Notes to Performers and Judges

March 25, 2011 § 3 Comments

We need to eventually end the modern habit of treating music performance as a kind of sporting event. This relatively recent competition culture (and worse, overspecialization culture) is compromising the incredibly inspiring art of concert giving.

When listening to different performances on the radio there is an abundance of “error-free” performances combined with a terrible lack of imaginative playing. Would it not be possible to have the balance tipped in the other direction – to hear many varied recordings with enormously imaginative playing but with the errors left in? Where are the recordings where pianists leave in errors . . or if not then at least inspiring deviations from the mass of other recordings and ‘established’ interpretations . . and why do musicians need to feel and act as slaves? The attention to playing accurately and in an established manner is a hindrance to the pianist’s great art, dampening their ability to think from first principles to bring authenticity and conviction to their playing, reducing opportunity to apply improvisatory elements and drowning out the imaginative, visceral spirit and capacity for original decisions; such omissions all together are the diametric opposite of what it means to be an artist. Who frankly cares about wrong notes when they are surrounded by a torrent of other more alarming, inspired surprises in the interpretation? – only others with the same fearful copycat instinct care – but sometimes unknown to the performer, most of the audience is more developed than the performer in these set of expectations.

Competition culture and overspecialization have been forcing it this way; many recordings are difficult to distinguish from the work of admirably skillful robots. Among many things strangely absent now from teaching, the student should be expected to play variations of anything being studied (keeping the spirit of the composition and demonstrating how many elements of the work are arbitrary); attempts to improve the works (including very great works) should not come across as a radical concept; compositions by music students to be played to each other (instrumentalists that is – not composing students); study of counterpoint should be interpreted as improvisations using counterpoint – not notes written on paper nor sight-readings of Bach; we are just getting started now to seeing some truly inspiring concert performances down the track.

To talk about piano competitions, let us have some of these competitions replaced with competitions in counterpoint – I cannot overstate how the pleasure and affection would rise for the audience witnessing concerts that come about from this quite different culture. If this is asking for too much then the performance of finished works can continue but at the very least the judges should purely isolate (a) communication, (b) imagination of interpretation and innovations within playing and (c) technical brilliance; and then give a score to each but calculate along the lines of 3a + 2b + c. Robots would move to the bottom of the list.

Now, it is said in defense of this obsession over technical brilliance (and even more dangerous, ‘correctness’, the central and most direct path killing imagination) that the addition of errors in a performance will at least not actually improve the musical effect, thus that errors should anyway be avoided. This does sound reasonable. But I am afraid that I disagree wholeheartedly; my repudiation is brief: Concentration upon the attempt itself to avoid mistakes in performance compromises the opportunity to bring greater musical effect. While playing, if your thoughts are on trying to play correctly rather than imaginatively and convincingly then you are simply concentrating on the wrong subject, taking much less from the music than you could, failing to inspire the composer (if alive) and most importantly cheating the audience with boredom.

For the performer: Wrong notes should not be avoided while playing, nor should they a major talking point in teaching, allowing all concentration upon the imaginative communication of ideas. For the performer and producer: As for what is left on recordings, asymmetries, idiosyncratic technical slips and other imperfections in particular should be left on future recordings, sometimes even jubilantly, when the overall coherency from each small subconscious decision and the brilliance of communication are advanced as a whole.

Prelude No. 8

February 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

The notation for Prelude No. 8 is now available from juliancochran.org and I have attached an image of page 1 of 11. I recently finished the notation for Prelude No. 7 and Mazurkas No. 4 and No. 5 and all of these works will be performed at Pilgrim Church, Adelaide at 12:00pm, 16 March 2011.

Descriptions of life

December 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I wrote a simulation that generates random stars, planets and moons
having similar variation to what we see around us. The simulation was
part of a large computer game project that needed to extend the universe
realistically (with realistic variation and proportions) filling in details beyond
which we can observe. The simulation also simulated the planet environment
based on planet size and distance to sun. One of the fun features of the
simulation was to add life in some of these cases where the environment
was suitable for life. I consulted with astrobiology David Darling towards the
end of writing the algorithm and regarding the most advanced species he
emphasised a higher frequency for underwater life versus land life
reaching higher intelligence. Some of the results are a lot of fun to read so
I have published a few examples of the output here:

Ovax: 3rd planet The planet’s environment is hard with magnificent
splits within the surface. The planet’s most sophisticated species has
the appearance of a primitive brown fungus. The creature reproduces by
male and female exchanging genes in large groups and discharging a
series of strings each with a small nodule that explodes to distribute
new cells. This is vastly the most sophisticated form of life on the
planet.

