Archive for August, 2011

Boredom

Posted by Brian on 19th August 2011 in Mildly Off-Topic

A little bit off-topic, but possibly of interest to all of you composer/songwriter types…

Have you hit the creativity wall? Here’s a question for you: Are you glued to your electronic devices?

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal by Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) which discusses Adams’ theory that our plugged-in lifestyle has killed our creativity. Read and discuss…

Scott Adams – The Benefits of Soul-Crushing Boredom

 

Okay, the link doesn’t seem to work 100% of the time so here is the article, just in case:

Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2011

We’ve won the war on boredom! If you have a smartphone in your pocket, a game console in the living room, a Kindle in your backpack and an iPad in the kitchen, you never need to suffer a minute without stimulation. Yay!

But wait—we might be in dangerous territory. Experts say our brains need boredom so we can process thoughts and be creative. I think they’re right. I’ve noticed that my best ideas always bubble up when the outside world fails in its primary job of frightening, wounding or entertaining me.

I make my living being creative and have always assumed that my potential was inherited from my parents. But for allowing my creativity to flourish, I have to credit the soul-crushing boredom of my childhood.

I grew up in the tiny mountain town of Windham, N.Y., and graduated with the same 40 kids I met in kindergarten. When we picked teams during gym class, there was no mystery about which team would win. The fourth-grader with a mustache would hit four home runs, and the kid with a limp would get thrown out at first. I lived a surprise-free childhood.

The rabbit ears on our television only pulled in one channel well, and we grew accustomed to the picture rolling for the entire evening. Our radio wasn’t much better, but if I kept my hand on the antennae I could hear a rhythmic noise that I later learned to call music.

We didn’t have many toys by modern standards. But I discovered that if you have a blob of clay and some Lincoln Logs, you can make your own toy rifle. You can use those same materials to create a FrankenBarbie doll with body-image issues and a G.I. Joe that looks like an angry starfish with snow shoes. I’d take turns shooting at both of them, sometimes using the Lincoln Log rifle and sometimes the handgun that I whittled out of a block of wood. I blame society for all of that.

When I wasn’t making something inappropriate out of nothing, I would stare out the window into the frosty tundra and watch birds freeze to death in midflight. In the summers I rode my bike for hours every day, imagining fantastic worlds in which ice cream was free and farm dogs didn’t attack kids on bicycles just because biting is fun.

My period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years, when every meeting felt like a play date with coma patients. I would sit in long meetings, pretending to pay attention while writing computer code in my mind and imagining the anatomically inspired nicknames I would assign to my boss after I won the lottery.

Years later, when “Dilbert” was in thousands of newspapers, people often asked me if I ever imagined being so lucky. I usually said no, because that’s the answer people expected. The truth is that I imagined every bit of good fortune that has come my way. But in my imagination I also invented a belt that would allow me to fly and had special permission from Congress to urinate like a bird wherever I wanted. I wake up every morning disappointed that I have to wear pants and walk. Imagination has a way of breeding disappointment.

Lately I’ve started worrying that I’m not getting enough boredom in my life. If I’m watching TV, I can fast-forward through commercials. If I’m standing in line at the store, I can check email or play “Angry Birds.” When I run on the treadmill, I listen to my iPod while reading the closed captions on the TV. I’ve eliminated boredom from my life.

Now let’s suppose that the people who are leaders and innovators around the world are experiencing a similar lack of boredom. I think it’s fair to say they are. What change would you expect to see in a world that has declining levels of boredom and therefore declining creativity? Allow me to describe that world. See if you recognize it.

For starters, you might see people acting more dogmatic than usual. If you don’t have the option of thinking creatively, the easiest path is to adopt the default position of your political party, religion or culture. Yup, we see that.

You might see more movies that seem derivative or are sequels. Check.

You might see more reality shows and fewer scripted shows. Right.

You might see the best-seller lists dominated by fiction “factories” in which ghostwriters churn out familiar-feeling work under the brands of famous authors. Got it.

You might see the economy flat-line for lack of industry-changing innovation. Uh-oh.

