INTRODUCTORY NOTE: This is the written version of a talk given by Sam Barrett in sacrament meeting February 2014 as part of the Berkeley Ward’s arts Sunday. The assigned topic was “What CREATING teaches me about the CREATOR.” Sam works in advertising and is also a composer under the name Samson Y Hiss. His stuff is fun and creepy and weird—circus-hell music, you might say. (Worth mentioning: He agreed to let me post this here after seeing the word “grotesque” on the AMV about page.)
Samson Y Hiss is currently raising money on Indiegogo to record his music with real musicians on real instruments. I highly recommend checking the project out and supporting it. I have a cd of his work in the car and it certainly makes late-night drives more nightmarey. (The photos here are taken from the Indiegogo page.)
By means of introduction, if I remember correctly, the talk is structured around his day-to-day thinking about the topic as he prepared. You know. In case you find an all-caps MONDAY confusing.
In the mid-40s at midnight in Manhattan, a young man named Thelonious Monk was working as a pianist at a nightclub. Much of his style was developed during this time as he participated in “cutting competitions” which featured many leading jazz soloists. While engaged in one of these sessions he fell upon an old song he’d written years ago at the age of 19 back in North Carolina. Returning to the song nearly 13 years later as a superior musician he embellished upon the tune greatly almost to the point of rewriting it completely. This new tune would become known as Round Midnight. A song a number of jazz artists including Cootie Williams would reinterpret for years to come. Round Midnight became the most recorded jazz standard composed by a jazz musician. It appears in over 1000 albums.
He sold candy and newspapers on trains running from Port Huron to Detroit, and sold vegetables to make money. He also studied qualitative analysis, and conducted chemical experiments on the train until an accident prevented further work of that kind. Moving to Newark, New Jersey Thomas Edison began his career as an inventor with the automatic repeater and other improved telegraphic devices, but the invention that first gained him notice was the phonograph in 1877.
The accomplishment was so unexpected by the public at large as to appear almost magical. It recorded on tinfoil around a grooved cylinder. And despite its limited sound quality and that the recordings could be played only a few times, the phonograph made Thomas Edison a celebrity. And he became known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park” New Jersey.
Creators come in many forms. They are musicians, painters, sculptors, inventors, scientists, philosophers. They are actors, writers, directors, designers, builders, preachers. They are moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas; even crazy uncles. As sons and daughters of God creativity is an all of us no matter our profession or position.
The scriptures are full of creative people.
In Egypt, Pharaoh sought to destroy sons born to Hebrew women. Fearing for her 3-month-old-baby, a young Hebrew mother put Moses in a basket and sent him drifting down river to be found by the Egyptians. Moses grew up to be the prophet would freed Israel.
The city Jericho could not be breached. Joshua and the Israelites carried the ark of the covenant at the front of their army and marched around the walls of Jericho while blowing their horns once a day for six days. On the seventh day the army marched around the city seven times and shouted. The walls of Jericho fell.
Crossing the great waters in darkness was not how the Jaredites wanted to sail to the promised land. When the Lord asked the brother of Jared “what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” The brother of Jared molten 16 clear white stones and asked the Lord to touch them with his finger. He then saw Jehovah. He also acquired glowing rocks for light to cross the great waters.
Here is a visual demonstration of Drake’s art from preschool. We see he starts with one patch of clothing for Mr. Nobody. Here is a cat for Halloween, well painted and with two eyes. And finally here is a beautifully colored, glittering, gypsy instrument. This shows the progression of Drake’s artistic and creative abilities. It also shows when his teachers gave him assistance.
Christ, our Creator, also had a progression of creative abilities.
God divided the light from the darkness
God made the firmament, and divided the waters
God gathered the water together unto one place, and let the dry land appear
God said, let the earth bring forth grass, and herb and seed and tree
God divided the day from the night and created signs and seasons
God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he also made the stars
God created great whales, and every living creature that moved, and every winged fowl God made the beasts of the earth and cattle and creeping things
God created man in his own image, in the image of God
And finally his crowing achievement, God created woman
Now I know that Christ created worlds without number, when he created those I don’t know. I can understand that there is a required order when creating such things as planets. But, with all that aside, his creative abilities show a progression of skill from difficult to mastery. He started with light and darkness and ended with the breath of life. Also, we know that he created the earth under the direction of the Father and had help from Michael and other noble and great spirits as stated in Abraham.
His creative powers progressed and grew and are still growing, as are ours.
Finally, what creating teaches me about the Creator, three things:
Work With What You Have
As a composer, for years I saved for better instruments, nicer recording equipment, higher quality samples, and better production skills all before I could produce any of my music. Then I went to a show, and saw a two-pony band blow the doors off a venue with the scrappiest instruments and equipment I’d ever seen on stage. My outlook changed. It’s not what you have it’s what you make.
When Christ was commanded to create the Earth, God said, here is matter unorganized, go down and organize it into a world. He didn’t say here’s the finest real estate in space, make it beautiful. Christ made it beautiful. He worked with what he had.
Believe In Your Work
Late in his career Igor Stravinsky was asked to compose a ballet for a New York producer. He did the work and sent the score. After the opening night performance, the producer sent Stravinsky a wire stating, the ballet was a great success but could be better if you let me have it arranged by a famous arranger. Stravinsky responded with the following, great success is satisfactory. In other words, keep your hands off my work.
Chris believes in his work. He believes in us. He drank from the bitter cup and overcame the world so we could return to live with our Heavenly Father. He believes in us. His faith in us is unmatched.
Each generation is taught by the previous generation. Those who seek instruction from the masters of a chosen field seek to emulate their success. My instructor is Elinor Armer, her instructor was Darius Milhaud of Les Six. Mozart gave Beethoven a few lessons. Aristotle was Plato’s best student.
Christ sought God’s instruction when creating the earth. He was by his side in the Garden of Eden. He prayed to him throughout his ministry. He was with him when they appeared to the Joseph Smith. He is always at his right hand seeking instruction.
The Creator loves all of his creations. Each is unique to him. Each has a special relationship with him. He never stops loving them.
We are creators. If you don’t think you are look at our Father in heaven who has created all, we are his children. We have the capacity to create, to make new, to inspire, to help, to grow closer to our Father in heaven and his son Jesus Christ.