Notes from the Road

Thoughts about the world as I travel through it

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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors

I wrote a play some years ago, exploring the relationships and perspectives of three very different people, caught in wartime Afghanistan. At an early stage, my friend Michael Sanie expressed interest in writing an opera based on the play, and after several years of delays and struggles, here it is.

The opera is in three acts, each providing a platform for one of the characters. There is also a fourth character: an Afghan boy. It seems to me that we rarely hear the perspective of the people over whose lands we fight.

You can get your copy here.

Music, emotion and architecture

Years ago, I sang with a choir called the Schola Polyphonica, under the direction of Maxwell Fernie, in New Zealand. On the rare occasions when we performed, an emotional sense of engagement and connection arose between the singers and the audience, that I have rarely experienced elsewhere. Through rehearsing and performing the music, we were all changed, and somehow brought closer together.

Music seems to create that opportunity and experience, perhaps more than other art forms.

Having made a career shift back to architecture, I’m looking for the same thing. Architecture is not really a performance art (although we do perform in making client and internal presentations). How do we find the same kind of emotional connection to the work? Through the collaborative process? Through drawing?

I wish I knew.

Architecture is certainly very engaging, and the problems are fascinating. Perhaps this is why Zaha Hadid does oil paintings, and Steven Holl and Santiago Calatrava use watercolors – as a way of connecting body to image?

How anyone can benefit from religion

This is a great talk from Alain de Botton. It reflects an idea I’ve struggled with for many years: how to make use of and participate in the great religious ideas without subscribing to all the doctrinal mumbo-jumbo.

He insightfully shows the many virtues of religious practice, and suggests that rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we should be learning from the best practices of religion: ritual, symbolism, organization, mutual support and more.

Music is more than…

I came across this (thanks, Stephanie!) this afternoon: it’s a group of people who get together to explore home-made musical instruments, many of them combinations of mechanical and electrical or electronic components. Some of them are played in conventional ways, some make music under computer control, and some combine multiple techniques. 


What’s nice about this is that it describes a group of people who get together to share their ideas, and to have a good time together. It’s a long way from a conventional concert, but just as rewarding, and perhaps more so.

There’s a lot going on in electronic music—a couple of days ago the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (that’s right) played a concert, and we went to the first half (had to get my kids fed and into bed). The music was fun, but more interesting than inspiring in my humble view. I guess I’d hope for more emotional connection with the music, rather than a response that is mostly about fascination with the technology.

There’s also a group in the Bay Area that get together regularly to learn about electronics, computing and music. A week ago I went to a talk at UC Santa Cruz that presented some algorithmic music—I’ll try to post separately about that.

TED and making music accessible

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design—it’s a community and a conference, held in Monterey each year. Their tag line is “ideas worth spreading”, and they publish videos of many of the short (under 20 minute) talks from the conference each year. This one is about music, and shows some work from MIT’s Media Lab that makes music much more accessible to everyone.

Music and Ego

Music connects us.

We celebrate the richness of life through creativity—expression of beauty, pain, our reality.

Our task is to create better thoughts and feelings so people can be united. Unity is the result of letting go of the walls we build in our minds. Learning to say “yes!”—first to ourselves; then to each other.

I’m looking up at the trees, wondering why we love nature. Perhaps because it has no ego, no agenda. It doesn’t want to change us, and it doesn’t judge us. Yet nature is an elemental force of unimaginable power that can overtake us in a moment, through storm, or fire, or earthquake.

It seems that we find ourselves in difficulties when our egos clash. My ego and my view of yours. Because you are human, I can imagine you are as agenda-driven, as false, as critical as I can be. So I must fear and control you, as I try to protect my fragile identity, that slips in and out of focus.

Music is a good way to create communication and empathy, because it can operate without words, without external logic, and without judgement. 

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