Resonant Thoughts: Richard James Burgess’s “The History Of Music Production” (2014)

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“What makes random access important, in a creative setting, is being able to grab chunks or tiny fragments of music to copy, paste, cut, fix, tune, move, and modify. Writing a book or even an email is now, almost, unthinkable without being able to move, modify, and fix things. Manipulative power has become integral to our creative process.”

Richard James Burgess, The History of Music Production (2014), p. 136.

Taking Measure

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It starts with the crosswalk sign
the walking guy turns into a flashing hand
and the time counting backwards
numbers I trace under my breath
and sync with my footsteps

then I look up and around
and notice other measures

billboards flickering
car horns beeping
pedestrian counterpoint
the fading light

felt as clock counting
subdividing my sense
of how much longer
until I arrive at my destination.

On Passionate Transcription

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Before I had a mobile phone I could write with, I always carried around those little subscription cards that come with (and fall out of) The New Yorker and Harper’s magazine. I used them to take notes on what I was reading, and scribble down ideas for pieces, poems, groceries, and whatever else. I always used a felt-tipped pen, and part of the fun was working with the rather limited blank space, fitting my writing around the address and pre-paid postage print already stamped on the cards. At any given time I had a bunch of cards full of my scribbles lying around, waiting for me to revisit them and transcribe some of their contents into computer files.

I don’t know if one remembers something better when one writes it by hand rather than types it, but I suspect that the flowing labor and artistic qualities of writing interact with our perception in ways tapping the rigid screen of an iPhone does not. Anyway, one thing about writing those notes is how few words fit onto the cards. Even with a self-imposed tiny font size—a hundred words per card, tops—there was only enough space for the good stuff. Transcribing quotes by hand was passionate scribe practice, a way to internalize any Deep Thoughts that tumbled from the magazines the same way the cards did. My hope was that if I wrote down enough maybe the process of reflecting and echoing ideas from the page would change me in a lasting way.

Writing About Music

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Write about what is happening in the music in real-time.

Write about what the music reminds you of.

Write about how the music relates to other similar and dissimilar musics.

Write about what the music signifies.

Write about how the music was made.

Write about historical precedents for the music.

Write about the music as represented in notation.

Write about fans’ understanding of the music.

Write about how the music comes up short.

Write about how the music excels.

Write about what the music means to you.