Ounpee: 3rd planet The planet’s surface is rocky and the most
interesting life form breeds on the planet’s surface. It appears as a
slippery brain-like lattice which long ago settled at this planet from a
distant star. Propagation involves meeting in large groups and executing
mental exercises to locate the greatest of each gender.

Rhyuf Spu: 3rd planet The surface environment of the planet is gaseous
and the most advanced form of life exists high above the planet’s
surface. It is likely to have taken control of its own evolution
millions of years ago for it now appears as an immense soup of
sub-atomic particles. It can be observed that the species shares
information with others by firing particles in a structured format. The
creature can generate great magnetic fields in any region within its
widely spread body and by collecting and firing off unwanted mass it is
able to accelerate throughout space.

Eubzie: 2nd planet The surface environment of the planet is volatile and
gaseous and the dominant form of life lives near the surface. This
species is essentially nothing more than a highly intricate electrical
network acting as a single mind. It is believed that this intriguing
creature reproduces by chemical changes triggered by the star’s
radiation. This species has travelled throughout outerspace and has
successfully inhabited another planet of a distance star.

Oimgo: 8th planet The planet is very hot and gaseous and the dominant
life form may have once been a gas cloud but now exists as an immensely
complex electrical field that amalgamates itself within planets and
stars. It is understood that this intriguing creature reproduces by the
production of basic elements catalyzed by the star’s radiation. The
creature shares information with others by uniting their networks
together to work a single life form. This species is involved in
historical research with various species from distant stars.

Tec: 1st planet The planet’s surface is gaseous and the most
sophisticated form of life is essentially nothing more than a highly
intricate electrical network acting as a single brain. This species has
modified its form over millions of years to prepare for changes
throughout the universe calculated long ago.

Wuax: 1st planet The surface of the planet is cool and gaseous and the
dominant life form exists in the warmer denser regions within planet.
This creature has a gaseous form and the creature communicates to others
by flashing ultraviolet light. This species has travelled to many other
planets in distant stars.

Vi Seu: 3rd planet The surface environment of the planet is volatile and
gaseous and the planet’s most advanced life form exists in the warmer
denser regions within planet. This species is essentially nothing more
than a highly elaborate network of biological wires acting as a highly
effective mind. It can be observed that the species communicates to
others by firing neutrinos. This advanced species ceased its natural
evolution millions of years ago after modifying itself to survive almost
anywhere in the universe.

Spite: 3rd planet The surface environment of the planet is gaseous and
the most interesting form of life may have once been a gas cloud but now
exists as an immensely complex electrical parasite that amalgamates
itself within planets and stars. The communication with members of its
species involves shooting neutrinos to produce a single larger network.
This species has travelled throughout outerspace and collects
information with great curiosity.

Floemea: 4th planet The planet has an unremarkable sandstone surface
with a thin atmosphere. The dominant life form has evolved on the
surface of the planet and it covers large areas of the planet as ferns.

Squyus Rhe: 2nd planet The planet has a solid and sandy surface with
violently windy conditions. The planet’s most sophisticated life form
breeds on the planet’s surface. This life form appears as a large
sausage-shaped structure that remains with others in vast groups. It is
understood that this species reproduces by the mating of numerous
genders. This species has travelled to many other planets in distant
stars.

Bog: 3rd planet The planet’s surface is hot and gaseous and the planet’s
dominant species is impossible to be seen because of its sparse gaseous
structure. It is capable of splitting into separate structures to
propagate more effectively or stay as a large structure to consolidate
its observations and solve difficult problems. It is understood that
this species reproduces by the focus of energy permitting endothermic
reactions involving the duplication of particles within the vast life
form. This species has travelled throughout outerspace and collects data
about the universe to advance its immortality.

