Tag Archive: creative process


I am always on the lookout for new metaphors to assist me to improvise jazz. My latest efforts have been in the area of quantum physics. Unfortunately, quantum physics has no direction, no aesthetics, and no love. It is strictly probabilistic and functional. Cubism, on the other hand, is an artistic and geometric concept which combines physics (planes, dimensions) with perspective, shape, and artistic creative energy. Besides, cubist art is my favorite form of art. While I’m attracted to 12-tone music, I’m a real novice at it and need to work more on treating it in terms of improvisation. Cubism might be a way to improvise from the perspective of shifting tonalities, rhythms, meter, scales, and atonality as a vehicle to effective, moving expression.

Let me sketch out some brief ideas. There is an interpretive structure to improvisation which is a form of spontaneous composition. What if we structure improv musically to include things from different perspectives to bring together objects as seen from different dimensions, utilizing elements of music assembled with an arc designed to hear something as a metaphor for visual things seen as if the musician were a cubist? What would the musician use in her attempt to create a sonic representation of different elements? What would some of those elements consist of?

  • Here’s a brief list of some of the ways musicians could approach the problem of creating music cubistically:
    • Texture
      • Continuum from rough to smooth
      • Granular and gritty to liquid and fluid
      • Layers reminiscent of geological layers as seen on the walls of a chasm or on mountainsides        
    • Rhythm
      • Continuum from classical and unaccented through all variations of popular rhythms including jazz swing and all forms of jazz historically beginning with 19th century forms into the present
      • Electronic jazz to electroacoustic
      • All forms of rock
        • Hip hop
        • Funk
        • Ska
        • Reggae
        • Metal
        • Blues
      • Rhythms of different cultures
        • Indian
        • African
        • Asian
        • Middle eastern
        • South American
        • Indigenous and tribal
    • Meter
      • Western meter used in jazz
        • 4/4
        • ¾
        • 6/8
        • 2/4
        • 9/8
    • Non-western meter
      • 5/4
      • 7/4
      • 11/4
      • 13/4
    • Chord changes
      • Complex bebop changes
      • Simple postbop changes
      • Drones
    • Musical notes
      • Continuum from tonal to atonal/12-tonal
      • Continuum of intervals from consonant to dissonant
        • Large intervals
        • Small intervals
        • Close intervals
        • Scalar intervals
          • Major
          • Minor
          • Whole tonal
          • International scales
            • Different ragas
            • Persian scales
            • Scales from a variety of folk musics used for example by Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Spanish, French, English, Celtic, German
    • Blues
      • Country blues
      • Funky blues
      • Bebop
      • Cool
      • Honky tonk
      • Roots
    • Emotion
      • Meditative
      • Warm and sweet
      • Soulful
      • Negative
        • Anger
        • Rage
        • Fury
        • Defensive
        • Reactive
        • Fear
      • Positive
        • Joy
        • Happy
        • Light
        • Fluttery
        • Warm
    • Abstract to primitive
    • Different instruments
      • Strings
      • Reeds
      • Brass
      • Percussion
      • Combinations of different instruments
        • Solo
        • Sections
    • Musical metaphors
      • Weather
        • Stormy
        • Rain
        • Wind
        • Sunny
        • Cold
        • Warm
        • Lightening
        • Thunder
      • Cosmic
      • Quantum
      • Cubist
    • Psychological
      • Jungian
        • Functions of personality
          • Thinking
          • Feeling
          • Sensation
          • Intuition
          • Judgment
          • Perception
        • Metaphysical
          • Unconscious
          • Collective unconscious
          • Myth structure
          • Alchemy
          • Dreaming
      • Freudian
        • Unconscious
        • Abreaction
        • Wish fulfillment
        • Sexual fulfillment

Flattening, deconstruction, rearrangement of perspective, elimination of depth, monochromatic color—all these typify cubist painting. Ultimately, abstraction from reality marks the demarcation of cubism from more representational art. But, as far as I can tell, performance art is less represented than sculpture, painting, collage, all visual art forms at least regarding cubist expression. In fact, aside from Merce Cunningham and his movement strategies which do not rely on programmatic notes or references to anything but movement, I cannot think of any performance art which relies on cubism to inform its realization. And, I’m not sure Merce, or John Cage for that matter, would agree with me.

I cannot find any musical representation of cubism aside from visual art utilizing musical instruments and musicians playing them. No composers I have discovered attempted using cubism as a source of inspiration. No musical forms appear to consciously utilize cubist principles. I have asked others to comment on cubist principles of music—no one answers.

How is it, then, that I can hear cubism almost every time I listen to free jazz? I can hear planes, dimensions, interacting perspectives, dissonance, complex rhythm, different musical schools, colors, and emotion all coming together in different performances of small, medium, and large ensembles made up of every musical instrument whether western, non-western, found objects, electronic, or uniquely made by an individual. In fact, I have been attempting to understand improvisation from so many different perspectives that my abstraction of these arguments has become a cubist expression all by itself! Lately I’ve been considering physics—Einsteinian and quantum, string theory and quantum chromodynamics—as springboards for hypothesis generation. The overarching issue for me is “where do all the notes come from?” 

