All posts by bgthomas

What is Art?


It is not easy to define the arts and it is not easy to say what the arts have in common. A list of the arts may be a helpful starting point.

  • Music
  • Theater
  • Dance
  • Visual arts
  • Literature
  • Architecture
  • Film

Some cultures include cooking or gardening as art form. Some critics argue that we make a false distinction between art and crafts.

Defining the arts is a difficult task and every definition has its critics. Here are some possible definitions or types of definitions.

  • Art is the imitation of nature.
  • Art is he expression of human imagination and creativity.
  • Art is an imaginative investigation of since perception.
  • Art is a human activity so the natural world is not an artwork.
  • The intention of the artist transforms something into art.
  • Art is what the art world decides art is.
  •  Art transforms the everyday. It transfigures.
  • Art is outside of ordinary experience but it is related to ordinary experience.
  • Art represents a culture and transcends time.
  • Are tells the story of a culture in an imaginative manner.

The Next Generation of Listener

Classical Music and Kids


At some school concerts some children don’t sit still and are not quiet for a concert. This makes it very difficult for an artist to do his job. It is possible that this is the only problem we have to address. Without cooperation from the children in the audience it is extremely difficult to have a performance that is successful. If children are quiet during the performance then it is at least possible to reach some of the kids. Getting an audience to be quiet is a practical victory, but may not solve the problem of creating audiences for the future and, more importantly, of helping children to fall in love with great music. Possible background issues and questions:

Relatively few children hear much classical music.

Many parents do not tell their children stories or sing to them.

Many children sing very little or not at all.

Does this mean they hear differently? Can neurological research distinguish between children who sing and children who do not? What are the relationships between musical study and school achievement? Is there a general loss of perceptual sensitivity among children today? How would you establish that that is the case? What problems do the age and class of concertgoers create? In other words, if young people see only grey heads in a concert hall, will that have a strong negative impact? How does the approach to interpretation and the performance itself effect how children view a musical event? How can we create events that will successfully reach children who have little or no experience of great music? What effect is the lack of new repertoire causing? There is relatively little music composed in the last 50 years that is really part of the repertoire today and that would be appealing to young people. What problems do the types of venues create? In other words, does going into a concert hall itself create resistance.

The music videos that kid watch today are highly visual. Does the lack of visuals in standard concerts make these programs less interesting for today kids? Most pop songs are only two to four minutes. Many of them are not necessarily intended for concentrated listening. Is it too much to expect listeners to pay attention to something that lasts significantly longer? Much great music is infinitely more complex than pop music. What problems does this create?

There is a fantastic symphony orchestra program in Venezuela. Something like 100,000 kids are involved in performing. The best orchestras are so good that Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado, among others, have conducted them. What effect is it having on the participants? What kind of spill over effect is it having on non-participants? Are more people listening to classical music in Venezuela?

A surprising amount of music for film and television is classical or classical-like. Thus kids have heard more really good music than they think. I was in a restaurant in Zagreb last year. Suddenly a group of men let rip in four to six-part harmony. It was sensational and quite moving. This is a living tradition on the island of Hvar in Croatia. Many places still have such living traditions. How does this connect to what we want to do?

Ten Myths of Creativity

Does the word creativity raises images of half-crazed geniuses who cut off their ears, paint masterpieces, party like mad and die of drug overdoses? These stereotypes may make good movie plots, but do they correspond to reality? Is this really what creativity is like? Let’s examine some of the myths.

Myth One: Creativity Comes from the Unconscious

Well this one is easy to understand: it certainly is difficult to say where creativity comes from. You can’t look under the hood of consciousness and watch the motor in action. Even neuroscientists looking at real-time MRI’s can’t see creativity happening.

Saying that creativity comes from the unconscious is like saying that a mystery comes from a mystery. Not very helpful. The unconscious is a notoriously vague term. Does it just mean the workings of our brain that we cannot sense? Does it refer to the regions unilluminated by the torch of attention? Is it simply a term referring to all that stuff down there that we don’t experience actively? You can’t really sense where the nerve impulses that initiate muscle response originate. That, however, does not cause you to say that tennis comes from the unconscious.

Myth Two: Creativity is a talent

According to this paradigm, you are either born with it or not. It’s up to fate or the gods or God. It’s like having blue eyes. Talent is present or absent in a measurable quantity like IQ. You might tweak it a bit, but don’t expect big differences.

