Creative Impulses

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A public conversation with architect Frank Gehry inaugurates John Adams's Creative Process series at Zankel Hall next month.

The creative process is a mysterious thing. On one end of the spectrum is the Mozartian model, where the art seems to come into being effortlessly, spontaneously, almost unconsciously. Then there's the Beethovenian model, where the artist toils over sketch after sketch until he or she gets it right, shedding blood, sweat, and tears along the way.

How does a work come into being? How much of it is inspiration? How much perspiration? How much derives from theory and how much from intuition? These are precisely the kinds of topics that composer John Adams will explore in this season's Creative Process series at Zankel Hall, which kicks off on February 8 with a conversation between Adams and star architect Frank Gehry. The series continues down the line with bad-boy director Peter Sellars (April 25) and video artist extraordinaire Bill Viola (May 16).

In many ways Frank Gehry is the perfect entrée to discussions about the creative process. After the 1997 opening of his titanium tornado of twists and curves, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Gehry became a household name. His dynamic structure‹an eye-grabbing icon‹not only managed to revitalize an industrial city in the Basque region; it created an uproar in architectural circles and upstaged the art within its very walls.

And the discussion shows no sign of abating. On February 8, John Adams and Frank Gehry will continue to take apart the creative process, very likely focusing on downtown Los Angeles's new landmark‹the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Gehry. Of his personal journey, the architect says, "I'm sort of in the baby steps of my language. There are awkwardnesses and collisions in it that still aren't resolved. And I probably won't have enough time in my lifetime to refine it!"

Robert Hilferty's articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe, The New York Times, Opera News, Opernwelt, and New York Magazine.

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