Note Level Editing: Part 3: Discovery

Day 164 Week 25 Q2 Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Here, we expand beyond rescues, corrections, and conventional sound combinations into instrument sound design. I do not believe that ever before, there existed the equivalent of a spectral and formant modification tool within at the most musical context of all, actual music. To be able to alter and combine the combination of reharmonization and orchestration with instrument design, tempo, and pitch manipulation is incredible. The ultimate composer multi-instrumentalist laboratory.    

Yes, I have not tried this yet either, but as a musical acoustician, musician, composer, and digital signal processing electrical engineer who has been involved with these types of technologies for fifty years, I am completely confident these will work. Now, making available a sufficient amount of time to pull it all together is another story. But this final key component does make it much more worthwhile to try.

The combination of rescue, expiration, and discovery does indeed create a much more substantial bridge to cross between math and music than MIDI was able to for the simple reason that playing a MIDI controller is so much less inspiring than a fine acoustical musical instrument where the formant regions, resonances, and sympathetic vibrations can guide a sensitive listener forward in their real-time compositional process – also called improvising. 

Make no mistake about it: most of the great composers who were all pianists (which is most of them) must have been great improvisers as well. The stream of conscious creativity, uninterrupted by having to switch modes from artist-creator to engineer-technician, is potentially life-changing for me.

Just because a person has a lot fo skills embedded within multiple modes of operation does not mean there is no penalty for gear-switching between these roles. I have been able to switch modes between performer and composer without losing the artistic creative thread. But when I try to be a musician and a recording engineer, inevitably, the stream-of-consciousness music flow is broken. This is why musicians go into studios to have recording engineers record them; even if they have the skill set, we can not transcend the mindset switching. 

Yes, you can be a musician and an engineer, just not so well at the same time. The outcome suffers both technically and artistically but especially emotionally, which interferes more with the art side of things.  Is being a recording engineer or a sound designer also a creative artistic process? Of course, they are, but they are a different creative process than those of composing in real-time, aka improvising.  

I know many people who have tried to be both at the same time and come away dissatisfied – it is not just me. To my mind and ear, the best exemplar of a tool in this category by a long shot is called Melodyne Studio and is made by a company called Ceremony.

Note Level Editing Part 2: Exploration

Day 163 Week 25 Q2 Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Another holy grail reason to be excited about Note Level Editing, which goes beyond the repair and rescue mentioned yesterday, is understanding and discovery. When we are improvising and coming up with something great or even terrible, it does raise the question of what is happening. Yes, you can record, and you can listen to the recording and figure it out. But imagine if you had software that could perform an analysis of that recording and instantly tell you the tempo, time signature, and key signature. That is not such a big deal. Every musician can do this.

On the other hand, what if the software could also tell you all of the specific notes being played in a chord played on a piano or guitar, their pitch, duration, loudness, and how well these fit into a key as well as providing various ways to correct, improve or repair errant notes.

Can you do this without software? Absolutely, and with training and practice, you can get faster and faster at it. But with the current state of computers and software, it can be done 100 times faster, and this can be the difference between being too frustrated to do it and being very enthusiastic about doing it. We all know how much more likely we are to spend money being excited and then bored.

Yes, you could say the person who needs software does not have the right stuff as compared to a dedicated musician. But what if that impotent person was also 100 times more creative than the 100 times more patient person? It is no secret that creative outliers who become innovators are also often lazy. That is not to say we do not want to work hard; it is to say that we want to run, not crawl.

Of course, we all need patience and to pursue diminishing returns to get excellent at anything. I am not advocating avoiding work. I am advocating moving so quickly that you can take advantage of the power of your unconscious mind, which tends to shut down when kicked out of flow and into tedium. The goal is to keep emotionally engaged, and that generally requires emotional relevancy. 

It is wonderful to have a potential combination of a musical microscope and compositional laboratory where different orchestrations, harmonizations, and durations can be combined and integrated. I have not yet used it in this manner, as it has not yet risen to the top of the list, but I do have high hopes for the potential and am confident that this will work.

Note Level Editing Part 1: Rescue

Day 162 Week 25 Q2 Monday, June 10, 2024

For me, as a real-time composer, aka improviser,  Note Level Editing is a holy grail. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but for me, my highest level of work occurs when I am in a state of flow. And when I am in a state of flow, I am much less aware of the passage of time. That is to say, I am unconscious of the passage of time. More specifically, whether I am creating in the domains of music, words, or both, I find I generate much more compelling output when it flows quickly and intuitively without my logical, more linear mind getting in the way.

