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  • Writer's pictureDavid Winkler

The creative process of the human mind is fascinating. Genesis 1 tells us that God made people in His image.  One aspect of that image is that we are creative beings.  We don't create out of nothing, like God did, but we can take the basic elements of what He has made and reshape them into something useful and beneficial.  When we do, we feel a sense of satisfaction even as God did when He looked at His creation and said, “It is good."


Many people think of creativity only in terms of the arts, but another definition of  creativity would be something like “meeting a need or solving a problem using the available resources.”  Thus, we could consider the work of an engineer, a chef, or even a school teacher to be "creative." 

A favorite story of mine relates to the composition of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," which was conceived as he and his wife were returning from a European vacation in late 1896. They were at sea when word came that the manager of the Sousa Band, David Blakely, had died suddenly. The band was scheduled to begin another cross-country tour soon, and Sousa knew he had to return to America right away to take over the band's business affairs. Sousa tells the rest of the story in his autobiography, Marching Along:

“Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel (the Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor, I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager’s death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York. Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed.” 

I think also of a story about the composer, Gian Carlo Menotti, who in 1951 was commissioned to write a one-act opera to be performed live on NBC-TV during the Christmas season. He was struggling to come up with an idea for the piece when he visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Adoration of the Magi. From the figures in the painting he developed the characters for his opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, which went on to become a great success.

In my next blog post, I will share some ideas specifically regarding the creative aspect of musical arranging.

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