I was asked a few months ago by Pat Strother of Strother Communications to name my three core values as an artist, musician and composer.
He was looking for a three-word distillation of the guiding principles that motivate me to get up in the morning and move forward every day.
When I received this question (via e-mail) I was on a tour of Ireland.
I sat down with my iphone on a sofa in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Cork, thinking I would be there for some time.
But it took less than a minute.
I suddenly realized, no one had ever asked me.
My three core values are (and have always been) originality, universality and timelessness.
What do these terms mean to me?
Originality means something came from a creator and is uniquely theirs, containing and communicating their unique personal stamp, character, design, expression or brand.
It means something was not borrowed, derived, adapted or tweaked from someone else’s work or someone else’s idea. It is original. One of a kind.
Original does not mean without influences. Everything has influences and everything had a starting point.
It means without precedent.
Something that is original has transcended its influences to convey something truly new.
Listen to John Coltrane’s music.
You can hear many influences in it: blues, bebop jazz, the popular music of the time, perhaps some techniques or phrasing identifiably borrowed from some of his musical heroes.
Yet his sound is original. Many (if not all) jazz saxophone players have tried to play like Coltrane, yet no one has ever succeeded in sounding like him.
Universality means that what someone has created posesses a universal character and appeal. It has the quality of being understandable, relevant and involving to all people, of all ages, from all cultures. It transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.
Music as an art form always has the potential to be universal because it reaches a different area of the psyche from other forms of expression.
Music can help us all experience our human connection to each other (instrumental music possibly more so because there are no lyrics needing translation).
Timelessness means that a creation doesn’t date, but rather remains meaningful, applicable and valuable through time and across generations.
These are the qualities I have always admired, embraced and striven to embody in my creative work.
I found this exercise to be of great value in identifying the reasons and motivations for what I do, i.e. to look at what has always been operating behind the scenes.
It has made it possible to move forward creatively with even greater confidence.
Thanks for asking, Pat.
By the way, what are your three core values?