A Class with the Shaman

During my first year of college all of the first year music majors took two classes together, music theory and sight-singing. Music theory was fun, we had a group that worked well together and helped one another through the rougher stuff. We trusted one another, which made the sight-singing class slightly less terrifying.

Three times a week, we would pile into the classroom and the ever patient Professor Zoro would try to get us to sing. Most of us were instrumental musicians, solo singing in public was not something most of us did easily. Still, awkwardly, we did it.

About a month into the school year, Prof. Zoro came in and instructed all of us to the auditorium for a Master Class. I had been to Master classes before, usually some famous/semi-famous person would arrive on campus and give a lecture to everyone who had the good manners to play the same instrument as them. But this class was different, this was ALL of us. Horn players, singers, my God even the percussionists (oh, the humanity)?!? As instructed, each of us brought our instruments (horns, fiddles, sticks, fingers, voice boxes) and we sat in the audience.

A tiny, elf of a woman walked onto the stage. She must have been middle aged, but she emanated comfort, energy and joy. (Yes, this will get new-agey - more on that later). She spoke to us of facing our judges (inner and outer) of energy and visualization. She told stories about approaching music from a different direction ("Music is Movement"). How do you try things without thinking about how it is coming out? How a simple thing like "Play that sonata, without looking at the music but while balancing on one leg" can have miraculous results.

I was skeptical because I was trained to be. I was going through an evangelical phase at the time and I had been taught that all of these things we were learning were directly from SATAN. If I gave in a fraction, the best I could hope for was a demonic possession. Visualization was worse than Dungeons and Dragons. If I gave in, I was doomed.

Person after person went up and tried what this woman told us. People demonstrated their problems and then, miraculously, the problems seemed to vanish. Whatever magic this woman was using, worked.

Apparently, I was doomed.

My turn came. I was having trouble playing an awkward interval in a concerto I was working on (very low to very high). She thought for a moment and presented my issue for the room to solve. Instantly people came back with various visualizations for me to use and things to concentrate on other than my issue. I seem to remember two things - rockets attached to the legs of my chair and, during a separate time, trying to feel the wood of the floor through my shoes.

Both techniques worked. Beautifully.

Like I said - doomed.

A whole new way of thinking opened up to me. the lightbulb came on and I finally started to feel some joy in my music again. She spoke of getting to know our judges and finding our inner clowns.

I bought her book that day A Soprano on Her Head - Eloise Ristad and also picked up the other books she spoke of (The Inner Game of Tennis and The Centered Skier).

The teacher, Eloise Ristad, changed my life that day, just by showing me how to look at things differently and not to forget the joy that got us into the arts originally.

One of the results of that day was a truce between my then evangelicalness and my "new-ageyness" (those aren't words, I know). It was my first year away from home and that battle is where I think I finally started defining myself instead of letting others do it for me.

Oh, and apparently....yeah - still doomed.

iPod Commute

I don't know how other people setup their iPod playlists for their commute. This is how I do it.

1. I subscribe to many podcasts. Too many.
2. When my rss feeds are refreshed in the morning, I go to the 'Recently Added' playlist.
3. I subscribe to many feeds that are only 1-2 minutes long (The Onion, 60 second science). I give these 4 stars.
4. The casts that I want to keep as a priority, I give 3 stars. It is likely I will listen to these today.
5. The filler-casts or ones I want to save for later in the week, get 2 stars.

I have created a playlist of all podcasts that have a playcount of zero, sorted (descending) based on the number of stars. If I don't get to all of the podcasts that day, they are on the list for the next day.

It is a quick way to set things up in the morning.

Signal to Noise and Pattern-Lock

The human mind creates patterns.  It's easy enough to see that to be true.  If you are in an office with a false ceiling, or spray on texture or something random like that, I want you to (wait for it) take a look at it for 30 seconds then come back here.
Okay, go.
Did you do it?  If not, then do it already!
Fine, I'll assume you did it.
Did you see the patterns?  Did the random dots form into wavy lines or faces or humongous single-cell organisms?  That is what our brains do, they try to build sense out of the random.
The question I have, though, is how much random can our brains take?  At what point does the noise become too much and it forces the little pattern makers in our heads to go cry in the corner?
Our world is full of inputs, little things that add clutter to our thoughts.  The background conversations at the office, the hum of the heating vents, the radio that you can just barely hear, the podcasts, twitters, emails, pages, text messages all come in at such a level that it becomes almost impossible to sort them into a coherent bundle.  The noise is too great and we go into pattern-lock.
I'm in pattern-lock right now.  It is not a case of 'not enough' ideas, it is more of a 'too many' ideas kind of thing.  I started my latest story, with a particular tale to tell.  But to explain that, there is backstory.  To understand the backstory, the universe rules must be known.  To understand the conflict between our main characters then something has to be shown for contrast.
All I know to do now is to pull the stories out of the jumble that I can and try to limit the noise getting into my system.  After I've done that (distilled the elements), perhaps I can find my way again.

Getting closer

After the holiday, I am still working with my new audio equipment.

I'm starting to get the hang of things. One one hand, there are some things I wanted to do that I find I cannot do (easily) and I am slowly discovering what can be done.

As for the writing, it is getting there.

More on that soon.

It takes a while

My mixer showed up a few days ago. I picked up a microphone and have been trying to figure things out.

I can record tracks and play them back. Sometimes I am having trouble with playback in Audacity (it sounds like the sound is broken up and has a lot of static). When encode it to mp3 and play it back it sounds fine. Perhaps a problem with the new Leopard driver?

The effects are fun to play with at the moment. I know I'll need to work in the proper amount of reverb and settings to get things to sound right.

Anyway, I'll keep working on it.

It's a start

What is the purpose of this blog? Don't you love when new blogs come out with mission statements? Isn't that the most ludicrous thing you've ever heard? I mean, what could be lamer?

So, here is my mission statement.

1. Track my writing attempts and word count.
2. Articles and such that interest me.

Vague much?