My personal experience of improvisation lies in the sense that when I abandon myself to the process they come from somewhere other than my conscious decision to play particular notes. Personal example:  for years I have considered myself to be a poor player of chord changes. I get stuck on playing specific notes in a chord and can’t think quickly enough to make the changes. If the changes are simpler and I can think quickly enough, I lose something in terms of inventiveness. It is only once I have warmed up to a musical structure (a tune for the uninitiated) can I let go enough to have some fun. It is faster than thought. If it is a tune with chord changes and I let go I find new and inventive ways to play the changes. The danger for me is repetitiveness. I can start to play everything the same so different tunes begin to sound the same.  That is why I am now on the lookout for a way to structure improvisation and composition which will guide me when I take off. For a while I conceived of playing a solo as riding a wave as if the music was a wave and I was surfing it. I have also tried to expand meter by using Indian raga time such as the Tin Tal—a 16 measure segment in 4/4. If instead of 16 4/4 measures I think of it as one long measure in 4/4 the entire structure opens up. My latest infatuation has been the idea I got from string theory of superposition. That is quantum physics for allowing notes to appear by a process of probability. I also borrowed Feynman’s concept of the subatomic particle being in every potential place and speed until it appears—the wave again—when the wave crashes, or as physicists put it, when the quantum wave function collapses. This all felt soulless and didn’t allow for the spiritual or emotional to enter into the equation. Plus, there is no aesthetic I know of that doesn’t allow for human intervention—even Dali relied on the unconscious and its predilections to “determine” his dada.

Many different aspects of experience have gone into my lifetime of composition. I have borrowed from the Kabbalah, quantum physics, and jazz to compose a 12-movement piece I performed in 2019 entitled Qabbala::Entanglement. I have used the Torah and poetry to compose a double string quartet with double SATB chorus entitled Abyss. And I have played with Finale, a music software program, to write pieces that were suggestive but not totally specific about what the musical structure was. I am looking for the next muse to my music. Perhaps it will be cubism.

LIVING A QUANTUM LIFE

My wife, Judy, and I were having dinner with our friends Billy Stein and his wife Daniella tonight and over a wonderful steamed whole fish Billy asked me to explain to Daniella what I was trying to say when I used the rainbow metaphor which I published in the last two posts. Rainbows, expanding on my understanding, do not and do exist at the same time. They are not three dimensional, you cannot touch one, and are not concrete, plus no rainbow is the same for you as it is for me, I said. Water droplets prismatically reflect back to the viewer photons of varying wavelengths so we see ROYGBIV in one order, and VIBGYOR in the second order of rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). The sun must be directly behind us and the rainbow appears directly in front of us; therefore my head being in a different place from yours, we cannot see the same rainbow, even though we can share it, making believe we are seeing the same one.

I went on to say the metaphor hit me when I was reading The Sun’s Heartbeat (Bob Berman, Little, Brown, 2011) and Berman described rainbows. The rainbow exists in spacetime, yet photons exist in quantum reality. We are connected on the quantum level in more than one way, something I find pleasing and satisfying (see earlier posts in M2-Theory.com). But, while I may be in the same light cone you are in and we converse within that context, or continuum, we cannot be experiencing things in the same way. I think we carry around our own frame, look at things from a slightly different place, in a different spacetime from each other—everything being relative. That I can talk to you depends more than upon sound waves and syntactical structures within our forebrains, Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area. My heretical and unproven hypothesis suggests quantum entanglement accounts for some of our ability to understand one another—again something I develop more fully elsewhere (MIND AND MATTER, MIND AND LOGIC, MIND AND ACAUSAL MEANINGFUL “COINCIDENCE”: IS MIND A QUANTUM PERCEPTION OF A BRAIN SITUATED IN SPACETIME?).

I was starting to reach a wall so I thought it might help if I brought in another wackadoodle idea of mine, that quantum superposition helps artists make artistic decisions faster than thought. Given that we share a light cone—an area of spacetime that is defined as the distance between two objects that light can travel within, and are entangled—an indefinable distance in which subatomic particles that are entangled interact instantly, whether within or without the light cone, and given the concept of quantum superposition in which multiple possible events may occur but have not, e.g., Schrödinger’s cat, I can show how I as a musician can play the next note using a decision process that moves faster than thought. This counts as a big idea.

Any artist faces choices. Poets must choose the next word, artists the next brush stroke, sculptors the next chisel point, musicians the next note, composers the next notes, dancers the next move, and so forth. Not done in a vacuum, preceding notes—for the musician, to stay within a medium with which I am most comfortable but which translates into other mediums and art forms—do not causally predict notes that follow. Yes, there are parameters; there is a structure of a tune, a history of how notes have been used within tonal structures, a history of what other musicians played on those tunes, and even histories of what the musicians you are playing with now have done with you. At any point while improvising, I get to play a range of notes. Think of all of them in potentia, potential notes that are in a state of quantum superposition. The notes up till now allow more than one note of differential duration and power to be played, or as I prefer to think, for the wave to collapse. Collapsing waves are mathematical metaphors which are useful and descriptive. If the music is a wave, then the wave collapses on further notes by all the musicians in the context of where the wave comes from, its propulsivity, direction, depth and energy.

I choose a note. The wave collapses. An entire universe comes into being. An infinity of universes opens up of notes in superposition. It is as if the notes just happen. I cannot think that fast. If I stop to think I become paralyzed—it just has to happen. You’ve got to learn to let it go. Faster than thought, it is.

A brief example may be found in my Youtube video on an earlier post in this blog (Stein/Moss “Riverside After Dark”).

Daniella got it. Billy caught it. Judy was it. That is what it is like when we are in the zone. The highest levels of creativity occur in that zone of faster than thought, superluminal, entangled connectivity. We are individuals connected in, entangled in an elliptically called creative process.

For myself I feel like I am surfing a wave. The wave is complex and alive—can I shape my way through it by becoming the wave and simultaneously finding my individual arc through it, around it, till I come back to shore (the shores of consciousness)? That would be living the quantum life.

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