Peter Himmelman—musician, composer for TV and film, creativity guru, observant Jew and St. Louis Park native—comes back to his home state for a show at the New Century Theatre on November 19th.
Tell us what we can look forward to at the show at the New Century Theatre on Thursday.
I’ve just finished five weeks of vocal rest after a surgery on my vocal cords so I expect I’ll have a lot of impetus to perform. Also, I’ve got an amazing band with me, including my cousin Jeff Victor on keyboards. We generally have a lot of fun making music together so expect some surprises.
You’re a man of many musical talents—composing for TV, creating kids music, blues guitar and your latest album. How do you balance it all?
I’m not even sure balance is as an important a factor in creativity as people make it out to be. As you’ve noted, I do have a number of things I’m passionate about. Each seems to feed the other. I think that one secret to my success is that I’m able to give full attention to whatever it is I’m working on at a given moment. Perhaps that is its own sort of balance.
What are you working on now?
I’m flying to the University of Pennsylvania this morning to give a seminar at Wharton. This is all part of my new company Big Muse. What I’m endeavoring to impart with Big Muse are ideas about reducing fear and allowing an individual person or an organization’s native creativity to emerge. It’s a very interesting subject for me. I’ve recently written a book about the idea of taking one’s nascent dreams and bringing them into the real world. It’s called, “Let Me Out (a practical for bringing your ideas to life)”. It’s due out on Penguin/Perigee Books in Fall 2016.
I’m also working on a new record, tentatively entitled “The Sweet Understanding”. We’ll probably be playing a few songs from that project when we’re in Minneapolis on November 19th.
Do your Minnesota roots influence your music?
Yes. I’m sure I’ve been influenced by coming of age in so beautiful a place as Minnesota. But exactly how these influences come to bear on my music itself is hard to describe. The long, often bleak, winters forced me to have a deeper inner life, I would suppose—one where I’d have to conjure up either music or art to endure it all. That, and being in such close proximity to an incredible number of gifted Minnesota musicians from a variety of genres including folk, blues, reggae, funk, country and classical. That certainly had an influence on my work.
Were you active in the Jewish community when you lived in St. Louis Park?
I went to the Talmud Torah and I was even part of something at my Shul called confirmation classes, a post-bar mitzvah thing. I’m not sure what it was intended to “confirm” but after I began asking probing questions about angels, the nature of God, and the afterlife, the rabbi who was teaching the course called my mother and told her I was being disruptive. And so ended my confirmation.
What are your go-to places to visit when you come back to Minneapolis?
I always visit the Westwood Hills nature reserve in Saint Louis Park. We called it, Westwood Hills day camp. It’s a place that’s beautiful and full of great memories. I like to walk around the lakes (like everyone else) and of course when I’m in town I mostly spend my time visiting family and friends.
How has the city changed since you left?
There are more different types of people living here now. It was unusual back when I was growing up to see someone who wasn’t just a white guy. I think the diversity has made Minnesota a better place. The roads have changed too, at least the names. Where’s highway 18?!
How does your faith affect your music and your practice?
This is a longer discussion then the other questions I’ve been asked! I wrote recently that faith is the ash of reason. From a Jewish perspective, blind faith isn’t necessarily a goal. Faith is something one gets to after arriving at the limits of their intellect. I spend a fair amount of my time contemplating things for which there are no definite answers—love, God, death, relationships. So, as a result, I suppose the things I write about naturally reflect my discoveries and observations in that arena.
One thing I’ve gained from being an observant Jew and following the laws of Shabbat for almost thirty years is that I’m able to draw some very concrete connections between form and structure. In other words, I believe that without clear boundaries, there is no safe space for creativity to reveal itself and to be nurtured.
The thing I’ve written most about is relationships, whether in a marriage or as a parent or a supplicant before God. I’ve found that relationships are the best exemplars of that duality between form and structure. It’s almost as if relationships are our greatest works of art. I certainly cherish mine as such.
What’s next for you?
Health, happiness and great abundance for myself, my family and friends, and the world at large, since you asked!
See Peter Himmelman at the New Century Theatre in downtown Minneapolis on November 19th at 7:30 p.m.