You might see the headlines start to repeat, like the movie “Groundhog Day,” with nothing but the names changed. We’re there.

You might find that bloggers are spending most of their energy writing about other bloggers. OK, maybe I do that. Shut up.

You might find that people seem almost incapable of even understanding new ideas. Yes.

To be fair, economics is to blame for some of the decrease in creativity. A movie studio can make more money with a sequel than a gamble on something creative. A similar dynamic is at work in every industry. And, to be fair, sometimes things seem to be getting worse when, in fact, you’re only noticing it more. It seems as if folks are more dogmatic than ever, but maybe the pundits are creating that illusion.

Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on the link between our vanishing boredom and our lack of innovation. It’s the sort of trend that could literally destroy the world without anyone realizing what the root problem is. A lack of creativity always looks like some other problem. If no one invents the next great thing, it will seem as if the problem is tax rates or government red tape or whatever we’re blaming this week.

All I’m saying is that if you someday find yourself in a movie titled “The Hangover Part III,” that’s a good time to sell all of your stocks and invest in gold.

—Mr. Adams is the creator of “Dilbert.”

Video of the Month: Richard Gilewitz

Posted by Brian on 15th August 2011 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Songs You Should Know, Video of the Month

The second video of the month for August is a tune that’s fun to play and very accessible to fingerstyle players of moderate ability.

Years ago, Richard Gilewitz recorded a tune called “Echoing Wilderness”. I’ve never heard the original, but I’m told that it was eight minutes long. In 1986, Leo Kottke covered the last section of the tune and titled it “Echoing Gilewitz”. In this video, Richard Gilewitz plays Leo Kottke’s version of his own tune.

The tune is in Open D (DADF#AD) and is fairly straightforward. The right hand plays a steady thumb-index-middle-thumb-middle-index pattern, with the thumb playing melody, primarily on the third and fourth strings, and the fingers droning the open first and second strings.  Make sure you let all the notes ring for as long as possible and if you’re playing through an amp, crank up the reverb. Have fun!

Richard Gilewitz’s website: www.RichardGilewitz.com

Richard Gilewitz’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/gillazillamusic

Looping 101

Posted by Brian on 7th August 2011 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitar, Guitarists, How to:..., Practice

“Loopers” have been one of the more popular guitar effects in recent years. Loopers are not an “effect” so much as a device which can record a segment of music as you play it and then play it in a loop until you decide to stop it. You can select your “in” and “out” points as you play with a foot switch and some loopers will allow you to add multiple layers to your loop.

In this case, a video is worth a thousand words, so here is Sergio Altamura of (surprise, surprise) CandyRat Records using a looper in his tune “Before the Sea”:

Loopers can be used in a number of ways. Obviously, as seen in this video, they can be used as a composition and performance tool. They are also a great practice tool. You can record a chord progression or a riff and then play along with it, or you can record a segment of a tune that you are working on and listen objectively to see how it sounds.

If you think a looper is something that you could have some fun with (I know I do – though I don’t actually own one yet), then take your guitar to your local guitar shop and try one (or more) out.

 

Playing vs. Practicing

Posted by Brian on 5th August 2011 in General Music, Practice

A lot of musicians I know tend to confuse playing music with practicing music. Yes, playing tunes can be an important part of practicing, but just playing tunes is definitely not practicing. Here’s a list of ways to differentiate playing from practicing:

1. It is remotely conceivable that your family might enjoy listening to you playing.

Video of the Month: Peppino D’Augustino

Posted by Brian on 1st August 2011 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month

This month’s video features Peppino D’Augustino playing the title track from his latest CD, “Nine White Kites”. This tune was transcribed in the July 2011 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine. Should you wish to try it, the tuning is relatively unique: C#G#EF#BD# – though if I ever decide to tackle it, I think I’ll risk damage to my fourth string in favour of the more accessible tuning of DAFGCE (one semi-tone higher).

Peppino’s Website: www.peppinodagostino.com
Wikipedia Bio: Peppino_D’Agostino