Aaron Copland on Creativity

Aaron Copland on Creativity

Last night I started reading What to Listen For in Music by American composer Aaron Copland. It’s an introduction to musical theory for the interested layperson, lucidly written and filled with insight, “the only book of its kind written by a great composer”.

I found an interesting passage in Chapter 3, The Creative Process In Music, which I thought might be univerally applicable to finding one’s role in the world:

[…] The layman always finds it hard to realize how natural it is for the composer to compose. He has a tendency to put himself into the position of a composer and to visualize the problems involved, including that of inspiration, from the perspective of the layman. He forgets that composing to a composer is like fulfilling a natural function. It is like eating or sleeping. It is something that the composer happens to have been born to do; and, because of that, it loses the character of a special virtue in the composer’s eyes.

A natural function! Do I even know what mine is? I suspect it might not actually be all those things I “do” like programming or interface design, despite all the energy I’ve put into this. What I appear to do the most these days is categorize experience and write it up, make connections, and communicate via a number of channels: email, this blog, and person-to-person contact.

Yesterday I was showing someone how to do something, and she commented that I was a good teacher. I seem to get this compliment quite a lot, and I am starting to wonder if this is a viable direction to move in. What makes for an excellent teacher? And what to teach? How much focus is necessary? And who do I talk to?

A longer excerpt from Copland’s chapter on creativity is online at this person’s site on music, if you’d like to read more.