This is the biggest lie of ‘em all! Why? Because this belief has such a pernicious effect. If talent is fixed at birth, why bother? Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck writes, “People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.” Dweck’s conclusions are not based on rah, rah self-improvement boosterism; they are based on three decades of pains-taking research. When putting together the iPhone team, Scott Forstall of Apple chose people who were ready to “to make mistakes and struggle.” These are the kinds of people that will be great members of an innovative team.

Myth Three: Children Are More Creative Than Adults

This one is quite attractive. If you are not creative, blame your parents! Blame your third grade teacher! They drummed it out of you. You were once wonderfully creative, but the oppressive, repetitive, soulless system squeezed all the juice out and left you dry, analytical and clinically left-brained.

It is very pleasant and quite convenient to blame someone else, but let me issue a challenge. Name me one significant work of art produced by a child! If you named Mozart, forget it. His youthful works are well-wrought clones of twenty other minor Austrian composers. He was precocious, but Mozart would only be a footnote in musical history if he had died at age 18. Schools and society don’t squash creativity; in fact, they make it possible.

Sir Ken Robinson says that schools should do more to teach creativity. I quite agree, but it is essential to know how creativity actually occurs before we leap into the breach with proposals for curriculum reform. Below is Sir Ken speaking. It is quite amusing, but I suspect that he is enamored with the myth of childhood creativity

Myth Four: Creativity Represents the Inner Spirit of the Individual

This one is quite attractive. If the song is sad, the fans are keen to know what caused the heartache. The notion that art is the expression of an artist’s emotions is an almost universal delusion. If creativity were merely a matter of expressing emotions, then two-year olds would be the masters. Met any two-year old artists recently? When several hundred people work on a film project, whose inner spirit is represented? When Apple developed the iPhone, whose inner spirit was revealed?

Myth Five: Creativity is a Form of Therapeutic Self-Discovery

Freud had a lot of bad ideas about how the mind works, but his ideas on artistic production are beyond bad; they are insidious. In Freud’s view, art is a fantasy world based on illusion driven by unfulfilled sexual desires. Like almost all of Freud’s theories, this one is completely unfalsifiable and hence untestable.

It is true that music and art can be used as therapeutic methods, but so can aerobic exercise. One of the greatest innovative achievements of the 20th century was the American space program. It would be quite absurd to say that 500,000 engineers, scientists, technicians and astronauts were releasing unfulfilled sexual desires and going through a therapeutic process of self-discovery. They weren’t lying around on couches relating dreams; they were putting in massively hard work and making small incremental innovative steps that led to a man stepping out on the moon. (Ah, but those blastoffs, you say: titanic ejaculations, male hubris gone completely berserk!)

Myth Six: Creativity Is Spontaneous Inspiration

More lightening, thunder, smoke, special effects and booming Wizard of Oz voices. We love the notion of spontaneous inspiration and if the facts clash with our comforting myths, well, just ignore the facts.

Ideas, concepts, images, tunes, and phrases do pop into consciousness for no apparent reason, but scientists have discovered that creativity is mostly conscious, hard work. You put one word after the other or one pencil stroke after the next. Good improvisers can seem to pull scripts out of the air, but anyone who does it consistently well has to practice, practice, practice. A great athlete may make an amazing play, but she has also practiced, practiced, practiced.

Mozart’s ‘spontaneous inspirations’ were no accident. Mozart’s father was a brilliant teacher and wrote an important treatise on violin playing. We still read it today. Mozart worked incredibly hard and was enormously productive. He came out of an era in which the musician was related to the craftsman. Craftsmen don’t wait for spontaneous inspiration; they get to work. The Romantic poets, such as Coleridge, have thrown dust in our eyes with their tales of spontaneous inspiration. Coleridge scholars have discovered that Coleridge want through a long process of revision to end up with his classic works of ‘spontaneous inspiration.’ Relying on thundering epiphanies is rather like heaping up the logs and waiting for lightening to strike. The lightening may strike, but what happens if the wood is too wet?