Most musicians play the same pieces of music over and over again, and most listeners prefer them to do this. There is a lot less risk for everyone involved to be predefined, but I personally have zero interest in perfecting the past or being a cover band, no matter how wonderfully someone else created and played a piece before I did. This may simply be my flaw in that I am an involuntary innovator with a strong need to change things up whenever I can.

For me, having a conversation with someone where I know everything they are going to say, and they know everything I am going to say, is not very exciting, and therefore my attention drifts. It takes some measure of unknowability to keep me fully engaged.

This is why I play at a higher level when I am improvising in a live performance, and I am pretty unexcited about going into a recording studio trying to play the same exact thing multiple times until it is perfect enough. Or even worse, playing something very many times and then having someone splice together the best parts of each pass to make a perfect result, but not really a playable result. That feels like cheating, even though many people do it. I do think people should release music they can actually play, even though that hopelessly dates me as old school.

What if I could play (improvise) a couple of thousand notes and really capture an excellent inspired expressive feeling but hit a few bad notes during this process? Or what if an orchestra was recorded for a movie soundtrack, and someone made a mistake that was not noticed until everyone went home? In either case, it is going to be difficult, impossible, or simply not worth it to redo the recording.

There is now software that can deal with polyphonic multitrack recordings to such a degree that a single note in the mix can be deleted or repaired. This is called Note Level Editing, and it should permit me to rescue recordings that are almost perfect but marred by two or three errors. Ordinarily, one error out of a thousand should not be such a problem, but in music, it certainly can be.

This is just one reason Note Level Editing is a holy grail.

Get Up and Show Up

Day 161 Week 24 Q2 Sunday, June 9, 2024

I read a variant of this in a Fire Department publication this morning, and the infinite number of variants that simultaneously came flooding in hit the spot for me. Many qualifying or expanding phrases can be prepended, inserted, or appended to it, but this is the most minimal one that works for me. It goes without saying that without showing up, not much good will ever happen. What does need to be said regarding the GetUp part is you are going to have to be down before you get up, and whether you take this to mean depressed or asleep is your choice, for they both work.

I am choosing to take it both ways that I can not get up in the morning unless I go to sleep the night before, and if I want to get up with any energy, then I had better go to sleep at a reasonable time, and that sometimes, even most times, you have to get down before you get up.

Another aspect of this simple observation relates to a somewhat parallel observation: tension and release are engaging. This is especially true in music, but can it also be true conversationally or in writing? And how much tension is the right amount before the release? There are large difference cultural differences between that one, which I discovered being a native New Yorker when far afield from that city.

Probably, being continuously exposed to almost unceasing stimulation shifts one’s thresholds of stress acceptability, which is why the popular song says If You Can Make It There, You Can Make It Anywhere.

What do all of these phrases have to do with being a Creative Outlier?  They are all amplified and magnified because the nature of our outlier-ness effectively places us in a culture of our own, with its ways of dealing with being up and down and stressed and resolved. We can get more down and more up and more stressed and more relieved than the norm. This just comes with the territory. 

But one phrase will always ring true: Get Up and Show Up. That means you need to not only create something but also deploy it. Unlistened to music, unseen artwork, and unexpressed feelings, when too accumulated, can become toxic or, at a minimum, just slow you down. And when this happens, you have to Get Up and Show Up.

Creative Outlier Scaping

Day 160 Week 23 Q2 Saturday, June 8, 2024

Creative outliers are individuals who stand apart from the norm, pushing boundaries and redefining what’s possible. We do things that most people do not do. This is part of the definition of a creative outlier. The behaviors and rewards that satisfy the more middle-of-the-bell-curve folks do not adequately motivate creative outliers. 

Now let’s take a look at scaping, the act of harvesting scapes when garlic is growing to permit more energy to go into the development of the garlic bulb, which is the set of bound-together cloves. The word “scape” traces back to the Greek “skapos,” signifying stem, shaft, or stalk. In “Landscape” it metaphorically frames the land as a view. “Escape,” derived from the Latin “ex-captura,” means breaking free from confinement—much like a garlic scape emerging from its plant.

