Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

True and false surfaces

with 4 comments

Suzan-Lori Parks

When I was having such a hard time finishing Venus last year, it was John Coltrane’s Blues Train that totally got me through that experience. I listened to that so many times. I must have listened to it a million times. Then it was also The Goldberg Variations, because Bach is like jazz. I don’t mean to say it that way, but The Goldberg Variations are so great. It does feed. It’s faith, structure. Sometimes if you have nothing else to balance you, you have to create a surface like a painter would. A surface on which you can build the foundation of the play. Some people use an idea, which I think is a false surface. I think you need some sort of structure like The Goldberg Variations…What a nice structure, how easy. So you have that surface, and you just do your thing. The same thing with Ornette Coleman. There he goes down the road, and then they all sort of come back together, and they might do something weird at the end, but it’s structure. It’s a kind of structure, so it sort of creates a surface. That’s why I steal from them all. I do. I steal a lot from these musicians because they have a great structure.

Suzan-Lori Parks, in Suzan-Lori Parks in Person

Written by nevalalee

January 10, 2016 at 7:30 am

4 Responses

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  1. I can really relate to this! I am always inspired by music and find myself listening to different kinds of music for different writing projects. Right now I am listening to tons of Billie Holiday for a book project. It is really helping me find my way, to set the right tone and keep the story on the right track, based on that elusive idea.


    January 10, 2016 at 8:45 am

  2. I love this. This idea of ‘surface’ is something I do almost automatically as a painter. The choice of surface informs the style, medium and technique. It’s the first decision you make when you start a painting. I’d never thought of it it terms of writing before, but I certainly will now. Thanks for posting it.


    January 10, 2016 at 1:52 pm

  3. @wallinvictoria0: Good luck! You can’t go wrong with that.


    January 10, 2016 at 9:10 pm

  4. @Martin: Glad you liked it! The image struck me, too.


    January 10, 2016 at 9:10 pm

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