Myth Seven: Many Great Creative Works are Unrecognized in Their Own Time

Van Gogh’s career supports this tale, but name me another great painter who fits this pattern. The simple fact is that painters up until the mid-19th century worked on commission and a painter’s contract specified a variety of specific details. In the film Goya’s Ghost there is a nice vignette that illustrates this point. Goya is painting a portrait of Brother Lorenzo and informs his client that hands cost extra. Why? Hands are difficult to paint. Brother Lorenzo then places his hands inside the folds of his robe. Creators in all fields must work with clients and customers. Those who are unable to do so will not have successful careers. The only alternative to meeting the needs of an audience is to obtain a university position and fantasize that your drivel will someday be acclaimed.

In science, the notion of the unrecognized genius is sheer nonsense. First of all, that’s just not the way science works today. Dean Simonton studies scientific productivity and has found that 10 percent of scientists produce 50 percent of scientific articles. There is a very high correlation between scientific productivity and creativity. The best scientists, the ones who are widely sited, are highly productive and creative. This success enables them to attract top students and big money.

Myth Eight: Everyone is creative

Well, I am not so ready to pounce on this one and deliver a series of vicious karate chops. To answer this one we have to dive into the turgid waters of definitions and boundaries. What is creativity? My response is both quite democratic and highly elitist. Let’s be very generous about what can be considered a proper realm for creativity. Creativity can be finding a better route to work, a more satisfying way to structure your webpage, or a more delicious muesli and fruit combination. Some people call this little ‘c’ creativity. I submit that there is a continuous scale from little ‘c’ to the big ‘C’ of discovering the double helix shape of DNA or writing MacBeth. This scale is comparable to my touchdown passes on the beach and Peyton Manning’s tosses in the Super Bowl. Creativity is for everyone, but a field sets the standards for worthwhile contribution. In a competitive arena, these standards can be stratospheric. Be creative, but also be realistic about the value of your contribution.

Myth Nine: Creativity is the same as originality

This is perhaps the myth of modernism. In most cases, we should rate creativity and innovation by quality, not by originality. A film in which a chorus of fat women dressed as iguanas chants insults in pseudo-Mayan, would be original but not creative. Why not? Because creativity is recognized by the community of experts in the field. Creativity occurs in a domain, whether it is competitive iceboat construction, open source social network software, Hip Hop or Hollywood thrillers. Each of these has an intensely involved group of professional and deeply committed amateurs. In none of these is it a case of anything goes. Each sub-culture is committed to quality and high standards in its domain. Original ideas can create lots of excitement, but quality trumps originality any day. Just think about going out for dinner. It’s really cool to have a dinner cooked by a highly originally chef, but only if the meal is good. Originality in cooking is not enough.

Myth Ten: Creativity only applies to science and the fine art

I am happy to be completely democratic here. I see no reason to make arbitrary distinctions. If there is a domain that a critical mass of people cares about well then, let ‘em be creative. The history of art, for example, shows us countless examples of genres that were not initially accepted by elites, but have gradually come into the mainstream. Movies, jazz and photography were all on the sidelines initially. As fans and critics began to articulate just what is unique, visionary, or excellent in these art forms they gradually moved into the mainstream of acceptance. Domains, genres, and fields go through periods of innovation and stagnation. Possibilities open up and then are exploited. Comic books morph into graphic novels. Computer programmers become interested in genetics. Sting sings music from the time of Shakespeare. Let the market place of ideas define what creativity is.


Some important ideas in this essay derive from Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation by R. Keith Sawyer. Conversations with Keith Hill also influenced my thinking, particularly on quality and originality.

Haydn in Aschaffenburg (in German)

Main-Echo, Aschaffenburg, 3.11.2009

Mythos Genie trotz mancher Instant-Sonate


Der Budapester Pianist Geoffrey Thomas in der Aschaffenburger Christuskirche auf

den Spuren Joseph Haydns

Aschaffenburg. „Wie zum Teufel haben Sie das geschrieben, Haydn?“ fragte Geoffrey Thomas ein ums andere Mal in seinen kleinen Szenen, die er zum Lebenslauf des großen Musikers und Komponisten zusammensetzte. Denn nicht historische Fakten standen im Zentrum des Programms „Joseph Haydn – Leben in Noten und Anekdoten“ in der Aschaffenburger Christuskirche, sondern die Frage nach dem musikalischen Genie, das der Budapester Pianist mit den amerikanischen Wurzeln in wenigen Einzelsätzen aus den Sonaten Haydns anklingen ließ. Ein amüsantes Spiel um Musik und ihren Schöpfer.

