Archive for November, 2010

Merit vs Success

success = papers not blowing away

My friend Natalie Wilson recently did a remarkable job of setting an enormous goal and meeting it almost to the date. At the beginning of the year she challenged herself to write an entire play (her first) in nine months. Using the extended metaphor of birth (which time and again works uncannily well) she started a blog ‘Birth of a Play(wright)‘ to track her gestation. It’s a testament to her tenacity and determination that she not only finished the play in time, but secured enough funding (and interest) to put up a reading with top notch broadway talent early in November.

And now she’s facing the question that haunts so many early career writers after a big premiere. “What next?” Read the rest of this entry →


Nov 2010

What Technology Wants: Better Musics

No. Not Mel Gibson.

Molly Sheridan’s Mind The Gap blog has gotten particularly geektastic this past week as she hosted a virtual book club. The book in question, Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants. This certainly tickled the computer scientist in me, Kelly’s Out Of Control changed the way I thought about computing in the mid 90s.

Kelly has long been on the forefront of technological thought, hanging with Stewart Brand and his buddies back during the Whole Earth Catalog days through the WELL, and these days with the Long Now Foundation. And along the way he co-founded Wired magazine. Despite a long history of underconsumption and a fascination with Amish and other ‘anti-progress’ cultures, Kelly is cautiously pro-technology, believing that progress is inherently good while prescribing a very specific set of guidelines towards adopting technology more responsibly than we tend to. Read the rest of this entry →

Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and… Benjamin Britten

I think it started with Whitney Houston. Then Mariah Carey. And then it spread to any R&B singer with a record deal. And then American Idol. And now, just about every YouTube video you see.

It’s melisma. In singing, it’s any discrete changing of pitch while sustaining a single syllable. A common technique in baroque vocal music as well as ancient church practices of all western religions, it has become the hallmark of virtuosity. “Good” singing has become measured in extraneous flourishes, grace notes, and the extending of a phrase well past any reasonable proportion.

So what is there to do? Read the rest of this entry →


Nov 2010

My Father Knew Milton Babbitt

Can you spot the MacArthur genius?

John Adams titled his work “My Father Knew Charles Ives” based on a hunch that had his father ever actually met the groundbreaking American composer, their similar dispositions and interests would have made them fast friends. This little anecdote differs from Adams’ in two points.  First, my father, a lifelong athlete and track coach couldn’t be more different than the groudbreaking American modernist Milton Babbitt, one of the most significant American composers of the century.  And second, it actually happened. Read the rest of this entry →


Nov 2010