Her voice caught me from the first note, swelling through the concert hall in a wave of sound. I didn’t speak the language – wouldn’t understand a thing until the English aria near the end. It didn’t matter. In fact, I barely glanced at the translations included with the program. I didn’t want to be distracted.
Just a single voice and a piano player. Her expressions danced from anger to sorrow to thoughtful to flirtatious – I could feel the emotion without understanding the words. She leaned against the grand piano when it fit the music. I appreciated the beauty of her, the invitation to be watched and admired. Her accompanist beautiful too, as she swayed with the playing, her foot pumping the pedals. The curves of the women and the piano, the golden lines of the stage, the black and white of her dresses. I wrapped myself in the sheer sensuality of the experience, let my mind wander on the notes, a Fantasia of ideas and images…
I found myself wanting to write. I was surprised and delighted by this desire. In the past, musical and theater performances have made me want to get on stage and act or sing. I’ve felt inadequate or sometimes better than the performer. I became caught in comparisons.
This time, I only thought about talents I already have. My imagination took me into fantastic journeys of well-crafted words. I relished the thought of fine-tuning the drafts until I was satisfied. Then offering it up to whoever wanted listen, like me, here, in this concert hall.
I thought about other art that had inspired me. Not just performances, but also great books and movies, poetry slams, galleries of art. Soaring architecture and brilliant sculpture and delicious, beautiful plates of food.
I realized that in my search for creativity, I had always thought it should be original – an idea fueled by inspiration from some divine source. And none of that mattered here. I could fly on the inspiration of this voice and this piano player wherever it wanted to take me. I could build on this music, this experience, make it a part of whatever I was trying to create.
The last piece was Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”. Barber had read a poem by James Agee and was so inspired he put it to music. I smiled with appreciation at the synchronicity. A musician, inspired by a poet to create a beautiful work, to be enjoyed by me almost 60 years later. Inspiration doesn’t emerge from a vacuum – it’s right here, on the wings of these poets and composers and singers. It’s in the boldness of someone willing to get on stage and put their soul out there.
If you are missing that creative spark, indulge in a live performance. Pick up a really great book. Read some poetry, go to a gallery. Let the sheer magnificence of human imagination revive your passion.
While you’re there, take note of what you feel inspired to do – the big dreams and the little ones. The small steps that will take you there. Discard the resistance, and keep in mind: often the things you resist most are exactly the things you most want and need to do. Follow that path of excitement mingled with fear – together, they are a good indicator of the right direction.