Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Art of Distillation

Two dictionary definitions of distillations:

1)   The action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling.

2)   The extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.

Sometimes art demands a large field in which to play with no restrictions. The Muse strikes and the words/ sounds/ images start flowing and lo and behold, it’s a Wagner opera or Coltrane’s A Love Supreme or Tolstoy’sWar and Peace  or Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 

But sometimes art loves to be confined, to be limited, to be challenged to express the essence of something in the 17 syllables of the haiku or the 3-minute jazz recording or the short story.
The oceanic wave of surging liquid needs to be purified, to be heated (felt passionately) and then cooled (thought out with detached intellect) to be able to extract the essential meaning of something. 

Tomorrow night, I’ll be speaking at an Art’s Event, but instead of the usual romp through a 90-minute playground, I’ve been handed a specific form, asked to comment for exactly 30 seconds each on a series of 14 slides. Get my meaning across in fourteen distilled minutes.

My first draft was the usual long sentences with passive verbs and many clauses, but as I tried to speak them in 30 seconds, they all felt too heavy and cumbersome. So the distillation began, the more active verbs, the shorter sentences, the simpler ways to say what’s important. And wasn’t that interesting? 

I hope you’ll think so because the next series of posts will be the 14 comments with photos. One per post. Hope you enjoy it!

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