So when are you most creative, musically or otherwise? Do you sing best in the shower when no one is listening? Do you hum to yourself as you walk the dog? Recent studies at Cambridge University indicate that professional classical musicians are actually most creative when they are away from their instruments.
Sound surprising? Perhaps, when you think about it, you will realize that you, too, are most creative away from your instrument of choice, whether it’s a musical instrument or an instrument of high tech like a laptop or an iPad.
Musical Creativity in All of Us
We all have it, in some form or another: That inexplicable ability to be a genius, if only for a brief moment in time. We all have to potential to create music. It is within us. Music, after all, is a language. The verbal language has musical properties that suggest that perhaps music may have preceded the verbal language.
Music is a fundamental part of human expression, human creativity. It is something that enables us to communicate. It allows us to express ourselves in ways that are much more powerful than the verbal language of words.
In the music world, creativity is the genius of creation, of performance, of the mere breath of life. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) had startling sparks of genius and, surprisingly, or not, these sparks of genius were not always when the composers were seated at their instrument of choice (or any instrument, for that matter).
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Mozart claimed that he worked best on his own, away from all influences including musical instruments. He claimed that, “When I am ….. completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.”
Beethoven, plagued with the inability to hear his own creations due to a sudden onset of deafness, was considered more creative due to his deafness, as he heard the music heard inside his head instead of through his ears. The artist within the composer believed that his compositions were totally unbiased, not being influenced by other music that he may have heard. Beethoven’s later music was created totally from within himself.
Cambridge University is at the forefront in research into musical creativity and musical genius. Recent studies at the university have cast a new light on creative inspiration. After studying musicians, in performance, in the studio, and practicing, researchers have concluded that musicians may be most creative when not actually playing an instrument. Beethoven and Mozart and many other classical geniuses would certainly agree. The location of a musician’s creative inspiration could be as simple as singing in the shower or humming to oneself.
Inspiration and Expression
Professor John Rink, who started and led the study in 2009, summarized the results. “By discovering for themselves key aspects of the creative process, the performers in our study have been able to reflect on what it is that makes them individually creative and to unlock more of that for themselves.”
Musical genius, musical creativity is that part of the language of expression that works best away from the instrument of our individual creative inspiration.
AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice. Home. (2013). CMPCP. Accessed October 17, 2013.
Spaethling, Robert (ed.). Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life. (2005). W.W. Norton.
Wagg, Laura. Musicians at their most creative while away from their instruments. (2013). BBC Music Magazine. Accessed October 17, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Emily-Jane Hills Orford, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past