Fürst Esterházy mit dem Gebaren des Oligarchen Roman Abramowitsch? Haydn als Straßenmusiker in der U-Bahn? Und dann als Pop-Star in London? Da wurde nichts ausgelassen, um die Musikerexistenz plastisch und dennoch mit wenigen Requisiten zu schildern.

Der zum dritten Mal in Aschaffenburg gastierende Geoffrey Thomas hat für sich eine kreative Nische aufgetan: „Theater of Music“, eine Mischung aus Spielszenen und Musikeinlagen, die den kreativen Prozess von Händel, Mozart oder hier Haydn in ihrer historischen Lebenswelt aufzeigen. Dabei darf es ruhig Spaß machen, da ist der Amerikaner mit den Wurzeln in der E-Musik des Barock offen. Es soll auch albern sein, zum Lachen animieren und auf leichte Art Geschichte vermitteln. Dennoch gibt es einen ernsthaften Roten Faden in diesem biographischen Ablauf, nämlich die Frage nach dem musikalischen Genie: „Ist Genialität erlernbar oder muss man als Genie geboren sein?“ formuliert Thomas als durchaus der eigenen Biographie entlehnte Überlegung.

Zuerst einmal gab der Bewunderer Haydns zu, dass nicht alles das Etikett „geniale Komposition“ trägt, was der österreichische Komponist geschaffen hat. Kurz angespielt ist manches als „Instant-Sonate“ erkennbar – „einige Läufe, einige Akkorde, dazu Wasser und ab in die Mikrowelle – fertig“. Aber der Pianist spielte auch anderes, den Haydn nämlich, der nicht nur seine Zeitgenossen unterhielt, sondern bei seinen Kollegen Hochachtung weckte und ganze Generationen von Musikern in Europa beeinflusste. Dieser Weg von der Instant-Sonate zum Meisterwerk, die schier unerschöpfliche Kreativität des „Papa Haydn“ darf seine Zeit der Massenproduktion im Dienste der Fürsten Esterházy nicht verleugnen.

Eine neue Sonate zum Frühstück, etwas Kammermusik zum Essen, dazu 100 Opernaufführungen im Jahr – unfassbar, was der musikverrückte Fürst von seinem Hofkapellmeister verlangte. Natürlich hatte der Komponist auch seine Musen. Thomas versuchte die ausdrucksstärksten Adagios mit empfindsamem Spiel in diese emotionalen Begegnungen einzubetten, eher romantisch Stimmungen als Impetus des Kompositeurs zu deuten.

Das sei „genial und originell, echter Schöpfergeist“ im Umgang mit der Sprache der Musik. Eine Sprache, die überall verstanden wird, auch im vergnügungssüchtigen London: „Die ganze Welt kennt meine Sprache“, sagt der sprachenunkundige Haydn. Und Thomas ergänzt für sich als Ziel, „diese Sprache zu studieren“.

Daniela Tiggemann

Mitarbeiter Nr. 282


Leicester Early Music Festival Review

Women Found Handel Attractive: Sonatas and Stories – Geoffrey Thomas

Leicester Early Music Festival, Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Mercury

27th May 2009

There must be many accounts of Haydn’s life and music, but few interpretations can provide as engaging a portrait as that provided by actor and pianist Geoffrey Thomas.

Thomas’ dry acting style and vocal delivery provided an intriguing, lively and humorous picture of Haydn’s life through words, interspersed with excerpts from some of Haydn’s many piano Sonatas.

The music itself was played with feeling and intensity where a movement was played in full, while for more illustrative purposes, a more relaxed and perhaps even playful style might be adopted where a brief excerpt was used.

Using a small number of props and limited space around the piano, very effectively, Thomas drew the listener into Haydn’s early life as a chorister, his attempts at busking, early composition and accompanying, his marriage and his daily routine, culminating in an inspiring performance of the Adagio e Cantible from the Sonata in E flat Hob XVI/49.

The story continued with Haydn’s move to London, his years in Vienna and his death. Interspersed with a bright performance of the Sonata in E flat, Hob. XVI/52: A fitting reminder of the real legacy that this great composer has left us, which concluded an engaging evening of informative entertainment.

Poster in

Halle Poster

Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche, June 20, 2009, 19:30

Handel program with the kammerchor cantamus halle

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and the Männerchor bouquet vocalis Halle under the direction

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of Dorothea Köhler

Klosterkonzerte Maulbronn, July 26, 2009, 18.00

Händels Duelle

Tears of Laughter

Below are some comments about the performance of Handel’s Duels at the Handel House in Halle on September 28, 2008.

