Art as Inspiration: A Farewell to Robin Williams
Sometimes, it’s not until we lose a brilliant artist that we truly understand the impact of their art. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate them while they’re here. Just that you don’t fully take inventory of the ways their creations have influenced you.
For me, learning of Robin Williams death brought up a lot of emotions and reflections. There is deep sadness in learning that someone who burned so bright was in such personal pain. His heart took in as much as it gave.
I’ve always loved his work. I suppose I wasn’t fully aware of the amount he influenced me.
My first introduction to Robin was on Mork & Mindy. I loved that show as a kid. In fact, I still have a pair of those goofy suspenders somewhere.
When I was slightly older we would have family Christmas gatherings. At these gatherings there would often be comedy specials on. I was introduced to a new Robin Williams I didn’t recognize. From a young person’s perspective who didn’t know his future in music, I was enamored by his electric energy and improv abilities.
Looking back, I can see how this influenced some of my decision making and creative choices in music and production. There was a fearlessness about his performances. A direct connection to the present without hesitation. True commitment to the moment.
Some of you may be wondering how this relates to music production? Art inspires art. We have a tendency to get deep into the technical side of engineering and production. We sometimes forget to refuel our inspiration.
What is art without meaning? Let’s veer just for today from our cerebral production and engineering minds.
Looking back on Robin Williams’ career, I think there are a few things we can keep in mind for our own careers.
If we look at Mr. Williams’ career, we’ll see a wide range of work. Some of which people dismissed until they saw it. The idea of a funny man making a drama was absurd to some. But why? Couldn’t it be the same thing that fueled his humor could fuel other expressions? He was a fantastic dramatic actor. Or really, he was a fantastic performer no matter what medium he chose.
Don’t be afraid to take these kinds of chances in your career. Just because you’re the Hip-Hop person doesn’t mean you can’t be the jazz person. Don’t let people pigeon hole you. Always break boundaries and expectations!!
I never met Robin Williams. But, from the reports of so many people he was a stellar human being. This would make sense with his work. No matter what he was doing he always seemed to mean it. He was fully engaged.
Make sure to commit fully to whatever you’re doing. Don’t take on a project you can’t give 100% to. Every time you set up a mic or play a part, do it like it really means something. Resist work that prevents you from feeling this way.
Our careers are a chain link. Every project you do is part of that link. They may not all be perfect, but if you always do your best you’ll be proud and people will respect that.
Live in the Moment
A lot of times creating music (like comedy and acting) is reacting in the moment. Robin was a master at this. This means that for the time you’re engaged in the activity, you must remove all self doubt.
Second guessing yourself is weight that will sink a performance or idea. You can see this in a lot of Mr. Williams stand-up work. He just let it flow. Once you’re in action, practice is over. Guessing is over. You must connect to the moment and not look back. Always look forward.
I know this seems abstract, but I’ve seen many musicians, engineers, producers, etc. hit a snag in the moment. If you present yourself with too many possibilities, it can wreck a moment.
You have but one choice in the moment. Trust yourself, it’s the right decision.
Whether you realize it or not, we’re influenced by other artists and art forms. We all hit walls. We get burnt out and feel like we’re recycling the same thoughts.
I propose this: Next time you’re feeling this way, dig into some other forms of art other than your chosen poison.
Go to a museum, watch a movie, read a book or go to a dance recital. You’re feeding your mind in creativity-rich nutrients. You might not even know the ways it’s influencing you, but it will come out in a positive way.
You will look back one day and realize how these experiences have created currents in your work.
I certainly can see now how Robin Williams’ work has forever impacted my relationship to art.
Find a Way to Give Back
We’re all so busy caught up in our own lives that we get tunnel vision. Robin was a charitable man. Even in times when he was going through personal pain he found a way to give back.
Imagine what change we could all make if we did the same?
Lastly, if you’re reading this and suffer from depression there is help. There are people that will understand your pain. Please, always try one more time.
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