Hello and welcome to the Composition Madhouse, where imitation is mastery, brought to you by Foster Light Studios. My name is John Higgins and this week, we're going to learn to master anything. If you want to be great at anything, you've got to know how to be great at anything and it's actually quite simple. You find the masters and you imitate them.
Unfortunately for many years, from when we were very young, we were taught that we should strive to be original. The problem is that if you want to be original, you can't try to be original. In "The Academy," C.S. Lewis talked about how PhD programs are setup really are nonsensical. For you to get a PhD in any discipline, you have to contribute a unique piece of scholarship.
Unfortunately we are relying upon the youngest and most inexperienced people to produce the most original work. If you really want to be original, you don't try to be original. You master the masters. You imitate the masters and one day, you will wake up and find you are original.
All original compositions, pieces of art, are simply from past works divided up and recombined in different ways. Solomon was right when he said that there's nothing new under the sun. And if you haven't seen it, there's a great video that you can check out called "Everything is a Remix," which is talking about this very thing. One of the greatest guitar players alive today, his name is Tuck Andress, and in a video you can see here, he discusses how he mastered his craft.
Tuck would go to the library and get an album by Art Tatum. If you've never heard Art Tatum, he is one of the most insane and greatest jazz piano players of all time. And he played fast, really fast. And Tuck would go to the library and he would get albums by Art Tatum. He would play them and he would slow them down and he would copy, he would imitate, and he would master those solos on guitar. That's how you master anything.
One great contemporary example of this is Roberto Valenzuela. In many of his books on teaching, he talks about how photographers never practice. If you ask most photographers, "When do you practice," or, "How many hours do you practice," they'll normally tell you, "Oh, I had my last wedding a week ago." And he says, "No, no, no, no. That's performance, not practice." He used to be a professional classical guitarist and he would practice hours and hours and hours and hours and he took that into his craft. If you don't know the best photographers in your type of photography, both living and dead, you've got to find that out.
Here at the Composition Madhouse, we're going to be talking about some of the greatest photographers alive today. And I will tell you who they are. So here's your homework for this week. Find the five greatest photographers in the world. And no, that isn't subjective. Beauty is real. Beauty is a real feature of the world. Aesthetic properties are objective. They exist in the world. And you are either a poor photographer, a medium photographer, or a great photographer. If you want to master anything, you need to copy, copy, copy.