music

Seeing Kate Bush

On the morning of March 21, I looked at my email and saw a message from katebush.com with the title “Pre-Sale Code”. That’s weird, I thought, an obsessed fangirl like myself would know if Kate Bush had a new record coming out, and I haven’t heard anything. What could possibly be going on sale? So I opened the message – and I screamed.

Kate Bush was going to play live.

To understand why this was such momentous news, you need to know that (more…)

The Problem of Too Much Talent

This week I needed some distraction from things that are keeping me busier than usual, so I was very happy when this CD arrived in the mail.

Jellyfish are a hugely underappreciated band, and Stack-A-Tracks – the instruments-only backing tracks from the songs on the band’s two albums – just reinforces how magical it was when Jason Falkner, Andy Sturmer, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Chris Manning worked together. Some fans argue that what sunk Jellyfish’s career was the onslaught of grunge music in the early 1990s. Clearly grunge wasn’t the place for four guys dressed in 1960s psychedelic gear and playing melodic power pop – but I’d argue that what ultimately doomed the band was that it contained too much talent. (more…)

Dismantling the Creative Routine

Around this time last year,  Thomas Frank put forward some very pointed and accurate criticisms of the popular literature about creativity – namely, that these books and articles discussed the same examples over and over again – and wondered how much this literature could really enlighten us about creativity when it was so un-creative itself.

Now an article in Pacific Standard magazine has similarly critical things to say about another frequently discussed aspect of creativity – the “creative routine”. This, we are told, (more…)

On Commencement, and Moving Forward

In my work, it’s the time of year on campus when things are gearing up for graduation – and a big part of that process at a lot of universities and colleges is choosing a commencement speaker  for the graduation ceremony. I’ve sat through these ceremonies as a graduating student and as a faculty member, and I have some painful memories of very tedious, long-winded speakers who spouted cliche after cliche. But I’ve also been privileged to hear great speakers like author Antonine Maillet; at the ceremony where I received my MBA, she gave a beautiful address that was like being told an enchanting tale about the power and magic of books.

Stephen Colbert isn’t graduating from university this year, but, (more…)

Behind the Music (and Other Stuff): Creating a Skating Program

During the 2014 Winter Olympics, a lot more people than usual will be interested in figure skating. As an adult skater, I appreciate any attention that my sport gets –  but I also realize that occasional watchers don’t always know how much has to happen off the ice for skaters to look so good on the ice. So I thought I’d give some insight, from my own experiences, into how a competitive skating program is created. (more…)

A Great Introduction to Skating Choreography

Anyone who wants to learn about choreography for competitive skating programs  should take a look at this excellent video, put together by American Ice Theatre. It uses examples from programs at the recent US national championships to demonstrate what a well-choreographed program includes, and what the judges are likely to be looking at in the choreography when they score a program. Thanks, AIT!

Stephen Colbert on Finding Joy in Your Work

The best five minutes of television in 2013 happened on August 7, when The Colbert Report aired a video of Stephen Colbert and “friends” dancing to Daft Punk’s song Get Lucky. Daft Punk had originally been scheduled to appear on the show in person – but they were also booked for the MTV Video Music Awards a few days later, and because of that MTV insisted that they not appear on Colbert’s show. So when Daft Punk cancelled, the video was quickly created to fill the sudden gap in the show’s schedule.

Because the video clearly involved considerable planning and effort, there was some skepticism after the broadcast about whether Colbert had actually made the video a few days earlier and then made up the cancellation story to get more attention for the video. In this podcast, hosted by comedian Paul Mecurio, Colbert gives a very thorough explanation of how the video came to be – which, as it turns out, is a rather complex story, involving what Daft Punk was and wasn’t willing to do, clashing corporate interests, and a lot of quick changes of strategy.

What struck me most about this interview (more…)

Cultural Products and Creativity: The “TMZ” Video and the Lego Librarians

Earlier this week I spent an afternoon reading trashy celebrity gossip magazines (give me a break, it’s summer). I learned way, way more than I ever needed to know about the antics of the Teen Moms, the possibly jail-bound Real Housewife, the sexting politician, and the Kardashians – and all that useless information about people I don’t even know made me think of one of my recent favourite music videos: (more…)

Randall Sullivan’s “Untouchable”: The Business of Music and the Art of Using Sources

Randall Sullivan’s Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson was released in November of last year. It’s an epic piece of work – 776 pages long, including nearly 175 pages of references – and it got some less-than-positive reviews, including the New York Times, which called it “dreary”, “bloated”, and “thoroughly dispensable”. I just finished reading it, and I think it deserves much more credit than that, because it’s a remarkable work on several levels. Sullivan has constructed an extremely complex narrative that is more than a biography – it’s also a very sobering look at how the music business operates. And it’s an excellent case study in how writers can manage challenging or difficult source material.

I get the sense that (more…)