Creativity of Language · Feeling God's Pleasure · Pleasure of Creating

Bruce Hornsby and Touching Transcendence

Bruce Hornsby at the Wanee Festival, 2012 by  Mark Johnson, Blue Ridge, SC via Wikimedia Commons
Bruce Hornsby at the Wanee Festival, 2012
by Mark Johnson, Blue Ridge, SC via Wikimedia Commons

How many artists strive for excellence and transcendence?

Recently I heard Bruce Hornsby, one of the best, if not the best rock/jazz/pop/blues pianists in the country, in concert at the Kent Stage. I knew him from his days with his band “The Range” from the 1980’s and love his mega hits “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain.”

At this stage in his career he is exploring different musical languages and creating new sounds and effects. For his latest cd “Solo Concerts” and during the live concert he mixed the modern classical music of Schoenberg and Elliott Carter with New Orleans blues, modal folk, hymnal, and boogie. A few times he began a familiar piano riff from one of his radio hits, but then segued into atonal bars and never returned (as far as I could tell) to the familiar.

The liner notes from “Solo Concerts” says that he is searching for “inspiration, challenges, and new vistas…a search for inspiration and transcendent moments; moments that give you chills, make you cry, laugh, or make your head move.”

Emily Dickinson talked about the power of art (in her case, writing) to take the top of your head off. I admire Bruce’s quest for excellence, for inspiration and big moments. I think sometimes we are so focused on producing clean copy for an editor or an “aha!” for our audience that we don’t recognize the “aha’s” that are there for us as well.

If the artist doesn’t touch transcendence, how will the audience?

In future posts I’ll be discussing what “touching transcendence” means.

2 thoughts on “Bruce Hornsby and Touching Transcendence

  1. Hi Nancy, Thanks for the thoughtful (and well developed) reflection. I also have been caught in the trap of comparing my talents to others. Just today God spoke to me, “If you are unwilling to offer your imperfect gifts, how can you expect others to offer theirs?” So it sounds like an issue that will always challenge us. Thanks! Maybe this down time is also a gift in its own way. Be well.

  2. This post leads me to consider how my own writing has changed through the years. I think there is much to discover here, and I haven’t dug it all up yet. My first thought is that my writing changes with the rest of me–not separate from the unfolding of my life, but reflecting it. What comes first? Maybe a little seed of intolerance for the trivial that leads to subtle changes (comfortable clothes, simple makeup and hairdo, letting go of friends that expect tit-for-tat). I think my writing reflects a letting go as well, along with knick-knacks to the Goodwill, and twenty-year old skirts I’ll never fit into and shoes that pinch. But what about transcendence? Oh, how I wanted to reach it, like Bruce Hornsby. But even that struggle belongs to someone else more talented and more driven than I. Another seed of change: an acceptance of myself as I am, the talents and work of my hands at whatever level they exist. I offer it all to God. If Jesus at the judgment asks me to defend my life, I will be tongue-tied. He will have to decide the value of my choices–what I have buried, what I have exchanged for something that seemed important to me, what I have accomplished. Today, trapped in a sedentary state because of a broken leg, everything looks smaller–the earth spinning above my palms, finishing its mandate to increase and exploding into an infinite number of sparks that begin again somewhere. Where is the value of my life in all that? All I know today is that, like Fra Giovanni, I look beneath the gloom of the world and take joy. Today I am grateful for this broken leg.

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