Discussion Topic: Creativity

  1. What does science tell us about creativity?

    Acclaimed science journalist Jonah Lehrer has written a new book entitled Imagine: How Creativity Works that sheds a fascinating light on the mysterious process known as “Creativity.” In a recent Wall Street Journal article, adapated from the book, he writes:

    …Creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. (more…)

  2. Event video: Ed Sanders, Margo Drakos, Steven Winn – Talking About Creativity

    This is Spotlight Conversation #2 from our Talking About Creativity event in San Francisco, March 17, 2012.

    Ed Sanders, formerly of YouTube, now Group Marketing Manager of the Creative Lab at Google, and Margo Drakos, cellist turned tech entrepreneur and Co-founder of InstantEncore, talk about the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, how technology can serve as a tool for classical musicians, the need to embrace change, plus much more. Moderated by Steven Winn.

  3. Event video: John Adams, Mason Bates, Mark Clague – Talking About Creativity

    This is Spotlight Conversation #1 from our Talking About Creativity event in San Francisco, March 17, 2012.

    Composers John Adams and Mason Bates talk about writing music for the modern orchestra, perceptions about classical music, tweeting in the concert hall, the role of technology and more. Moderated by Professor Mark Clague of the University of Michigan.

  4. Event video: Michael Tilson Thomas and Brent Assink – Talking About Creativity

    Here is the first of our videos from Saturday’s event in San Francisco, our keynote conversation with Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony.

    In this wide-ranging conversation with SFS Executive Director Brent Assink, MTT discusses the connectedness of all artistic endeavors, reflects on his ability to provide “context” for younger musicians, discusses his work with contemporary composers, quotes from Walt Whitman, and much more. Enjoy.

  5. Live blog: Talking About Creativity with MTT, John Adams, Mason Bates

    What follows is a live blog “Talking About Creativity”—our live event in San Francisco.

    Talking About Creativity
    Saturday, March 17, 1:30-4:30 PDT
    Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

    1:30pm – Keynote: Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director, San Francisco Symphony, in conversation with Brent Assink, Executive Director, San Francisco Symphony

    2:00pm – Spotlight #1: Mason Bates (a.k.a. DJ Masonic), composer, in conversation with John Adams, composer, moderated by Mark Clague

    2:30pm – Spotlight #2: Margo Drakos, cellist and Co-founder, InstantEncore, in conversation with Ed Sanders, Group Marketing Manager, Creative Lab at Google, moderated by Steven Winn, San Francisco arts journalist and critic

    3:15pm – Roundtable: Spotlight speakers in conversation with Mark Clague and Steven Winn


  6. The Concert Hall and Creativity

    In this post, Susan Key—special projects director for the San Francisco Symphony—examines the role the physical concert hall plays in creativity. It’s a question inspired by tonight’s performance by Mason Bates at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. Join us tomorrow for our live event with Mason Bates!

    Tonight, Mason Bates wears two very different hats at Davies Symphony Hall. First, he will appear onstage with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and organist Paul Jacobs to perform his new composition, Mass Transmission. Once the concert is over, he’ll move to the Second Tier lobby-turned-lounge for an event called Davies After Hours. In a nightclub-like atmosphere, he’ll spin electronic tracks and beats as “DJ Masonic” with friends David Arend on upright bass, Aaron Kahn on trumpet and Gloria Justen on electric violin.

    In a recent conversation, Mason reflected on the impact different spaces have on the audience’s experience. The concert hall encourages a hyper-focused type of listening while the nightclub/lounge vibe is certainly more informal. (more…)

  7. Mark Clague: The Maverick as Inspiration

    Is this post, Professor Mark Clague asks can anyone be a “Maverick”? See Mark Clague in conversation with composers John Adams and Mason Bates (both Mavericks themselves!) this Saturday, March 17 in San Francisco at our free, live event Talking About Creativity. Register today!

    Samuel Maverick

    Texas rancher and patriot Samuel Maverick (1803–70)—his name was the source of the term “Maverick,” first used in 1867.

    Can anyone be a “Maverick”? Can we leverage the example of this American icon to spark creativity? If so, how does our notion of the Maverick need to be adjusted to make such exceptional inspiration open to all?

