookshops. There are amazing charity shops in Walthamstow, east London that sell rare, limited editions. I like finding odd, obscure objects, so odd that when you type their name into the internet nothing comes up.

Camille Walala, artist:

I always carry a sketchbook with me, a pencil, some tape, a file with different-coloured paper, and things to collage with. Most of my work is based around graphic elements and colours, and I fill my sketchbooks with patterns and designs that I often refer back to. I love going for a coffee in that hour: I’ll spread out on the table, usually outside; or it might be when I’m travelling, when there is more freedom to be playful.

Tamara Rojo, artistic director, English National Ballet:

I love going to see other art forms, especially theatre, and I’m an obsessive reader, not just of books but everything – magazines, newspapers, Twitter. I also love listening to the radio.

Faye Toogood, designer:

For me, being in nature and in particular the British landscape, with no distraction, is my main source of inspiration. Also, I have three young children, so at the moment I find their naivety and wide-eyed view on the world refreshing and unexpected.

‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes’: 11 ways to be more creative via The Guardian

On being human in your work

Writer Jason Reynolds:

I’m kind of old school in terms of the way I think about the work that we do. I don’t believe in any of the romance involved with being a writer. Writing is one of those strange crafts where everybody romanticizes it. We grow up looking at these images and photographs of our favorite writers, sitting at their typewriters in their offices. The truth is that this is my job, so I find time by making it. I make time.
If that means writing on airplanes, then it’s writing on airplanes. If it’s writing in the backs of cabs, if it’s writing on trains, then that’s what it is. If it’s writing in hotel rooms, then that’s what it is. For me, it’s about practice, and practicality. There’s nothing to do with any muse or inspiration or any romantic incubator for me to do this work. I make no excuses for myself.

Creating art out of past experiences

The New Yorker on director Joanna Hogg:

She didn’t release her first feature film until a decade ago, when she was forty-seven, and “The Souvenir” is only her fourth movie. This summer, Hogg is shooting “The Souvenir: Part II,” a continuation of the story of Julie’s early adulthood. Together, the films will implicitly tell another story: that of a female artist’s belated emergence in middle age, and her discovery that she could create art out of experiences that had once seemed like lost time.

Joanna Hogg’s self-portrait of a lady via The New Yorker

Robert Macfarlane on his preference for physical notebooks

Author Robert Macfarlane on his preference for physical notebooks over digital notes:

People sometimes ask me why I don’t use a phone to take notes when I’m ‘out’ in the field. The answer is that phones smash, while notebooks bend. I also like the way that notebooks record where they’ve been not just in terms of what’s written in them, but also in terms of the wear they bear as objects.

On the types of notebooks he uses:

The notebooks vary from a tiny lilac-coloured Moleskine just seven or eight centimetres high, to robust hardback journals, tough enough to withstand being dragged through limestone tunnel systems and soaked in slate mines.

One of the advantages of carrying around a physical notebook is the ability to tuck found objects into the pages or the envelope sometimes found at the back:

I also tend to tuck things into the pages of my notebooks, which flutter out later and surprise me. When I was in East Greenland, camping for weeks by the calving face of a huge glacier called the Knud Rasmussen, I picked up three ptarmigan feathers, and two iridescent ‘books’ of mica, and put them into the back of the two notebooks I filled up in that time. Two years later, I opened the notebooks again – and there was the mica, glittering away, and there were the feathers, as if fallen straight from the bird, pulling my memory instantly back to the cold, off-planet atmosphere of the glacier.

via Penguin Books from an original post by Austin Kleon

Nick Cave on the key to living

As we go through our lives we take on the expanding burden of our own distress – as we are abandoned, broken apart, betrayed, isolated, lost and hurt. This is essentially part of what it is to live. This despair will overwhelm us and turn inward into bitterness, resentment and hatred – worse, we will take it out upon the ones closest to us if we do not actively live our lives in the service of others and use what power we have to reduce each other’s suffering. This, in my opinion, is essentially the key to living. This is the remedy to our own suffering; our own feelings of separateness and of disconnectedness. And it is the essential antidote for loneliness.

The Red Hand Files #39