Euvoobs: 4th planet The planet is hot and gaseous and the most advanced
form of life exists below the planet’s surface. It can be described as a
vast array of silicon circuits acting as a single brain. Propagation
involves continuously dividing itself and creating new mass.

Eomluiszae: 1st planet The planet’s surface can be seen to be very rocky
with an arid appearance. The most advanced life form appears as a large
mushroom-like plant-creature overwhelming the planet. The continuation
of life involves the mating of male and female permitting natural
selection. Despite being highly primitive this life form is considered
exceptionally rare and the planet has become strictly protected under
common intergalactic law.

Ouzeu: 1st planet The planet has an unremarkable solid and sandy surface
with virtually no atmosphere. The most advanced life form exists as a
giant sponge-like structure which has evolved to become dependant upon
technology in order to transport itself and survive. It maintains
continued peaceful existence among its greatest objectives.

Oers Aibe: 1st planet The planet has a watery surface with very little
atmosphere and the dominant life form lives deep beneath water. It has
the appearance of a weed.

Aiptaub: 1st planet The planet’s surface is very hot and gaseous and the
planet’s dominant species can be described as an electrical network
functioning as a highly effective brain. The communication with members
of its species involves merging their networks together to function a
single life form. This species is conducting scientific research with
similar species from far off stars.

Yidhevs: 1st planet The planet has large ocean-like regions and the most
interesting species resembles a large shrub-like plant with far-reaching
branches. The creature reproduces by a partnership of male and female
and with the vast radioactive waste now being dumped on the planet the
presence of this most interesting species might now be something of the
past.

Kaidki: 6th planet The planet’s surface is gaseous and the most
interesting species has a gaseous form. It can fit between the molecules
of various loose solids and this species has propagated throughout
outerspace and has successfully inhabited another planet of a distance
star.

Ipcoi: 1st planet The planet’s surface is coarse with a thick gaseous
atmosphere and has liquid regions deep within the planet warmed by the
planet’s core. The most interesting species lives deeply within the
planet and this species has the appearance of a growth of roots with
hard-shelled seeds. It is understood that this remarkable creature
reproduces by the duplication of its fundamental elements triggered by
the star’s radiation. Despite there having been one notable explosion in
the complexity of life in the past, this is the most highly developed
form of life that has continued to survive after the planet became a
popular radioactive waste dump.

Yonao: 3rd planet The planet has a rather featureless granite surface
with a thin atmosphere. The most sophisticated species appears as a tall
leafy plant with grey spots. This most sophisticated life form has
declined significantly following global temperature changes.

Box: 1st planet The planet has large ocean-like regions and the planet’s
most sophisticated species appears as a slippery brain-like structure
which has evolved to become dependant upon technology in order to
transport itself and survive. The species increases its population by
many performing mental exercises to select which will go on to
reproduce. The creature communicates to others by vibrating and it
places learning as its highest objective.

Pleine: 3rd planet The planet’s surface is rocky and has liquid regions
deep within the planet warmed by the planet’s core. The planet’s most
interesting life form mostly lives slightly below the surface of the
planet. It is a highly elaborate network of biological wires functioning
as a highly effective mind. It can be observed that the species
communicates to others by flashing ultraviolet light.

Rveev: 1st planet The planet has large ocean-like regions and the most
interesting form of life can be described as a highly intricate network
of biological wires functioning as a single brain. This species has
spread to other stars.

Yidquaim: 3rd planet The planet’s environment is mostly stony and coarse
with gaping splits within the surface. The planet’s most advanced life
form has the appearance of a simple brown shrub. This is vastly the most
sophisticated form of life on the planet.

Ouzh Eecu: 2nd planet The planet’s environment is hard with deep ravines
and the most sophisticated species lives over the planet’s surface. This
life form moves very slowly and has the basic shape of a crab with a
soft shell. It is believed that this species reproduces by the mating of
three genders. Two species on the planet have begun a recent conflict
for the major control of resources.

