Creativity: Play it naked?

James Rhodes’s excellent (if deeply harrowing) memoir Instrumental includes some wonderful words about creativity.

There is a solution to every situation and every challenge. A way through can always be found. Creativity can provide the key.

Towards the end of Instrumental, James Rhodes* blasts out page upon page of great ideas on how to bring the moribund classical music industry kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. He talks about the resistance that he has seen the classical music world show to potentially life-saving creative solutions:

“It is easy to piss and moan, much harder to offer workable solutions that can bring about change. Only it isn’t hard at all.”

There is a way out of every problem. It might take a change of perspective, a willingness to adapt, a wholesale surrender to new ideas. Permitting creativity to flourish and showing willingness to take a jump into the unknown is often the key.

Make it inclusive, accessible, respectful, authentic


Rhodes argues that to ensure its economic and artistic survival, the classical music world must change radically. He has the ridigity of the classical music establishment squarely in his sights:

“My solution? Fuck the lot of them. Play what you want, where you want, how you want and to whom you want. Do it naked, do it wearing jeans, do it cross dressing. Do it at midnight or 3pm. Do it in bars and pubs, halls and theatres. Do it for free. Do it for charity. Do it in schools. Make it inclusive, accessible, respectful, authentic. Give it back to whom it belongs. […] Don’t let a few geriatric, inbred morons dictate how this immortal, incredibly wonderful, God-given music should be presented. We’re bigger than that. God knows, the music is too.”

Instrumental, was of course written a few years ago, before the industry that has evolved around live music was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But while the industry that helps bring music to our ears might experience severe disruption, the music itself is eternal and immortal. So is our need to hear music among a crowd of other souls.

Live music is making tentative steps back into the world at the moment, although the inconvenient truth of the pandemic remains. But there is no question in my mind that live music will ultimately return in all its glory. It will be as powerful, as gentle and as moving as ever it was before. But the way that live music is presented to us in person and how we interact with it might change. This is a problem that will ultimately be solved, in one way or another. Perhaps it will be time to revisit Mr Rhodes’s excellent suggestions? The time could well be right for a wholesale surrender to new ideas.

There’s no problem that can’t be solved. There’s no person that is incapable of creativity. Inspiration is all around us. But inspiration rarely strikes unless you make it strike.

Give it a go.

Take the time to think it through.

Play it naked.


** Besides being a gifted author, Mr Rhodes is also a wonderful piano player. Here is a very small taste of his music.


  • James Rhodes en Donostia-San Sebastián via Wikimedia Commons.
  • As regards the image of Terry Jones at the top of this post… Faced with the words “Play it naked”, what other image could suit this post than that of the world’s foremost naked piano player, Mr Terry Jones? So many awful things to the world in 2020 that it’s easy to forget that it was also the year in which we lost the lovely Mr Jones. I wrote about this terrible loss to the world in my January 2020 post Michael Palin’s beautiful friendship with Terry Jones. I make no claim whatsoever to the copyright of the wonderful images of Monty Python’s Terry Jones at the top of this post (I found it here – and I will be happy to remove this picture from this post immediately if required). Should you require proof that Terry Jones was the world’s foremost naked piano player, here you go…

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