My creative writing professor in college was a genius with her assignments. She asked us to go out four times in the semester to something like a play or symphony and write a paper about it. But the main purpose was to get inspiration from one type of art to inspire the art of writing. A painting might inspire a novel, which might in turn inspire a movie. Such was the case with the iconic painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by the Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer. Over 300 years after Vermeer completed this masterpiece, Tracy Chevalier, an American author, published her novel which took the same name as the painting. Reflecting on the painting made the characters evolve in her mind. Several years later the movie adaptation hit theaters.
A recent example I came across is in Hozier’s song “Almost (Sweet Music)”. I found it so catchy that I had to listen again. And then again and again. A remarkable aspect of the lyrics is that they incorporate a good number of 1930s and 1940s era jazz song titles. A folk song inspired by jazz. There’s a list of the referenced jazz hits here: Almost (Sweet Music) Song Facts. Isn’t that so sweet?
This made me think of lovers at first but after paying more attention to the lyrics, I pictured a father sitting on the beside of his young daughter, who is beginning to remind him more of her late mother. The daughter wants to listen to the same music her mother loved as a bedtime ritual. He’s healing from the grief and of himself he says, “I’m almost me again” and he says his daughter is “almost” her mother.
He’s worrying about raising his daughter alone and thus doesn’t know where to start and tells himself not to ruin this. But they are starting to heal and he laughs again and the daughter’s laugh sounds like her mother’s. The second line in the beginning, “She likes to roll here in my ashes anyway” could be the daughter resurfacing thoughts of the own figurative death the father died when his wife died. It’s a bit painful when his daughter reminds him so much of her. And although he has some nights when he’s okay alone, when he thinks of his lost wife sometimes, sitting on his daughter’s bedside as she settles down to sleep, still awake she notices his sadness and asks if everything is alright. So, there you go, someone reading this should take this idea and write a book or make a movie out of it. You’re welcome.
Almost a year ago, my older brother took me to a Cameron Carpenter concert. Wow, what an organist! I didn’t know such a person with such a soul existed. Afterwards, I was so inspired that I wrote the poem below. I thought it was beautiful and wonderful that his original compositions were inspired by J.S. Bach’s works.
Divine Creation An organist performing with passion Delivering delicious esoteric knowledge and deadpan humor One word came to mind: Divine A creature created by the Divine J.S. Bach, with 26 surviving children Who must know something of love, surely, Was the composer Cameron Carpenter couldn’t skirt As the sun But even if singed by closeness How divine it is Composer To musician To artist writing this poem How a song inspires others to create through Their interpretation And how the playing inspires this listener To create through words The ultimate way to create perhaps is composition And how glorious for an obscure instrument With numerous stops and combinations All the sounds of the orchestra combined Variations from artist to artist No interpretation quite the same Nearly infinite creation Notes ringing on to be shaped and molded And never decay from the pipes unlike with hammer on strings His improvisation-how I witnessed a creator in the act! Sounds none have heard before or will ever after Is it sad he does not enjoy listening to music much? No, I think not. His whole purpose he says is this And while consumerism may lead to gluttony But never fill us He who consumes little, and creates much I say is happiest For love is creation Creation is love The divinity inside speaks to it Something that did not exist before How divine it is Here recorded, the warmth and light and truths pondered From spending a night in the presence of an organist performing with passion
Here’s the lesson. Stare at a painting, go to a concert, a museum, a dance performance, a choir concert, the symphony, ballet, opera etc. and get inspired. Seek out art in many varying forms and let that feed you with new ideas.