Sleist Tzoa: 8th planet The planet has large watery regions and the
planet’s dominant species covers large areas of the planet as fungi.
Despite there having been one notable explosion in the complexity of
life in the past, this has become the most highly evolved form of life
that has continued to exist after radioactive waste started being dumped
on the planet.

Oboo: 1st planet The environment of the planet is solid and sandy with
deep canyons and the planet’s most sophisticated species appears as a
giant worm-like lattice which has evolved to become dependant upon
technology in order to transport itself and survive. The communication
with members of its species involves releasing rapid high-pitch noises.
Various species on the planet are fighting for their conflicting
philosophies.

Flyifye: 1st planet The planet is cool and gaseous and the most
sophisticated life form exists high above the planet’s surface. This
creature is not easy to see because of its sparse gaseous form and it is
likely to have immigrated from a distant solar system. Reproduction
involves endothermic reactions involving the gradual transformation of
common planet matter into particles that link to the creature’s
electrical network.

Eesze: 6th planet The planet’s surface is rocky with an arid appearance
and the planet’s dominant life form lives on the hard surface of the
planet where it can absorb the star’s rays. It has an astonishing
stature with several limbs and an insect-like head built upon its red
plant-like body. It can be observed that the species exchanges
information with others by the expression of high-pitch sound
discharges. This species has spread to many other planets in distant
stars.

Yexmoyge: 1st planet The planet has a sandstone surface with a thin
atmosphere and the planet’s dominant species lives deeply within the
planet. This creature has a small stature with a long neck protruding
from the dark blue spongy plant-like body. The communication with
members of its species involves the passing of radio waves.

Joozjae: 1st planet The surface environment of the planet is volatile
and gaseous and the planet’s most sophisticated life form lives well
above the surface. It took control of its natural evolution millions of
years ago for it now lives as a mysterious soup of sub-atomic particles.
Reproduction involves continuously dividing itself and creating new
mass.

Dete: 3rd planet The planet has great watery regions and the planet’s
dominant life form lives on the planet’s surface. This creature has an
appearance remarkably like a human apart from being slightly smaller and
having smaller eyes. It is believed that this type of creature
reproduces by a partnership of two genders. The creatures come together
every star cycle to select their leaders according to what is currently
fashionable.

Umia: 3rd planet The surface of the planet is very hot and gaseous and
the most interesting form of life lives well above the surface. This
species has a thick gaseous appearance and it exchanges information with
others by merging together and synchronizing their electrical networks.

Dout Svoo: 6th planet The planet has large liquid regions between high
mountains and the planet’s dominant life form mostly lives below the
planet’s surface. This species moves with fast twitches and has the
basic shape of a crab with a soft and moist shell. The creature
exchanges information with others by the expression of low-pitch sound
discharges. Various species on the planet are fighting for the major
control of resources.

Ueneyg: 1st planet The planet’s surface is cool and gaseous and the
planet’s most sophisticated species is essentially nothing more than a
highly elaborate network of biological wires functioning as a highly
effective mind. It is understood that this intriguing creature
reproduces by the production of its basic elements activated by the
absorption of nuclear radiation generated within the planet. The
communication with members of its species involves radio waves and the
creature can generate extremely high temperatures anywhere within itself
and by collecting and firing off unwanted mass it is able to accelerate
throughout space.

Czeyts: 7th planet The planet has a liquid surface below very little
atmosphere and the most interesting species hibernates for most of its
life and has a cockroach-like form with a semi-transparent skin.
Propagation involves the breeding of two genders resulting in natural
selection. This species has established colonies on other stars.

Vruevjae: 2nd planet The planet’s surface can be seen to be smooth and
hard with heavy volcanic activity. The planet’s most advanced species
lives on the planet’s surface and it has the appearance of a tall
shrub-like plant mostly red in colour. The creature reproduces by a
partnership of male and female.

Shaenye: 4th planet The planet has a rather featureless sandstone
surface with a thick gaseous atmosphere. The dominant form of life lives
on the solid surface of the planet where it can absorb the star’s rays.
This species is akin to a simple but uncommon carbon-based life form and
this largest known life form has declined almost to extinction owing to
changes within the atmosphere.