Beyond the garden, “scaping” symbolizes unbridled growth. College years become “scaping years,” artists experiment wildly, and entrepreneurs try countless ideas. It’s the initial flowering of human potential, akin to garlic scapes preceding bulb development.

In the metaphorical fields of life, we encounter the wild and unruly phenomenon known as **scaping**. It’s that phase we all experience—the one where we shoot out in every direction, tangling ourselves in knots as we explore, experiment, and seek our purpose. Creative outliers in some ways, continue to maintain our adolescence—a time of rapid growth, exploration, and creative chaos. Just like garlic scapes shooting up, adolescents burst forth, seeking their unique paths. Creative outliers do not stop seeking their unique paths.

Ordinarily, post-college, we escape around—job-hopping, dating artists and accountants alike. Late-night conversations about purpose mix with questionable choices akin to a garlic scape’s rebellious twist. Empty nesters and mid-lifers embark on fresh adventures. They take up zany hobbies, reinvent careers, or hit the open road in a camper van. Their scapes reach new heights.

Even in our golden years, we remain enthusiastic scapers. We can write poetry, wear original outfits, and nurture sourdough starters. Our creativity continues to bloom like late-season garlic scapes. We continue bursting forth, putting out late-in-life scapes, embracing our inner garlic scape. Life’s too short not to explore, create, and grow! 

Some creative outliers permanently live in a state of scaping where we need to trim off some new growth, in order to focus on the main events, the equivalent of the garlic bulb, which after all is a set of connected cloves where most of the flavor lies.

Structured Guided Stress

Friday, June 7, 2024, at 10:45:17 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Stress is not always a bad thing. It can sometimes be used as a tool to help us address things. We can use our stress to guide us forward. Too much stress can really drag you down, but the right amount of stress, applied in the right way for the right reasons, can stimulate growth.

Sometimes, when life feels like it is well under control, it might be worthwhile to add a little bit of constructive stress. You can structure it so that it is controlled and not overwhelming. For some people, a blank page is very upsetting, and for others, it is an invitation to write. In one case, the blank page might be stress-inducing, and in the other, not at all. Much of this depends on context. 

Many things are stress-inducing, which, once you have done a large number of times, are no longer stressful or do not necessarily need to continue to be stressful. For example, I have a television program on a local cable station, and the first time I was on camera, I was very nervous and not quite sure what to do with myself. I did not know whether to stand or sit or walk around or where to put my hands. But now that I have done this four times, it is a lot easier. I deliberately subjected myself to structured, guided stress in order to overcome it.

On the other hand, there are still many situations where I experience stage fright, but it is somewhat context and activity-dependent. For example, I can give a talk to 1000 people with no concern at all, but getting up and singing in front of six people still makes me nervous. Rather than run away from this, I assume that if I do it many more times, I will eventually be comfortable. This is an example of some structured, guided stress.

One very efficient way to benefit from stress is to habituate addressing it by performing the behavior that makes you nervous. Many people assume that stress is a killer, and yes, it can be, but it can also be developmental and lift you to a higher level of capability. If you were a person who is afraid to swim and forced yourself to go swimming several days a week for a few months, there’s a good chance that you would lose that fear.

You might want to build into your schedule some deliberate stressors that you believe you can overcome over time and then make it your business to do just that. The real issue here is whether or not you believe that stress can be deleterious to your health or you believe that it can be constructive, and just like dirt irritating a clam can create a pearl, you can deliberately stress yourself and push yourself into developmental situations.

The impact of stress is essentially a function of what you believe.

AI: The Mischievous Maestro of Change

Day 158 Week 23 Q2 Thursday, June 6, 2024

Innovators often get the nickname “change agents” because we’re out to shake things up. It’s not that we love causing chaos (well, maybe a little), but we just can’t stand the status quo. As we’ve discussed, AI has been around for a while and has recently become quite the rabble-rouser, stirring up stress left and right.

But why is everyone so freaked out? And did you know that the right kind of stress can actually be good for you? How we think about stress can make it our friend or foe. Check out this study: Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response.

In the last 50 years, tech innovations have been on a caffeine-fueled sprint, leaving many of us panting to keep up. One innovation sparks another, and suddenly, we’re in a sci-fi movie. AI, in particular, is a superstar in this relay race. If you’re more jazzed than jittery about change, AI-induced stress can actually be your secret weapon.