    The San Francisco Symphony’s American Mavericks festival justly celebrates the creativity of musical individualists, yet as a teacher I am interested in the Maverick not as rarefied genius, but as an everyday icon that inspires today’s artists, thinkers, and inventors. That there was a Maverick on the Mayflower (Moses Maverick—an ancestor of Texas rancher Samuel who begat the word) suggests that the Maverick’s risk taking, pioneering roots are deeply embedded in our cultural imagination. That Michael Tilson Thomas and the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony can create a multiple-concert series on the topic is possible only because the Maverick’s uniqueness has become a verified tradition. In American music, Maverick composers range from the 1770s and William Billings to today in the work of new composers such as Mason Bates. (more…)

  8. Michael Tilson Thomas: A Brief History of Classical Music

    Michael Tilson Thomas will be part of our Talking About Creativity this Saturday in San Francisco, starting at 1:30pm PT. Register today for this free event!

    At the end of February, Michael Tilson Thomas gave a talk at the TED conference entitled “A brief history of classical music.” (You can read a complete write-up of the talk over on the TED blog.) Only MTT could sum up a thousand years of history in a compelling, informative, 20-minute session—covering musical notation, the role of technology, the birth of opera and ancient Greek gravestones.

    There’s a reason we like to hear the notes we do today, he says. We’ve inherited “centuries worth of changes in musical theory, practice and fashion.” The secret weapon? Music’s silent partner: notation. “The impulse to notate, to code music, has been with us for a very long time.” Read the full article on the TED blog.

    More recently, technology has changed the way people encounter and experience music. Recording made music readily available to all, whether you played an instrument or not. And technology pushed composers in new directions:

    “Technology democratized music by making everything available; it spearheaded cultural revolution,” says Tilson Thomas. “Technology pushed composers to tremendous extremes; computers and synthesizers [prompted] intellectually impenetrable complexity.” And at the same time, technology pushed us to live in a culture of improvisation that is sliced, diced, distributed and sold. What is the long term effect of this? No one knows. But one real question remains: what happens when the music stops? What sticks? Read the full article on the TED blog.

    What sticks, ultimately, is the power of music to transform and give meaning to our everyday lives. MTT’s final advice? “Dive in and pass it on.”

    MTT at TED

    Michael Tilson Thomas at TED 2012, photo by James Duncan Davidson

  9. Steven Winn: Contrasting and Conflicting Notions of Creativity

    As the current American Mavericks festival at the San Francisco Symphony demonstrates, there’s no one approach to creativity in the orchestral world. And Steven Winn—arts journalist and co-moderator of our live event in San Francisco this Saturday, March 17—is perfectly happy to take on all the contrasting and conflicting notions of creativity on display.

    E/C/D-sharp/C-sharp. From that taut little four-note cell, Aaron Copland spun out the material, at once dense and spacious, imploded and expansive, of his 1930 Piano Variations. Cunningly orchestrated by the composer 27 years later, the Orchestral Variations got the San Francisco Symphony’s 2012 American Mavericks festival opener off to a bracing start on March 8 at Davies Symphony Hall. It also got me to thinking about the marvel of creativity, which can feed on so little to generate so much, like some tiny, tremendously efficient micro-organism.

    An hour later, deep into Henry Brant’s 1994 orchestration of Charles Ives’ mighty 1920 Concord Sonata (A Concord Symphony), creativity had morphed into a giant daisy chain of inspiration and influence. (more…)

  10. What made the YouTube Symphony successful? A Q&A with Ed Sanders of Google

    The YouTube Symphony Orchestra started out as a suggestion from a young marketing employee in London. What if…? What if we could bring together classical music enthusiasts dispersed across the globe? How could technology bring this community together? 30+ million views later, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra became an international phenomenon and in this Q&A Ed Sanders—formerly of YouTube, now Group Marketing Manager of the Creative Lab at Google—explains how that happened.

    Question: What brought about the development of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra? Was it that YouTube noticed that the genre was developing in popularity? Or what make the organization feel it would be an interesting activity to present in such a futuristic way?

    Ed Sanders: YouTube and Google have always prided themselves on having a distinctly entrepreneurial culture. This is a reflection of that. The idea came from a young marketing employee in the London office, who dreamed up the idea, pitched it, and it became reality. One of the major original data points which piqued interest was the massive yet highly fragmented existing classical music which lived online on platforms like YouTube. But the concept itself is merely one example of an ongoing demo which perhaps only YouTube could do – a manifestation of a wonderful way to showcase the access which YouTube provides, to transcend linguistic and geographic boundaries, and to continually strive to challenge the status quo.

    Question: What do you think captured the imagination of viewers about this project? Was part of it this idea that it was so accessible, available to anyone with a computer? (more…)