When we talk about your concert, we can’t help gushing. When you combine good music with such charm and knowledge, then you can be certain the public will buy it. I’ll say it again: it was an experience. Who else could manage to use classical music to bring tears of laughter to listeners?

Dorothea Kölhler

Director of the Halle Kammerchor Cantamus

Former Director of the Stadtsingechor Halle

The last and a very happy event was the Sunday Matinee with Geoffrey Thomas. He performed the “Handel’s Duels” play from his “Theater and a clavichord show. Geoffrey talked about Handel’s life, impersonating various figures with rapidly changing costumes, and he would illustrate the events with musical pieces. The audience went delirious when he took on the roles of the Cuzzoni and Faustina, Handel’s two prima donnas, and their rivalry was aptly depicted in the Presto from the d-minor Suite. The subsequent Sarabande from the g-minor Suite was Geoffrey’s understanding that actually this dance piece was composed as an aria. The combination of lightness and humour with music made the performance a fitting end to an event masters of the clavichord, and I don’t spread my praise loosely.

Michael Zapf

Former President of the German Clavichord Society

You brought us great pleasure with your Handel programm, many thanks once again.

Lothar Bemmen

President of the German Clavichord Society

Creative Practice

If you want your results to be creative, it stands to reason that the process of getting there should be creative. Put another way, uncreative practice will yield uncreative results. A recent conversation with composer Charles Young led me to a more creative practice method. The conversation was not in fact about practicing; it was about composing. Charles stated that his starting point was to generate gestures based on the emotional, physical, mental and attitudinal affects he was after. I am very kinesthetic, so the idea of gestures was very appealing. When I write gesture, I mean that quite literally. I mean moving hands, arms, feet, whatever to find shape and character. As a composer the gesture will suggest musical ideas. As an interpretive performer you reverse engineer; you attempt to find the gesture underlying a musical idea. If you introduce improvisation into the mix, the process becomes much more dynamic. Instead of focusing on notes and parroting back a musical text, you can become consumed with the underlying gestural dynamics. This is fun, it’s creative and it will move you forward much more quickly.

List of Musical Skills

Twyla Tharp, the choreographer, has a brilliant book called The Creative Habit. Can’t recommend it enough. The book includes a number of exercises, one of which was to list the fundamental skills in your art form. Here is my list:

Skills List

  • Accompanying
  • Affects
  • Analysis
  • Arranging
  • Articulation
  • Arpeggios
  • Chord recognition
  • Chord voicing
  • Clefs
  • Composing
  • Conducting
  • Copying scores
  • Concentration
  • Counterpoint
  • Dancing
  • Dichords
  • Dictation
  • Ensemble playing
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Figured
  • bass
  • Form recognition
  • Formal analysis
  • Harmonizing
  • Heptachord shift
  • Imitation
  • Improvising
  • Interpretation
  • Listening
  • Memorizing
  • Notating
  • Pitch Vowels
  • Polyrhythms
  • Orchestration
  • Octaves
  • Repertoire
  • Satztechnik
  • Scales
  • Score reading
  • Separating all parts
  • Sight-reading
  • Sight singing
  • Singing
  • Solfège
  • Style Recognition
  • Rhythm skills
  • Touch
  • Thinking multiple parts
  • Transcribing
  • Transposing
  • Tuning
  • Variations
  • Vocal coaching




Wind and string players spend endless hours maintaining and improving their tone. The great Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma once told me that a string teacher can forgive a student who has better technique, but will hate a student who has better sound.

Very few keyboard players pay such close attention to their tone. After all, the glorious sound of a French horn or the haunting tones of an English horn are completely unattainable on any keyboard instrument. Clearly, having good tone will make your playing more pleasing to the listener, but it will also improve the quality of your practice. You can solve many technical problems more effectively by paying attention to tonal quality. Getting the correct notes is a fairly low order problem for the perception. Playing the notes with the idea timbre and color is a far more intriguing problem for the perception. As a bonus, the right notes will come.

Just Concentrate!

Just Concentrate! How many times have you said that to yourself? Has it actually ever worked?