AI, as a change provocateur, can crank up productivity by taking over the boring stuff, like managing emails, scheduling meetings, and crunching data. This gives us humans more time for the fun, brainy stuff. In the arts, AI can be a creative buddy, suggesting cool new ideas or remixing old ones. It’s like having a robot muse!

AI is also stepping into mental health, with chatbots offering virtual therapy sessions and mood tracking. Fitness apps powered by AI can create custom workout plans, and financial apps can help manage your money, reducing those panic attacks about your bank balance.

AI can personalize just about everything, from healthcare to education to entertainment. Customized learning platforms, tailored treatment plans, you name it. AI makes sure it’s all about you.

Stress, believe it or not, can push us to be better. Think back to your best teachers – they probably didn’t let you slack off. Your best friends and partners? They probably called you out when you were being an idiot.

Handling stress can lead to big wins in life. Beating stressful challenges can boost your confidence and make you feel like a champ.

We’ve been through this rodeo before with smartphones, social media, and privacy issues. Those of us who roll with the punches are doing just fine. What surprised me was learning that how we think about stress decides if it’s our downfall or our booster rocket. This goes beyond tech stress and into all life’s stressors – like finishing degrees, starting new jobs, or moving.

AI is here to stay, zooming in faster than we might like, and it’s definitely making us sweat. But both stress and AI can be the kick in the pants we need for growth. By embracing stress and AI constructively, we can boost our productivity, creativity, resilience, and overall well-being. Sure, AI brings concerns about job security, privacy, and ethics. The trick is to balance and manage AI’s stress while milking its benefits for all they’re worth.

Update and Integrate

Day 157 Week 23 Q2 Wednesday, June 5, 2024

In life, updating and integrating are like the steps of a dance. Each move, each decision, echoes the rhythm of our existence, merging the past and present in a blend of actions. Updating means refreshing and renewing our internal systems with new experiences and insights. Integration is blending these elements to create a unified whole from the varied parts of our lives.

Think of life as a grand orchestra, with each instrument representing a part of us. The strings might express emotions, the brass might shout out ambitions, and the percussion might keep the beat of our daily routines. Updating is tuning these instruments so each note is clear and purposeful. Integrating is conducting these sounds into a harmonious symphony, crafting a melody that rises above life’s noise.

Remembering is the prelude to this musical metaphor. It’s the pause before the first note, recalling the tunes of our past, the rhythms that have guided us, and the harmonies that have enriched us. This reflection helps us see which notes need adjustment and which chords need resolution.

As we move through life’s rhythms and melodies, we remember that life is a dynamic score, constantly evolving. Trusting that we know what to do can be both empowering and daunting, suggesting an inner conductor who knows when to cue the strings of compassion or the drums of determination.

Choice awareness is the peak of this symphony, where decisions are made with intention. Embracing life’s dissonances adds to the richness of the piece. To remember, update, and act now is to play the present with conviction. To remember, integrate, scan, and act is to prepare for transitions ahead.

Combining RUEN (Remember, Update, Execute Now) and RISE (Remember, Integrate, Scan, Execute) creates a theme of progress, reflecting life’s musicality and guiding us through its unpredictable moments.

A musical score, like a life journey, tells a story. It can reflect on the past or project hope into the future. The time for action is always now, though sometimes it takes an external push to make needed changes.

Setting clear goals and breaking them into monthly milestones is like dividing a musical piece into movements, each contributing to the grand finale. This approach allows for regular reflection and adjustment, keeping life’s performance in tune with our goals and values.

In conclusion, updating and integrating are key to composing the ongoing masterpiece of our lives. This process requires awareness, intention, and adaptability. As we remember, update, integrate, and act, we become the conductors of our destiny, creating a symphony that resonates with the beauty of our experiences.

Kayak Startups: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Waters

Day 156 Week 23 Q2 Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Have you ever pondered the parallels between launching a startup and paddling a kayak? Both are endeavors that necessitate a readiness to metaphorically ‘get wet.’ Kayaks, ranging from 6 to 24 feet, symbolize the diversity in businesses’ scale and complexity. Regardless of size, each journey is laced with risk and uncertainty.

