Getting lost …

There’s a story about Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan early in their relationship playing a game while driving around LA. The passenger closed his/her eyes and called out instructions: turn right, turn left etc. Until they were totally lost. The trick then was to find their way back again.

Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. It still serves as a good analogy for a creative approach I find interesting. If you sit down with your regular instrument, play your regular chords – well chances are you will sound pretty much the same like you always do.

A more interesting way might be to get lost. To give you some sort of chaotic/messy starting point (tension) and find your way home (release). Bringing order to the chaos. Offering a logic, a structure, a story.

This approach aligns very well with Brian Eno’s concept of Control & Surrender. To Eno, in the creative process the artist needs to shift between these different modes to arrive at something new and interesting.

“Honour thy error as a hidden intention” reads one of the cards in the deck Oblique Strategies. And that’s a good example of Surrender. You accept your error as something unintended and interesting and you are forced to react to it, work around it. And as a result, you might end up somewhere better than you intended.

This is very much what can be read in the opening lines of the prose poem “Gläntan” (“The Clearing in the Forest”) by Swedish Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly:

“In the middle of the forest there’s an unexpected clearing which can only be found by those who have gotten lost.”

I find it a comforting thought, both in art and in life.

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