Flifoick: 4th planet The planet has great watery regions beneath the
thin atmosphere and the most sophisticated species lives on the solid
surface of the planet. This species is familiar bacterium.

Tead: 3rd planet The planet’s surface is stony and coarse and the
planet’s most interesting life form covers large areas of the planet as
moss meadows. This primitive species remains vastly the dominant life
form on the planet.

Beom: 1st planet The planet’s surface is gaseous and the most advanced
life form exists near the planet’s core. This species took control of
its natural evolution some billion years ago and now lives as a great
electrical field. It is understood that this type of creature reproduces
by continuously dividing itself and creating new mass.

Klujeo: 3rd planet The planet has large liquid regions and diverse
minerals below the surface. The planet’s most interesting life form is
found on the surface of the planet. It has an almost human-like
appearance with one difference being that it is much more alert and
intelligent and has smaller eyes. The creature communicates to others by
a form of speech and a group involving this species was largely
responsible for the design of the anti-gravity devices that have become
standard within modern spacecrafts.

Devry: 4th planet The planet’s surface is volatile and gaseous and the
planet’s most advanced species exists deeply within the planet. It has a
thick gaseous appearance and it is capable of travelling throughout
space without being observed. It is believed that this species
reproduces by endothermic reactions involving the transformation of the
planet’s matter into materials that then act as part of the total brain.

Prionqui: 1st planet The planet’s surface can be seen as coarse and the
dominant life form lives on the solid surface of the planet exposed to
the star’s energy. This life form has the appearance of a carbon-based
multiplying cell.

Sciakpau: 4th planet The planet’s surface can be seen to be stony and
coarse and has liquid regions deep within the planet warmed by the
planet’s core. The planet’s most interesting species lives on the hard
surface of the planet exposed to the star’s energy. This species has the
appearance of a simple red weed and following great climate changes the
existence of this largest species on the planet is believed to have come
to an end.

– By Julian Cochran

Predicting the Future

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Humans are many magnitudes worse at predicting the future than they think they are – especially when they try to think too much. I’ll try provide insights to why this is so, why it is a problem and what to do about it. We also do not know that we are unable to predict. When our prediction fails we forget the initial prediction was made. We have a selection bias to hold memories of our successful predictions which gives us greater confidence that we predicted the past and can thus predict the future. Furthermore when we look at the past 10 years it all looks quite easy to understand – we formulate a variety of narratives and connect everything together in a way that makes sense and gives the impression that each step was inevitable. The brain indexes information by stories or (usually short) narratives and we use these stories to pass this selected information from one to another. Consider that an imaginary Mr. Smith purchases shares in company X. During interviewing we ask why he generally decided to buy some shares and he explains interesting stories about the company’s future prospects and his methods used for appraise its value. However in painstakingly collecting all information outside of his own model of how to account for the decision we find that he was given a tax refund and had some spare money and that was the primary or most influential cause. Our brains do not have the capacity to memorize even a tiny fraction of all the jagged edges, exceptions and near-infinitely complex details that makes up the true world. Furthermore we view past experiences from the perspective of surviving evidence – usually a tiny and thus profoundly biassed impression of the entire history itself. Starting even with that tiny sub-set of history we are able to observe, our narrative oriented memory then allows us to store information more efficiently by taking the few surviving details and reducing them even vastly further. The resulting stories make our understanding of the past appear much more logical and well connected that it really was. As a result we are enormously overconfident that we understand the future. Stock market chartists fail because they curve-fit the actual raw data and become convinced that the patterns are the data – the raw data without the curves looks quite random (and is largely so) but the added curves and other pen-strokes produce a summary that is analogous to a narrative (a selected subset of the information that can be comprehended) that makes the past look more predictable instead of random – unfortunately these poor chartists then infer that the future is also predictable rather than random . . . and have to wait until they have lost significant money before the remorse builds up enough to surpass the psychological bias. We not only make these predictions and believe them, which alone could be harmless, but unfortunately we go further and refine or optimise decisions when taking on action in anticipation of this understandable future. We hastily optimize because we want the best result given that we know what will mostly likely happen in the future. The problem with optimising is that it increases our fragility – we now perform perfectly if our expected future takes hold but perform worse than without the optimisation when the future turns out to be different. Here are some random examples of this over-optimising tendency:

