I spent the beginning of the year planning to write a small blog post every day. Well, at least every weekday. I had a backlog of blog ideas, and I posted one every day. Trying to channel my inner Seth Godin. And then I got to January 29.
What happened on January 29 was that I had a grant application due on February 1, and I desperately needed to finish it, having never written a grant application before. So the 29th of January came and went with no post.
And then January 30.
And January 31
And the weekend of February 1st and 2nd.
And so on.
I did post on February 5 about booking travel, written more for my music entrepreneurship than for anyone else, but since then: crickets.
I attribute all of this to inertia: we do the things we’ve been doing. Despite a month of writing short posts, it took one day to derail, because I’ve not been writing a blog for far longer than I have been.
I could connect this to my students, and how they practice.
Or I could look at my own composing.
I took a break during spring break to make sure I could get all my classes online. And that break, combined with several of the projects I mentioned earlier being put on the back burner, my output the past couple of weeks has been slim, and the only thing that has kept me from transitioning from “composer” to “guy who checks his email” has been that the first three hours of my day, every day, are cordoned off as Dedicated Creative Time. Scheduling inertia.
Thinking about my own inertia, paired with teaching fully online for the rest of the semester, has led me to think about the inertia in our music curriculum: What sorts of things are we doing because we’ve always done them that way? Music doesn’t change quickly, but the technology with which we can teach does.
There’s a semi-rant in here about the number of schools wanting to something Eric-Whitacre’s-virtual-choir based, despite the fact that the idea itself is a decade old. A more useful question is “what can I do to escape inertia in how I teach composition in North Dakota and promote new music.”
That’s a separate blog post, which by this rate, I’ll post around July.
All throughout my college career and the beginning of my teaching career, I never had a good system for keeping track of research–after all, my experience was in composing instead of research.
Within the past couple of years, I’ve finally figured out a system that works for me: Index cards.
As I read through books, I mark particularly interesting passages by earmarking pages and margin notes. Getting over the idea of writing in books took a while. When finished, I copy the passages onto index cards, note the author/title/page number, and give the card a sequential number.
I’ve scanned in the first hundred, mostly dealing with creative research, and they’re available at: https://ip.vanderburg.io/files/document/F7D4AAFB-6A53-4102-BF27-70392AFEBDAE/
In the mid 1920s,
nearly a century ago, Graham Wallis proposed his model of the creative process
in a book called The Art of Thought. The four-stage model borrows from earlier
work and thoughts by Herman von Helmholtz and Henri Poincare, and consists of Preparation,
Incubation, Illumination, and Verification.
Preparation is the
realization of a problem that needs to be solved, Incubation is a subconscious
working out of the problem, Illumination is the conscious work on the problem,
and Verification is checking to make sure that the end result matches the preparation.
It’s a compelling
model, and it seems to have aged well over the past ten decades.
And I think it’s
wrong. Well, maybe not wrong. Incomplete.
I think there are several problems with the Wallis model, but the first issue and the one most important to artists is the lack of aesthetic judgment. The model addresses what is right or what is wrong, but not what is good, or what is quality.
To be continued…