David Braid

Class and creativity

Canadian composer and Juno-winning pianist David Braid has been named an artist in residence at the U of S College of Arts and Science.

He will be on campus Sept. 30 through Oct. 14 to teach a one-credit course about creativity, deliver a public lecture and perform several shows. We spoke with him by phone in early September.

How do you teach creativity?
My goal is to get students to understand there are two different intelligences—the theoretician, who is left-brain, analyzing, breaking things apart, and the artist child, who is spontaneous, who gets excited to play music, who chose to go to music school. These intelligences have different roles in the learning and performing processes. Great musicians seem to be strong in both. Stravinsky is the perfect example. His structure and craft as an orchestral composer is unparalleled. He could talk about every detail and why it was there: craft and analysis, plus an intuitive process. His "Rite of Spring" seems to have come out of nowhere, this incredible new type of creativity, the feeling that music feels entirely spontaneous.

What draws you to jazz?
At 17, I heard a symphony by Mozart and became interested in the architecture of music: how does one build that? I listened and imitated at the piano. I bought some big score paper, trying to write a symphony. It's ridiculous to think about—I had no theoretical education, was trying based solely on intuition. My high school music teacher was a jazz guitarist; he said, "Check out jazz. You improvise—that's like composing spontaneously."

What advice can you offer emerging musicians about mastering their craft?
Do not feel that only special people become really great musicians. Doing something great is available to everyone, as long as you become an excellent problem solver and know what to work towards. Time and dedication is required, and the tools and understanding of what to work towards, but all that knowledge won't produce results except over time. A long time. The reality is what an irrational amount of time it takes to develop as an artist. The amount of energy in kilojoules and the probability and competitiveness and financial return for the time put in seem irrational on a practical scale. We still do it.

What musicians would you like to collaborate with?
I wouldn't say I want to collaborate with a group by the merits of their name, but with musicians by merit of their creative spirit, who are absolutely dedicated to creating uncompromising music. However, they all recognize that the audience is a fundamental part of the musical experience and should not be ignored. Music can be highly interesting on a theoretical level but  the audience can be totally disengaged from what's going on. I want to collaborate and make music so the audience is touched and engaged in the performance. I choose musicians who don't compromise their art form and don't ignore the audience.

What attracts you to Saskatoon?
I've come to Saskatoon about once a year for the past eleven years for the Jazz Festival and Jazz Society. I come in as an artist to a small community, small enough that it feels like the interpersonal relationships between people are important and connected, but large enough to have a vibrant arts scene. The audience listens, is attentive, intelligent. That is highly rewarding.

dee Hobsbawn-Smith is a poet, essayist and fiction writer.
Share this story