• Playwright David Mamet on speaking.
“People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective.”
• An article about silence and encountering John Cage’s “4’33.”
“And because the ‘silence’ I was hearing wasn’t something else, had no hooks to distract me from the purity of what it was, although that sounds pleasant, in the actual act of sitting there, I noticed anger arising.”
• An article about pursuing flow in an age of digital distraction.
“In our digital age, loud with bottom-feeder commentary, the ping of incoming emails and bleating social media, the pursuit of flow is all the more urgent.”
(In this image from an atelier in Kishangarh, India in the early eighteenth century, the female entertainer plucks a tempura, a drone instrument used in Indian music.)
(Curious about the sound of the tanpura? Go to http://upasani.org/home/Welcome.html).
In his forward to The Best American Essays (2015), series editor Robert Atwan suggests some stylistic attributes of the essay form. Ideally, essays:
• foreground the writing process in the writing itself
• allow the author to reject any authoritative posture
• are an anti-systematic, anti-rhetorical method of composition
• are prose with an unfinished quality
• reflect the mind in process, showing thoughts appearing to be generated from the act of writing rather than from a preconceived plan.
(This is an illustration from a 12th-century copy of Boethius’ De musica. Boethius is depicted on the top left, experimenting with a monochord. Pythagoras is depicted on the top right, experimenting with bell vibrations. On the bottom left is the philosopher Plato, and bottom right, the mathematician Nicomachus.)
“A musician is one who has gained knowledge of making music by weighing with the reason, not through the servitude of work, but through the sovereignty of speculation.”
– Boethius (in Ferdia J. Stone-Davis, Musical Beauty: Negotiating the Boundary between Subject and Object, p. 32.)
• An article about Facebook. (I recommend reading this in its entirety.)
“Facebook’s mission used to be ‘making the world more open and connected’. A non-Facebooker reading that is likely to ask: why? Connection is presented as an end in itself, an inherently and automatically good thing. Is it, though?”
• An article about Rafael Nadal’s coach and learning.
“’I’m interested, most of all, in the question of learning,’ Toni Nadal, 58, said. ‘For me the only thing that makes me stand out from some other coaches is that when I go into the locker room, as I did just now, I might tell Rafa he played very well, but my idea is always what can we do to make him better, even better. I’m telling him, look at Federer, look at the way he’s playing. You need to be more at the net. You need to be more aggressive from the start, and this approach I’ve applied to everything in my own life. It’s a question of principle, really.'”
• An article on exercise, reality distortion, and time perception.
“Time is flowing in the usual way no matter how deep you dig. But what about perceived time? Is your ability to estimate how long it takes, say, five seconds to pass distorted?”
The louder the music, the harder it is to listen to it.
Music silences verbal thinking, offering it another medium.
Music is vibration’s grand invention.
People are like tuning forks—always catching and matching one another’s vibes.
Big data misunderstands the nature of your musical tastes.
Music playlists are covert forms of style discrimination.
Four-on-the-floor beats reduce any music’s expressive options—literally boxing it in.
Music that’s immune to repetition’s deleterious effects
(e.g. rendering something less interesting over time)
is the music most worth your listening time.
After the fact, musical style can be mapped as a linear progression,
but that’s not how it’s evolving right now.
Music soundtracks suggest that we always need help
interpreting the emotional undercurrents of a situation.
Rhythmically complex music and melodically complex music
are like stories about themselves,
teaching us how to track multiple characters at the same time.
The quieter the music, the more resonant its gestures.