1. Going for a long bush-walk and making a careful calculation to carry ‘just enough’ water to save weight and making the trip as easy as possible (the risk of having too much water is a vastly smaller risk than having not enough)

2. Raising debt when there is increased confidence of future capital growth (this will make you fragile exactly at the time when you require robustness because that growth probably doesn’t exist at this time – future asset growth can be the poorest exactly when one is, as everyone else around us, the most confident)

3. Believing in a particular technology (over-predicting its future importance or even just survival, this part okay on its own) and then (here’s the mistake) committing heavily to its use (over-optimising resources) making you far more fragile. If we were able to predict the future then the optimised technology would be the best choice however as we are unable to predict then the least optimised and most robust technology (that continues working regardless of how the future unfolds) is the best choice. The problem is that we think we can predict and thus tend towards over-optimisation.

4. Selling a kidney. A sophisticated banking analyst would, if applying their same methods outside of economics, further require us to have only one of each organ instead of two in order to be the most optimised for performance. We have redundant organs for good reason – evolution has learned (taught our genes) the hard way what to do in order to survive risk over millions of years factoring many more events than we are capable to model.

5. Using mathematical equations to calculate risks/rewards and then making an intricate financial decision – the more optimising the more our decision becomes fragile to the future not turning out the way you predicted (and the predictions are false much more often than we expect).

6. Favouring taking on insurance for more recently occurring catastrophes (narrative is more tightly held in memory so it appears to be more predictable and likely) in preference to catastrophes that have not occurred for a long time. There should however be little or no preference.

7. In some cases favouring taking on insurance for more specifically defined (stating positive elements) policies involving more narrative (making the event appear to be more predictable because of increased positive memory association) in preference to catastrophes that have more broadly defined policies with less specification. Of course the preference should be in the opposite direction – whichever policy is simply broadest is best. By seeking more optimisation (specialisation, reduction is scope) for a policy we end up with a less useful (less robust) policy.

Since we are overconfident about our view the future and tend to over-optimise (causing harm to ourselves), what is the solution? Firstly to understand that we do not know anything about the past (for reasons discussed at the opening) nor the future (overconfidence arises from biassed account of the past) – in other words, to understand that we don’t really know anything. When that is achieved then the second step is to create an environment around us that is robust to the variety of possible outcomes including unlikely ones that might lie ahead. The reverse of this is helpful to consider: The largest mistake that can be made is then to start by being confident about one particular version of the future (okay on its own) and then heavily optimise everything we do for maximum success under that version (unless you enjoy blowing up).

Picture your future skeleton

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

I never forget that in 90 years both you and I will be skeletons and there is nothing we can do about this. Picture yourself under the earth as a skeleton and the utter silence of your mind and end of your ability to perform any action. Unpleasant thought? Well it is sometimes strange to remember it, the un-escapability of it, but such a thought can change your sense of priorities a bit. Nothing is important in a concrete sense; we will all be forgotten (do you even remember your great grand-father and if not then who else do you imagine could remember?) but thinking more deeply you start to care less about being attached to things and more about your influence upon things – not necessarily history but your influence on something.

Perhaps we needn’t think about this, for even without thought there appears to me three great instincts – to survive, to breed and to pass on knowledge – that are encoded into almost every action we take; by applying induction these instincts together will ensure our great influence upon the world. But this might not be good enough for some contemplating whether their actions through life – their time to act – have been satisfactory. Firstly some of you have a force to have a much greater influence than upon just your offspring (and the mass of people eventually produced) – for your method of influence (e.g. adding significantly to knowledge) might move through thousands of families instead of only one and iterate through their offspring shaping a great mass. Secondly and probably more importantly for some it may not feel virtuous to have made, when the situation is viewed objectively, the great mass of humans merely larger without any particular long-lasting influence. If you add some blue jelly to a mass of blue jelly the object as a whole has not really changed while some food colouring will be more notable.

