Tag Archives: David Bowie

David Bowie is… a creative genius

I’ve written about Bowie before on this blog, and I make no apology for doing so again. For precisely one week ago I visited the David Bowie is exhibition at London’s V&A and was once again transported by his words and music.

David Bowie again

The things that most stand out for me from this exciting showcase of Bowie’s work through sound, video, personal diaries, notes¬†and costume, is the musician’s constant assertion that there is no authorial voice in his creations. Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and other of his performance personae seem deliberately to negate the identity of the performer. And looking at his most recent album cover there is no image at all of Bowie, just a plain white square over the photo.

There is something important in this negation of the authorial voice. Something which gives greater life and vibrancy to the musical and artistic creation perhaps. Or which simply causes the fans to scream more loudly, so difficult to tolerate is the idea that the person performing is simply a beautiful and tantalising illusion.

The next important thing is Bowie’s approach to song-writing, his chopping up of words and phrases and random rearrangement of them, or his ability to capture lyrics in their entirety, in one take on the page, so the words we read are the words we hear.¬†Surrealist chance or surreal imagination? A combination of the two.

Self-negation, illusion, chance and imagination. A potent mix. A vibrant creative recipe.

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Become an outrageous rock star – or write a journal

Although a teen of the 80s I used to be really into David Bowie’s albums from the 70s – Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust – so last evening I was interested to see Cracked Actor, the BBC’s 1975 documentary about Bowie’s conquest of America.

Coincidentally I’d mentioned Bowie in the journaling workshop last week, and how as journal writers we might learn from part of his creative process – chopping up different words and phrases and randomly piecing them back together to generate lyrics. Sure enough there he was in the documentary carefully piecing together little strips of paper with snippets of sentences. I got excited. He then went on to mention how he’d taken this approach with old diaries he’d kept, chopping them up and rearranging them in ways he claimed actually seemed to predict the future. I got very excited.

Since Bowie hasn’t been much in the public eye for a while I’d forgotten how candidly he speaks, and how he takes care to describe his experiences in simile and analogy, likening his rise to fame to the sensation of accelerating really fast, when you’re not quite sure whether you’re enjoying it or not. He also referred to the precariousness of earthquake-prone Los Angeles, and how he always felt an underlying tension and unease about the place because of it. And when asked why he’d taken on so many Americanisms since he arrived in the US he likened himself to a fly floating around in his milk carton – a foreign body getting a whole lot of milk!

One of the American interviewers from the time got irate with Bowie’s seemingly evasive attitude, accusing him of speaking in riddles, but personally I love this metaphorical approach to reflection, and believe it can often reveal more truth than literal responses.

The other thing that excited me from a journaling perspective was Bowie’s explanation about the different characters he portrays in his music. He said he believes that we are all made up of so many different personality facets, and his character creations were his way of exploring his own make up. He then commented that if he’d encouraged other people to explore some of the different characters that make them up then that’s something.

So journal writers there are things to learn from the Thin White Duke. But if becoming a Bowie tribute act is not quite in your grasp, take up your journal instead.

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Filed under Creative process, Journal Writing