Vision: Via Creativa: Mothers of Invention by Howard Hanger

January 23, 2018 |

Billy was a mountain (Billy was a mountain!)
Ethell was a tree growing off of his shoulder (Ethell was a tree growing off of his shoulder)
Billy had two big caves for eyes,
With a cliff for a jaw that would go up ‘n down,
And whenever it did, he’d puff out some dust,
And hack up a boulder  (Hack!)
Hack up a boulder (Hack! Hack!)
Hack up a boulder  (Hack! Hack! Hack!) Up a boulder
– Frank Zappa & Mothers of Invention

“It is f****** great to be alive! It is so f****** great to be alive! And if you don’t believe it’s f****** great to be alive, you better leave now because this show is going to bring you down!” So Frank Zappa opened a show to a rambunctious audience on one of his live albums.

My band never played a Frank Zappa song. Never even thought about it. Never wanted to play the guitar like Frank Zappa. Never really wanted to play the guitar at all. But Frank Zappa intrigued me as a college and graduate student.  It wasn’t admiration or respect, though his tunes were up to their accelerandos in madcap chord changes, whacky rhythm revolutions and more notes per measure than you could or should fit on a page. One of his tunes was actually called, “Black Page” because in the score, there were more notes than white space.

It was his lyrics and ideas for songs that got me. His preposterous titles, uncanny story lines and totally-out-of-the-box musical/lyric direction that triggered my 20-something imagination and ignited my desire into delirium to try some new things. I am not sure at all if my band or Hanger Hall Residence or Hanger Hall School or Jubilee! Community would exist at all were it not for Frank Zappa. Well, OK. They might have come about but with a few less giggles.

The cliché goes: Necessity is the Mother of Invention. True. Necessity may, indeed, be one big Mama. But I would contend there are a whole lot more mummies, mommies and mammies out there energetically conceiving, nursing and nurturing invention – read: creativity – than mere necessity.

Necessity may well be a driving force for creativity; but there are dreams that call you, possibilities that tantalize you, undiscovered oceans of opportunities and glistening effervescent pinpoints of desire which prod you, nudge you, stir and stimulate you to jump start that creative engine within you – that wild and unruly bit of your DNA that longs to fashion something new.

When The Great Guru Foghorn Leghorn squawked, “Pay attention, Son. I say pay attention,” m’thinks he was hollering about a mother of invention. Attention/Invention rhyme. Coincidence?

More than a few singer/songwriters admit that they are musicians because they can’t do anything else. Their juju/life-force won’t let them do anything else. Sounds like a mother.  Sounds like a new song about to be born.

Ever read a book that sparked something within you and had you thinking, “I bet I could do that. I bet I could! I have always wanted to do something like that. Books. Another mother?

And when Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” sounds like he was bumping up those sweat glands to mother-of-invention status.

Tom Robbins writes, “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” Sounds like Frank Zappa to me.