Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moments of Conception 049 -- The Mess Around Scene from Ray

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the piano scene in Ray:

What can we learn?

Mashing up multiple frames of reference. Ray was a master of creative convergence. He was the original mashup artist, whose playing reflected influences from diverse genres, including blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, country, gospel, even orchestral music. That was the magic of his work. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts. And his convergence not only created a unique inimitable style, but also pioneered an entirely new genre of music. He left behind an artistic legacy without which the history books could have been written. Ray’s meaningful contribution, then, was a function of masterful combination. That’s the power of creative promiscuity. His music provided multiple entry points for the audience. And through his continuous, voluminous level of output, he multiplied his reach. But had he stuck with one genre or style his whole career, we might not know him as the legend he is today. How are you integrating diverse influences into your work?

We are remembered for the rules we break. Sixty years ago, nobody had the audacity to break the genre boundaries. Music was completely compartmentalized. Gospel was for religious people. Classical was for old people. Country was for white people. Blues was for black people. Ray, on the other hand, wanted to integrate both race and style. He wanted to make it okay for people to sing songs they once thought were off limits to them. Perhaps that was his true genius. Musically, he was certainly a brilliant songwriter and performer. But culturally, his contributions were even greater. Charles smashed musical and racial barriers. He paved the way for a generation of artists who may ever have crossed those lines without his help. It’s like he was the first musician to run the four minute mile. Because once he crossed that finish line and the rest of the world saw it was possible, everybody else started breaking the record too. It’s a powerful reminder that our function as artists is to warn people what is dangerous and possible out there. What barriers are you famous for breaking?

Nobody wants another anybody. When your fiercely independent southern mother insists you make your own way in the world, cover tunes aren’t an option. The only true art is the visible manifestation of the soul’s journey. That’s what people want. Not a karaoke machine of oldies. Not a hacksimile of the rockstar du jour. Just a person who’s willing to slice open a vein and bleed their truth all over the page. Ray did that. He cracked himself open and poured out his pain and poverty and guilt all over the keys. And yet, he never did it from vitriolic or sanctimonious posture. Charles knew that originality wasn’t about trying to prove something to those who doubted him, it was about speaking with his own voice and doing the best he could. It wasn’t about demanding his rights, it was about deploying his gifts. And in the end, that’s what allowed him to compete in clean air. Are you accepting the marketplace conditions or work to create new ones?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?