Friday, July 23, 2010

Haunting music from everyday objects

Circus composer Sxip Shirey takes us back to our musical roots as a species. He shows how mysteriously beautiful and haunting music can be created using everyday objects and body parts.

In this clip, Sxip enrolls the help of an assistant.  With their lips almost locked together, they jointly create an extraordinary musical moment. Rhythmic collective heavy breathing morphs into an orgasmic delight, that should inspire others to explore new dating rituals. A kind of musical mating, at the confluence of "ecstatic melodies" "imaginable sounds" and "deep sexy beats".

Kissing will never be the same.

So here's some workshop activities to see how you might make music using whatever you have on hand...maybe even that will do.

1. Brainstorm a list of body parts and everyday objects you could use to create "ecstatic melodies, unimaginable sounds and deep sexy beats".
2. Choose your everyday object/body part "instrument", describe how you could play it, the kind of music it will produce, and how it will sound.
3. Demonstrate your new musical instrument to others, and after each person does their stuff, brainstorm some ideas about how you could expand the use of the instrument, or create an intriguing/dazzling/wierd couple of bars, a motif, a crescendo, a coda etc.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to start a movement

Ever wanted to start a movement? To get the ball rolling in a new direction, to have followers join you in some new enterprise, game or opportunity? Or in the pursuit of an ideal or your passion?

Derek Sivers shows us how. He's a professional musician and the founder of CD Baby that generated huge sales of independent music over the web and changed forever the way music is sold. His latest project is MuckWorks to help reduce the burdens (and boredom) of creative people.

Critical to the success of a movement is not the leader but the first follower. If you don't have followers all you have is a "lone nut" doing his or her own thing.

For a movement to take-off the leader must embrace the first followers as equals and nurture them. Followers  give legitimacy to what the leader is doing.

As others join the movement the risk of seeming to be wrong or stupid is reduced. A tipping point is reached when a critical mass of people join almost simultaneously to be part of the "in crowd". After this, the movement becomes self-sustaining.

The stragglers, those most reluctant to join in, ultimately do so to avoid being stigmatized as uncool.

So here's a workshop to plan how to start your own movement:

1. Describe an idea for a movement. What is your cause, ideal or opportunity? And how is it different? Or stand-out from the mainstream?
2. What do you have do to get your first follower? To attract attention in public?
3. Once your first followers have joined, what can you do to embrace them as equals? To promote the cause even more?
4. If people join to emulate what the followers are doing, how can you orchestrate what the followers are doing to maximise attention, and promote growth of the movement, by being a brilliant follower yourself?
5. What might be the advantages of persuading someone to be the "lone nut" that you could follow?
6. What "lone nuts" do you now regret you did not follow? And what did you never get to experience as a consequence?
7. What actions of a leader or follower might cause a movement to collapse, that you need to avoid?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why humans believe almost anything

Humans are programmed to believe - almost anything - according to Michael Sherman, founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine.

We make associations and find patterns even when they are not there. And it's all because our ancestors adopted a conservative approach to making mistakes.

When we face a choice between making a small mistake (a Type I error) such as over-reacting to a rustle in the grass, and making a big mistake (a Type II error), such as ignoring the rustle, and being eaten by a predator, we err on the side of safety.

By making many silly little mistakes - and unecessarily wasting energy when all we hear is the wind blowing - we avoid certain removal from the gene pool, on those fewer occasions when the threat is real.

Says, Shermer, this is why we give credit to God, the angels or leprachauns when there is "no intentional agency" whatsoever. We err on the side of caution.

Our pattern detection devices can be easily tricked. Sometimes we can see two or more patterns in the one image (as in the drawing of the young and old woman).. Some people see patterns when there are none to see.

An overly active dopamine circuit helps you see more patterns, so if you're really creative, you're more likely to be fooled than if you are down to earth and practical. Too much dopamine and you see too many patterns. It's the difference between the madness of mathematician John Nash and the genius of physicist Richard Feynman.

We also tend to "infuse patterns with meaning, intention and agency". This propensity to favor Type II errors, leads us to believe in God, leprechauns, souls, spirits, demons, aliens, the Loch Ness monster, conspiracy theories and invisible agents. That there's someone in there, like in the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings. Or when we are in trouble, someone big and powerful will rescue us.

So here's some questions to explore these ideas:

1. Brainstorm a list of all the different phenomena that people believe in for which there is little or no objective evidence.
2. What are some of the things you do that fly in the face of your own objective reality e.g. consult the astrological forecast, refuse to walk under a ladder, and why do you still do this?
3. What conspiracy theories do you "kind of" believe in? Give a detailed description of the theory.
4. If you have trouble seeing the patterns to events in your work or private life, how could you be more creative?
5. Give examples from your private/work life where you assume, wrongly, there is an intentional agent working against you e.g. someone is pulling the strings, manipulating things.
6. Give examples from your private/work life of Type I errors that you make, where you over-react to the situation so you don't make Type II errors.
7. Give examples from your private/work life of Type II errors that you have made, where you failed to act, with awful consequences?
8. How could you achieve a better balance between making unnecessary Type I errors and fatal Type II errors?