If your preference is a zero-risk environment, you might opt for the role of a passenger or an employee. Conversely, there’s a certain thrill in capsizing in benign waters—where the depth is manageable, the currents gentle, and devoid of jagged rocks or lurking predators. This analogy extends to the corporate world, where large companies often acquire smaller ones to dilute their exposure to risk.

Now, if you’re at ease in the vast ocean aboard a kayak—even a sizable one—you might not find the same satisfaction as a passenger on a colossal ocean liner. Yet, practicality sometimes dictates our choices; traversing great distances or fulfilling personal obligations like supporting a family, paying off a mortgage, or purchasing a car may necessitate the security of a larger entity.

For those with a founder’s mindset, the allure of entrepreneurship is undeniable. Such individuals may not relish the idea of being mere passengers or employees. While practical reasons might compel them to assume such roles temporarily, it’s unlikely to stir their hearts or elevate their spirits. Age, too, plays a role in shaping these entrepreneurial appetites, requirements, and tendencies. We all have different strokes, and our internal compass may guide us to alternate between being a paddler and a passenger, depending on the situation.

Imposing a life of predictability on someone who thrives in the realm of the unknown is a recipe for discontent. The aspiration to be a pilot doesn’t inherently bestow the ability to fly. While learning to fly is an investment of time and resources, starting a company doesn’t come with the same prerequisites. Pilots need licenses; founders don’t need MBAs.

This brings us to the question of formal qualifications. Do musicians require degrees in music? Must kayakers be certified? Are trained psychologists better equipped to navigate their lives? The necessity of credentials is contingent on whether you’re willing to embrace the metaphorical ‘wetness’ of your field. Credentials can be beneficial, but they’re of little consequence when you’re charting a course through uncharted territories, where no degrees or certifications exist.

Some of us are innately inclined to be trailblazers, preferring to forge our own paths and establish our ventures. This orientation isn’t merely a choice; it’s an intrinsic part of our being. We enter the world ready to face the unpredictable, remain immersed in it, and are ever-prepared to capsize and right ourselves as we navigate the waters of life.

Calibrate Always

Day 155 Week 23 Q2 Monday, June 3, 2024

Sometimes, when we experiment and explore a new creative idea, it doesn’t work. And if we do that before getting calibrated in the morning and ready for life, it can set us off on the wrong path for the day. This does not mean that we have to be inflexible and always calibrate first, although it could be a good idea. If you were a pilot and decide to skip the checklist and start flying first, this can be disastrous. on the other hand, launching into the day is more like getting into the plane and flying, and just because you did some experiments that did not work before you got calibrated does not mean you intend to launch into the day uncalibrated.

So remember, just because you get bummed out that an experiment did not work that you have the tools to get calibrated before you leave the house and enter into the day. This is just a reminder that you should always calibrate and always check the list before flying. But it doesn’t mean that if you have a picnic lunch before you fly, you are going to leave into the air without checking the checklist first. Do your experiments and take on your tangents; after all, you are a creative outlier, and this is what we do.

As an involuntary innovator, I can assure you that much of what I do was not what I was planning to do, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. This is why it is critical to have the ability to reset yourself or recalibrate before launching for the rest of the day. Now the question can be asked: what if you had gotten calibrated first? Would the likelihood of the morning experiment succeeding be higher? Possibly, it would, but we all have to permit enough degrees of freedom in our lives to not do everything in the same order every day.

Just remember that when you are doing experiments, there is no such thing as failure, as you are learning something. However, it might make sense to avoid experimenting when you are trying to get a specific and timely outcome. I am unsure about this because very actively doing an experiment and failing as the first thing you do in the day and then recovering from it is not a bad way to start the day. This may be a rationalization or may be true, or maybe both.

In either case, it just supports the notion of always calibrating, whether it is the first thing or the second or third thing. It does not make sense to make it the last thing you do, though because your day will not likely have gone very well.

It sure feels great to have the tools, though, to be able to rescue yourself, so use them. After all, you invented them for a purpose, not to keep them on the shelf as a backup plan. Use your backup plan and make sure that you are comfortable playing it even when you don’t feel great. That is the entire purpose of having a life preserver because you know that you might capsize. You may not intend to capsize, but if it is not the worst thing in the world, unless, of course, you have a gigantic ship, creative outliers rarely captain.

This is why I like small boats like kayaks because you can capsize without much penalty.

By the way, this is why a kayak is like a start-up.  More on that at a different time, perhaps tomorrow.