Off the Record
Seasons Change13/06/2012 09:00:00
Music has always fascinated me. From young I hungered to study the creativity inherent in music.
I was lucky. Backed with the wonderful support of my family, I fulfilled a childhood dream and studied music in a beautiful city in northeastern United States.
I hung out with top-class musicians from around the world, learnt from amazing teachers, and absorbed the highly-charged musical atmosphere during my study.
I learnt a lot about creativity and how it sparked musicians to explore new sonic territories in their own quest for musical nirvana. I learnt about the finer skill of improvisation, harmonization, arrangements and I even learnt the creativity involved in combining music and technology in a studio production setting.
But lessons come and go. Without practice, one gets rusty in innovation. Without regular use, one’s creativity may not be as sharpened as it could be.
I am guilty of that. Stuck in my corporate world, I don’t give too much time to the thing that I love the most. Many amazing lessons from amazing teachers have been lost or tucked in away in some hand-written notes somewhere in my crate marked “School Stuff”.
However, after many years, I have begun to realize that one HUGE lesson in creativity has stayed with me. This lesson has allowed me to continually pursue innovation and creativity.
The thing is, this lesson was not something that I diligently pursued in my quest for musical and creative knowledge.
It wasn’t something my teacher wrote on the blackboard or played for me to understand. This lesson was not something I studied in the hallowed halls of music academia. It wasn’t something I picked up from the people I met. It wasn’t even something I learnt watching world-class musicians display their artistic virtuosity in smoky jazz dives.
The biggest lesson I learnt about creativity came from the weather.
Yes, the weather.
Being in a place where one could experience four distinct seasons was not just different to me, a tropical-weathered Malaysian boy. It actually gave me a totally new perspective on life.
I arrived in Boston at the beginning of autumn. As the months went by, I saw the changes in the colours of the leaves. I would go for walks as different shades of crimson fall all around me.
My first winter was cold but magical. The snow was deep and plenty, but the beautiful decorations of the festive season stirred up a warm and fuzzy feeling.
However, even after months of experiencing bitter coldness, nothing prepared me for the break of spring.
When the first day of spring came, a sense of renewal came inside me. A feeling I have never ever felt before.
Everyone ran out into the street, in their shorts, and just basked and played in the sun. Even though it was only 15 degrees Celcius, everyone welcomed the spring in a joyous, happy mood, their senses coming back alive after months of being buried in the stark, bitter cold.
I felt that sense of renewal and joy for the first time that spring of 1989. And I will never forget that feeling.
This change of seasons is something musicians in cold countries take for granted. This change of seasons give them a chance to feel reborn, rejuvenated and elated, to bring out the senses fully, in short, to be as creative as they could be. They’ve just been born again.
We tropical musicians need to experience that. We have no idea what that is all about. In Malaysia, it’s warm and wet all year around. We don’t have a sense of renewal or re-birth. We don’t get that chance to be inspired all over again, year after year.
When I feel the need to get creative, I will remember the inspiring joy I felt in welcoming spring 5 years in a row. With that sense of renewal, my mind starts whirring again, even in dusty and hot Bandar Utama.
So to spark your creative juices, I will always advise for you to spend time and experience the change of seasons in a country that has four seasons. Don’t just go during spring or winter. Go there and experience the harshest winter and then wait for spring to come.
When you experience the rebirth of your senses, I’ll bet you’d be running out into spring in your shorts even though its still 15 degrees Celcius, tropical boy.