In all fields, imagination allows us to cross the chasm between the status quo and a brighter future.

In my life as a sitarist and composer, imagination is the fuel that runs my creative engine. One of the ways imagination takes form in my work is through the experience of creative epiphanies.

When an epiphany arrives, it feels like a singular, magical experience. But there is often a pattern to how one emerges:

First, there is focused effort. We need a goal or problem to focus our energy on.

Next is frustration–most creative endeavors eventually hit an impasse.

Then, there is surrender; letting go. With no visible way forward, we put the project aside–but not out of mind. The vastly more powerful nonlinear and intuitive parts of our being go to work on the problem. They connect the dots across multidimensional matrices of knowledge, wisdom, and experience.

You might think the next step is an epiphany, right?

There’s one more small thing that often happens, in my experience.

It’s a little tickle in the back of the mind. A soft feeling saying “there’s something here”. A message from our vast nonlinear minds.

 And if we then investigate that soft feeling; open the message; be quiet and listen, then all of a sudden. . .

EPIPHANY!

It arrives.

In a way, this happens every time I compose or improvise. It’s a process of discovery with each note, in ways I hadn’t planned. Many small epiphanies, and now and then some big ones. It’s like walking through a dense jungle and with each step, the foliage clears, and you see the next vista.

After 31 years of playing the sitar, I’m still discovering entirely new realms of sound to create through the instrument, and imagination is my vehicle to discover and explore them.


Arjun Verma is a sitarist and composer trained by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, Alam Khan, and Roop Verma, who has performed in the United Nations, Prague Castle, the Fillmore, and on NBC TV, and whose latest album is entitled, Epiphanies.