Sunday, March 6, 2011

Facing our book

Last night I watched the film “The Social Network”, and perhaps you’ve seen it too. The acting, the pace of the piece, the story, the way it unfolded, and the soundtrack made me feel something. The opening notes of the instrumental theme, electronic, six simple notes evoked a contemplative mood within me, a simple invitation to friend.

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thinking, the way we say things, the methods, how we use language, notes, materials, while staying curious,succinct,6 notes

This morning, I awoke to bright sunlight and thought about the film between that sleep and awake fuzzy time. It occurred to me that we’re not sure what this social network is right now. It was a line repeated in the film a few times by the lead character. The application, built using a language of code, on top of existing code had me thinking about language, words, how we speak, write, sing, produce waves of sound, phrases, stanzas of poetry, shades of color, shapes, textures, cook with flavors and aromas, even write editorial pieces, in certain ways to invoke or perhaps provoke.

This probably isn’t new to you at all. You have your own way of saying things, a music in your everyday speaking voice. You have perspectives behind your words, a certain brush you really enjoy using to paint, an innate routine, forthright intentions, and a personality that’s unique to you. We have this means of communication at our disposal, with various gateways to pallets with one’s and zero’s, whereby we can compose, even music. My musical artist friends sometimes discuss this, asking the question, “is the computer a musical instrument?”. A portion of the musical community thought the answer is yes, recently, when they recognized this film’s soundtrack, a lush symphony of digital instrumentation.

Like all languages, we have this software-instrumented one, one we use freely, with a new dexterity using pads, keys, touches here and there on a screen, voice-activated. And like all languages, tone matters. Tone creates that thing we call feeling. Tone, the nuance of crafting with care (or not), is how we humans intervene, how we mix the pallet like a painter, the way we apply paint, and select strings of words to make something. Like talented actors, we often forget our lines in order to soar on the stage and abandon ourselves to the character, in this case, us.

So, maybe it’s better not to think about all of this, as it’s better not to look-down before skydiving. I can’t help thinking about this right now. I think we’re not sure what this is, and that absence of surety somehow feels right in a world where people encourage us to be sure of ourselves. I think the surety, the confidence, the true human juice of creativity comes with a recognition of curiosity, not naïveté, a confession in the mirror that we just don’t know, that there’s so much to know, unknown linear feet of books to face and read, places to go, people to see. We just have no idea, but we have plenty of them.

And we have our unique tones, our unique way of orchestrating. We have the chance to practice individually, and play with an orchestra. We’re going to hear harmony, layers of the familiar and similar, and we’re sure to grimace at the cacophony too, when things just don’t sound quite right. Jazz musicians do that when they veer off the thematic highway, bend the melody, change key, to go somewhere, take us there, jolt us a bit, and throw us off to throw us on.

Throw caution to the wind, while using care to be aware that how we phrase has a way of creating a tone. Tone seeps into language, colors it.


thinking, the way we say things, the methods, how we use language, notes, materials, while staying curious,succinct,6 notes

Pictured ”Face” computer drawing from Jip’s page (1997)

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