Sunday, December 21, 2008

Demons, not Drugs...Tortured Souls:

My coblogger DA Ridgely offers an explanation for why creative geniuses might seem more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol without attributing the creativity to such addiction. I don't agree with his line of reasoning; but I do want to clarify that I don't see drug or alcohol use, certainly not addiction, as causing creativity. That would be silly. I mentioned tangentially how many artistic geniuses seem to struggle with mental illness or even madness. I think that's where the drug and alcohol addiction comes in. They fuel the demons. And it's the demons that in many ways cause great art.

When I was in music school a lot of rockers were impressed by "virtuosos." Rock music started as something crude, not refined like classical or even jazz. But as the genre evolved some rockers took their level of "technique" to roughly on par with the great classical and jazz virtuosos. Guitarist Paul Gilbert comes to mind as a fellow who can play most classical virtuoso violin pieces or passages, flawlessly and at the same tempo as a classical violin virtuoso would. I like Dream Theater and the great prog rockers of the 70s like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman who loved to show off technically how good they were.

But ultimately, all that technical stuff is icing on the cake and can get in the way of REAL substance. The real substance can be summed up in one word: soul. And soul can be expressed in very refined or very crude ways, and all over and in between.

Much of the great works of art, I have observed, comes from demon haunted souls, not the dot your i cross your t vanilla souls of accountants, or from Nietzsche's contemptibly self satisfied, bourgeois "last man."

Roy Buchanan. He was another man whose artistic genius was fueled by his tortured soul.

Great artists don't often meet with happy endings. And Buchanan certainly didn't.

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