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Kurt Elling: Don't Measure the Limbs

By Published: October 8, 2003
"As a writer, the first part of the inspiration is easy enough. 'I want to write about X.' But then to actually sit down and do it is another bag entirely. The only real difference is you don't really choose the theme, as a rule. I don't. Words and themes come organically, or in a dream-like way. They decide what they want to be. I didn't know what 'Minuano' was going to be about when I started writing. I just started writing. That's almost always the case."

Elling says his study of philosophy and theology in college comes in handy in his lyric writing, as well as his art in general. "It definitely helps. I always tell students when I do master classes—I'll get a question like, 'How do you think of that stuff.' I say, 'Well, how do you think of anything?' You just try to have an interesting life. If a door opens, you step through that door and you experiment and you take risks.' Read. Don't play video games. Engage life. Get everything that you can out of life. It sort of seems like platitudes, but I don't know that there's any other path. You have to give yourself the gift of a more complex human experience. And then you have something to say when you step up."

He notes that people who have heard the music so far like it, and he hopes that bodes well for its acceptability on the market.

"People are really knocked out by this. I think there might be an opening for such a work of art at this time," he said. "Because it does have an emotional depth. It does speak to issues beyond mere romance or feel-good swinging stuff—not that there's anything wrong with that. With the international climate that we have now and the psychic challenges that people are facing, people need to hear a word. They need to hear something that has depth, that is real, that speaks from somebody's heart. And I think that's included in what we've made."

Art need no longer be an account of past sensations. It can become the direct organization of more highly evolved sensations. It is a question of producing ourselves, not things that enslave us.
—Guy Dubord

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