Blog Archives

Billy Joel on Beethoven, the Beatles, Mozart, and creativity



I grew up listening to Billy Joel. I still enjoy playing the wonderful opening to his “New York State of Mind” during my private practice time at the piano. I have also become deeply involved in studying and writing about the nature and cultivation of artistic creativity over the past decade and a half. And I’m someone whose creative output as a writer has been subject to titanic periods of silence and “block” — which I only experienced as such if I insist on punishing myself and my muse/daimon/genius by insisting that we should, in fact, be writing and producing.

So in light of all this, it was a pleasure to read a new and extensive interview with Joel in The New York Times and find him offering some very interesting observations about the creative act, including thoughts on the striking differences among rates of creative output by different authors and composers, ranging from extremely prolific to extremely minimal, and about what it’s like to be one of those artists whose work emerges not smoothly but through enormous struggle that’s evident in the tenor of the finished work. He also talks about deliberately seizing artistic freedom for oneself, even if it means abandoning directions you’ve previous established and that people have come to expect from you. And this is a man, remember, who rose to the apex of fame as a pop-rock star and then mostly left it all behind to focus on composing classical and other types of music. Read the rest of this entry