12/26/12

Improvisation Pie (chart)

665 - Pie Chart Art - Seamless Pattern

(Photo credit: Patrick Hoesly)

Imagine that the entire amount of time of a piece is represented by a pie chart. A player would do well to imagine her time spent during the piece as follows:

Don’t play. A quarter slice of the pie is silence: don’t play – just listen to the choices of others and to the direction the piece is going. Also when everyone plays all the time, the result can be too thick (hard to hear through it) and will certainly be monotonous. Timbre comes alive when players leave space for other sounds to come through. Note: the silence doesn’t all have to come at once – it can be apportioned throughout the whole piece.

Steal. Half the pie is imitating/stealing ideas, both from other players and from yourself (re-use those ideas). Listen for strong ideas and play them back, perhaps as a sequence, or using motivic devices such as augmentation or diminution. Or take other’s players’ ideas and turn them into accompaniment patterns.

Solo. One quarter slice of the pie is for discovering one’s own solo ideas, polishing and refining them, developing them, making them as strong as possible.

 

 

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04/7/12

Start Your Day with a D.A.!

Imagine that you were not allowed to speak unless you were quoting Socrates, Cicero, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Lincoln, etc., not even “Please pass the salt” unless you were quoting. Imagine that you were an English major but were not allowed to write any of your own thoughts, no essays, not even an email; you could only copy down quotes from Twain, Dickens, Faulkner, Joyce, Cervantes, Goethe, etc . Imagine that you went to art school but were never trained or encouraged to do anything but reproduce famous paintings, never, never paint or sculpt anything that you thought up, ever. Just copy Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Ingres, Leonardo. Imagine if you went to music school and never played anything but the notes of some distant (and likely deceased) composer, never received encouragement or training to make your own music…

Oh, wait. That is, in fact, how it is in music school. No creating. Just recreating. Nothing wrong with re-creating – unless it’s the only show in town. Any garage band worth its salt composes its own songs. Why is it that your averate terminal-degreed music student can’t write a convincing piece for their own instrument? Isn’t something missing?

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03/21/12

On Cartoons, Bathrooms, and Creativity

Pixar Animation Studios atrium.

Pixar Studios

I have a lot of books on creativity and creative thinking, and bookstores know I’m pretty much a sure thing when something new and interesting comes out. NPR alerted me to a new one: “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer. I just downloaded the audiobook, which I will listen to right after I finish my current audiobook (“1493” by Charles C. Mann). But even before I get a chance to hear Lehrer’s book, I wanted to share some flash inspiration that I got from the NPR interview. It was the part about how Steve Jobs redesigned Pixar studios (of blockbuster animated film fame) “to maximize collaboration and creativity.” The original design had the three teams of specialists separate in their own buildings: scientists, animators, and directors. Creative soul that Jobs was, he saw immediately that this was a Very Bad Idea when it comes to inspiring creativity.

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

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12/30/11

What a Concept: The Daily Arkady

Imagine that you were not allowed to speak unless you were quoting Socrates, Cicero, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Lincoln, etc., not even “Please pass the salt” unless you were quoting. Imagine that you were an English major but were not allowed to write any of your own thoughts, no essays, not even an email; you could only copy down quotes from Twain, Dickens, Faulkner, Joyce, Cervantes, Goethe, Wilde, etc . Imagine that you went to art school but were never trained or encouraged to do anything but reproduce famous paintings, never, never paint or sculpt anything that you thought up, ever. Just copy Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Ingres, Leonardo – keep your vision out of it. Imagine if you went to music school and never played anything but the notes of some distant (and likely deceased) composer, never received encouragement or training to make your own music…

Oh, wait. That is, in fact, how it is in music school. No creating. Just recreating. Nothing wrong with re-creating. But leaving out creation leaves out half of musical life, and, truth be told, more than half of the fun of making music.

Any garage band worth its salt composes its own songs. Why is it that a terminal-degreed music student can’t write a convincing piece for their own instrument? Can I see a show of hands of those who suspect that something – something important – is missing from the current system of music education?

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