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Posts tagged "creativity"

Apr 07, 2014
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Cosmos, like most pop histories of science, teaches the false narrative that the history of science is that of a few, heroic, lone geniuses doing battle with the masses and forces of institutional darkness.The reality, of course, is that science is a collaborative (and competitive) process, slowly evolving over the centuries thanks to the work of millions of people and supported by large institutions and governments, without which progress would be impossible. Mark Twain put it best in a letter he wrote to Helen Keller:”It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others.” It’s an important lesson to remember.
Alex Knapp: A Corrective To Cosmos  (via ayjay) (UPDATE: I’ve actually had a few people tweet at me that they got the opposite feeling from watching the series. I, of course, haven’t even seen it yet…)

(via ayjay)

Feb 03, 2014
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Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:


  Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…


The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:


  George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.


The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:


  John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.


On leaving in mistakes:


  If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.


And whether there could be another Beatles:


  There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.


Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:

Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…

The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:

George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.

The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:

John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.

On leaving in mistakes:

If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.

And whether there could be another Beatles:

There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.

Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Dec 18, 2013
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You go diving for pearls every night but sometimes you end up with clams.

Oct 25, 2013
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Let my very funny friend Matt Diffee, he of New Yorker fame, teach you how to get a great idea.

See also: Frank Chimero’s “How To Have An Idea”

Sep 25, 2013
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Once the work is done, it’s not yours anymore. You draw the comic, write the book, make the app, and then it makes its way out into the world. And it starts to talk back to you. It’s the weirdest thing—if the thing you make goes anywhere, it’s because other people carried it.

Aug 18, 2013
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Twyla Tharp’s boxes

Whenever she starts a new project, Twyla Tharp gets out a banker’s box. She writes about her system in The Creative Habit:

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files.

I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

The box documents active research on every project….

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The box makes me feel connected to a project. It is my soil. I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. The project name on the box in bold black lettering is a constant reminder that I had an idea once and may come back to it very soon.

Most important, though, the box means I never have to worry about forgetting. One of the biggest fears for a creative person is that some brilliant idea will get lost because you didn’t write it down and put it in a safe place. I don’t worry about that because I know where to find it. It’s all in the box….

They’re easy to buy, and they’re cheap….They’re one hundred percent functional; they do exactly what I want them to do: hold stuff. I can write on them to identify their contents… I can move them around… When one box fills up, I can easily unfold and construct another. And when I’m done with the box, I can ship it away out of sight, out of mind, so I can move on to the next project, the next box.

Easily acquired. Inexpensive. Perfectly functional. Portable. Identifiable. Disposable. Eternal enough.

Those are my criteria for the perfect storage system. And I’ve found the answer in a simple file box.

Read more in The Creative Habit

(idea via 43 Folders, text via)

Jul 15, 2013
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thenearsightedmonkey:

What is going down in The Image Lab?

When we watch other people make things, it makes us want to make things, too.

Filed under: show your work

thenearsightedmonkey:

What is going down in The Image Lab?

When we watch other people make things, it makes us want to make things, too.

Filed under: show your work

Jul 12, 2013
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I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s
I will not reason and compare: my business is to create

May 31, 2013
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When you start to think of the arts as not this thing that is going to get you somewhere in terms of becoming an artist or becoming famous or whatever it is that people do, but rather a way of making being in the world not just bearable, but fascinating, then it starts to get interesting again.

May 26, 2013
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For a while, it seemed like I was getting sent this article, “Creative People Say No” at least twice a day. The idea is that creative geniuses say “no” to a lot of requests (like, a psychology professor researching processes of creative genius) in order to get their work done, so if you want to be a creative genius, you have to say no a lot so you can get your work done.

A bunch of people asked me what I thought about it, and I said, “It’s good advice for the rich and famous.”

Ian Bogost explains it nicely, here:


  [Y]ou have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say ‘no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it.


There was a little index card in the back of Steal Like An Artist that didn’t make it into the book that sums up my own point of view: “Be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.”

(Thx @ayjay.)

For a while, it seemed like I was getting sent this article, “Creative People Say No” at least twice a day. The idea is that creative geniuses say “no” to a lot of requests (like, a psychology professor researching processes of creative genius) in order to get their work done, so if you want to be a creative genius, you have to say no a lot so you can get your work done.

A bunch of people asked me what I thought about it, and I said, “It’s good advice for the rich and famous.”

Ian Bogost explains it nicely, here:

[Y]ou have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say ‘no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it.

There was a little index card in the back of Steal Like An Artist that didn’t make it into the book that sums up my own point of view: “Be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.”

(Thx @ayjay.)

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