Just Concentrate! is the sort of thing the inner coach is always yelling at you. The inner coach is a notion developed by Marianne Ploger. If, like me, you have a constant inner dialogue, you are sure to have some version of the inner coach. The inner coach wants to get in the pool with the swimmer and try to help her swim. That’s not where the inner coach should be. The inner coach needs to be outside the pool to teach and give helpful feedback after the performance.

Just Concentrate! Is not a very helpful visual metaphor. It suggests contraction, furrowed brows, intense stares and physical rigidity. It does not suggest poised awareness of the present. It does not suggest the spiritual flexibility that enables the performer to respond to the moment, to create something afresh.

A fundamental reason my inner coach has yelled out Just Concentrate! so often is that my mind wanders. What Buddhists call the monkey mind has taken me on a largely irrelevant mental journey instead of attending to the business at hand, which is playing music. Perhaps the greatest joy you can have as a performer is at the moment when you are riding the crest of time, when you are in a state of flow, when you are not enter this state is the critical question. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a book recommended to me by Marianne, is providing direction. The first question that truly shook me was this: can you turn your mind off? My personal answer is, regrettably, no. A second observation that struck me was the simple fact that we can only be in the present moment; the mind can of course race across the universe of time and space, but we live, willy-nilly, in the eternal now.

I now understand, for the first time, why archery could be a Zen practice. What one would consider to be a physical activity – archery – is in fact a highly mental and spiritual exercise. The practice of being present is the key underlying skill.

Searching for the Meaning

Recently I taught a master class at Colorado University School of Music and worked with pianists and a harpsichordist. They all played well and so we were able to discuss musical issues. When I asked each player what he or she thought the piece was about the answers tended to be vague. This is no indictment of a group of talented students. There responses were like those you would hear at any good music school

It is curious that musicians can spend enormous amounts of time preparing a piece and never consider the meaning or extra-musical must include myself in the indictment, because I have frequently failed to put meaning into the forefront. We musicians got so caught up with technical aspects that we generally neglect meaning. An actor would, of course, immediately dive into the problem of meaning and would continually wrestle with it throughout the study, rehearsal and performance process. If you are playing the role of Hamlet you will immediately consider what Hamlet is thinking and feeling, what motivates him, why he says these words and not some other, why he takes these actions and not some others.

Musicians need to engage in this process of discovering meaning. The answers are of a different nature and the clues are not as clear as in a literary text, but the exploration is just as essential. It is simply not enough to be satisfied with a ‘correct’ execution of the musical text. The question of why is central. Why did the composer write these particular notes? What was his reason for the notation he chose? What should we communicate? How can we do this? The composer intends meaning. What is that meaning?

To discover this is our central task.

Denver University Master Class

While teaching a master class at the University of Denver I frequently asked the audience their reactions to the way a musician had just performed. This feedback was enormously valuable to the performing musician

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and to me. It was gratifying to note that the audience was generally supportive of what I was doing. They often wanted more of a process I had started; playing with more flexibility and more organic gestures, for example. I don’t know yet how it could be done, but building up a performance with direct audience feedback, as we had during the master class, would be a very powerful way to discover

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Reframing the Affect Question

New solutions to problems often come in reframing or even inverting the original question. I have been wrestling with the question of establishing the affect for a piece of music. By affect, I mean the external expression of a mood, a state of mind, or a situation. Ideally, the affect or range of affects should quickly become apparent. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find clear answers. The notion of restating the question came to me in reading Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko. Instead of deriving the meaning from the musical text, I am now trying on affects, like so many hats. This removes the problem of finding the right answer and substitutes a more playful, experimental approach. This approach can be improved with a sensitive listener who reacts to your experiments. Because you are attempting something new, you may not have sufficient awareness to judge the quality of what you are doing.


Authenticity was the holy grail of the early music movement for many, many years. As musicians and scholars began to dig more deeply into the problem they discovered, both on a practical and on an epistemological level, that the goal though worth chasing, is not attainable. Like truth, authenticity eludes all attempts at strict definition.

Yesterday, while performing at the Boulder Bach Festival I realized that an important aspect of authenticity has been left out of the equation: flies, flies that buzz around your head, alight on your hands as you play and make you imagine that the coattail brushing against your leg is in fact a pesky fly.

Perhaps lice that crawl down from underneath your wig to search for dinner in other locations would be a further bit of authenticity.

Perfume instead of bathing, anyone?