Curating The Week: Awesomeness, Information Bottleneck, Music Apps


The philosophy of awesomeness.

“I arrived at the view that being awesome is being good at creating ‘social openings’—moments of mutual appreciation between people when they break out of their norms and routines by expressing their individuality in a way that gets others to express theirs. Someone sucks when they reject a social opening for no good reason.”

An article about how “information bottleneck” is the key to deep learning.

“According to [Naftali] Tishby, who views the information bottleneck as a fundamental principle behind learning, whether you’re an algorithm, a housefly, a conscious being, or a physics calculation of emergent behavior, that long-awaited answer ‘is that the most important part of learning is actually forgetting.’”

An article about Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) and using music apps to self-medicate.

“NMT as practiced today is based on two main principles. The first is music’s ability to stimulate a whole range of different parts of the brain. ‘There’s no other stimulus on earth that provides such a global activation of our brains as music,’ Harris says. The second is that music helps with neuroplasticity, that is, the way our brains constantly create new connections and strengthen old connections throughout our lives. Harris says research has even proven that music helps the brain heal itself by creating these new connections.”

Trusting Music

Once in a while
when the music plays
I have the sensation
beyond the notes
of being guided

towards giving up
my sense of direction
leaving the navigation
to the composer
who has a plan

for reminding me
how to follow not lead
believe in the gesture

as if an unspoken lesson
is that listening to music
is trusting over time.

Freestyle: Music Aphorisms 2


Like circus high wire artists missing one another’s fingertips by inches, your musical style is what transpires when your expectations are just out of reach of your capabilities and you go into freefall.

Retail stores are where most popular music retreats to live out its days under fluorescent lights on Sirius life support, having faded from relevance but still somewhat useful.

A musician’s improvising tells you about their thinking,
while their sight-reading tells you about their skills.
(One doesn’t really connect with the other.)

Musical instrument catalogs teach a lie:
that making music is about the gear.

A musician who overplays is waving a red flag on their own behalf.
(“Can you help me stop playing so much?!”)

Which are you:
The kind that remembers the words and their melodies,
or the gist of the rhythm section’s groove?

Acoustic musical instruments are honest because they faithfully transmit your touch.

MIDI reduced a musician’s touch to a number between 1 and 127, yet we adapted.
(Social media reduced us to sharing and liking,
muting our individuality, yet we are adapting.)

Adhering to the style of the idiom gets you through the door,
but it’s still not what makes good music.

Superior musicians make use not only of their whole body,
but also the entirety of their inescapable character.
(If such musicians’ music making sounds ugly, maybe that’s who they are.)

In one way or another, all music traffics in expectations
—real or imagined, met or frustrated.

The older you get, the less obvious it is why today’s popular music hit is a hit.

Music’s subliminal effects don’t get the attention they deserve.

Broad consensus is the enemy of musical innovation.

Composers left scores behind. What will DJs leave?

Musical style boundaries are porous:
even AC-DC can be dance music, if you’re at a New England wedding.



Brett’s Sound Picks: Ben Lukas Boysen’s “Golden Times I”

The music opens with a rolling triplet piano and ghosting guitar figure that takes the non-obvious harmonic route. There’s a melody now–a violin soaring in the midst of the piano/guitar clouds, and underneath more weather building in electronic bass burble and far away processed percussion. The system grows by cycling around and around, never showing its seams, bringing you to its end through a return to where it began.

Curating The Week: Speaking, 4’33, Flow


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.”