As you age the goals become more clear but the path becomes more narrow, so you try not to jump around and more clearly see what is really important. This is emphasised by having less time to accomplish what you want. By contrast when you are young you actually felt a lack of ability to jump from one thing to another because you have other restraints (must go to school, must get a job, e.t.c.) and only in hindsight one views the past with this enormous flexibility in which you can jump around.

Regardless of your current age, when you do become a skeleton you will not be able to act in any way. Okay, you cannot act and directly exercise your influence (for example right now you can give a flower to a friend) however you still have a chance to continue influencing the world. The solution and great opportunity lies in your ability to think critically (especially while conjuring an image your of skeleton) to adjust your priorities and actions so that this influence can continue to function when your time to act is over.

by Julian Cochran

Third Mazurka Revision

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

After working on Preludes No. 7 and No. 8 last night for a number of hours I started to play Mazurka No. 3 and instinctively went through the area that I considered weakest. This seems to happen – the most valuable ideas once committed to paper tend to disappear from my mind while anything unresolved cheekily returns until the problem is eliminated. Indeed it would be awful if the opposite occurred – the mind circling over what is already satisfactory and errors left for listeners to endure.

The harmony alternates through D minor and E major and the simplicity of this was part of the effect – and earlier attempts to add more colour to the harmony removed the necessary attention away from the disconnection between the left hand 6/8 phrasing and right hand 4/4 phrasing which was the main seed for that part of the music. However I was very pleased to last night chance upon a modulation to F major at the very end of the repetition, bar 95 – the modulation too early and the affect of the whole would be tainted, too late and the section would remain tiresome – how music is defined by balance.

I have written two other Mazurkas, a 4th and 5th, and will include them in a concert next year at Pilgrim Church Adelaide.

Originality

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

After giving a concert I was asked by someone “How do you make sure your music is original?”.

When being asked this question there’s an assumption that the work must be interesting as well as original. Place a mosquito in some toothpaste and sprinkle with pepper and you have something that no-one else has ever invented.

It is quite an interesting question particularly as it applies to any art form.

The short answers is to (1) to present a large number of problems and solving them and (2) applying great efforts.

To describe the second point I cannot think of any great work of art that was made lazily or without background knowledge accumulated with great effort. Effort must be exerted, if not while the creating the work then in the past leaving the artist to produce something that those not applying efforts could achieve. The very intricate work of art will, even without many ideas within it, embody the great power of the mankind’s will and this in itself will hold value.

For the first and more important point, ignore the idea of originally to begin with and think instead of making decisions within the art.

While creating their work the artist engages in a feedback mechanism of experimenting/improvising/interfering and  approving/rejecting decisions. By applying decisions more densely within the construction, the artist has a better chance of creating an original and interesting work. Without decisions being made, or without the art being based on problems solved earlier (which have become subconscious to the artist but likely still refreshing to the audience) the art will struggle to hold much value over many years.

If you write about two balls bouncing around on a pool table there are relatively few degrees of freedom. In writing a fictional story (your work of art) about the region around your house you and including your own experiences you are introducing an enormous number of degrees of freedom. Each person on the planet will have a relative unique story.

One needs to add constraints and problems to solve within the work in order to be forced to make decisions. Provided that these decisions are refined then the art will automatically contain an aesthetic. It is the decisions made within the work themselves that are the art and outside of observing these decisions the art has no meaning nor purpose.

The artist who attempts to represent the thoughts of the society around him, to presume that he can understand the varied sense of good taste of the population around him, I imagine will struggle to produce great art. The short tunnel between the observer and the artist’s mind is distorted when the artist creates extra tunnels into the minds of his surrounding population. Empathy is our ability to mirror the feelings of another person. Empathy works best when subject A (audience) observes subject B (artist) directly or (almost as good) B’s most sincere work of art. If subject B tries to represent their empathy to subject C, D, and E, then subject A might find it more difficult to empathise when observing subject B’s work.

For the artist concerned about their work being original, the answer lies primarily in presenting problems within the work and solving them. Secondarily, ensuring that the solutions appeal to themselves and not to another people. Some of the ideas will hopefully be difficult to solve and will generally involve much time. After solving all of these problems the work is automatically original. A work of art is not an object or a sound but a collection of ideas. When this can be understood the artist can create more freely without concern for the originality of their work.