I’m not a scientist

I am trying to write carefully about myself. Carefully enough to help with self-understanding. My last post was about my lack of pursuit of music. This is about my relationship to science.

The scientific method was taught to me at about 10 years of age. It was a chemistry class. Throughout school, science and the scientific method was only for rooms filled with bunsen burners, test tubes and chemical compounds. I found it interesting to an extent, but I never learned that I could use the scientific method and principles that surround it in my real life. Instead I learned what was required for passing the exam.

Nearly thirty years later I am learning that this is something of a tragedy. I am not a scientist, and I do not practice the scientific method for anything. Ever. However I can now see how powerful this method is. More than anything I see that the scientific method is about failure. Failure is not celebrated in the traditional schooling system.

The most scientific people I have met are also the busiest. They are the most consistent. They are the most fearless. They achieve the most only as a bi-product of their approach to life. They are the most satisfied and driven. They are not the most accurate. True science is messy and constantly searching for feedback on which to improve the venture. It is constantly failing and moving and trying again.

So I am not a scientist, but I am trying to become messier and less afraid of failure. That applies to this blog as much as anything.

Drum kit musings

I have a digital/electric drum kit sitting next to me. It’s in a sorry state with cables unplugged, the drum chair at the other end of the room and not a drum stick in sight. In an office filled with music memorabilia, colourful pictures and record collections, the drum kit is a sort of physical reminder of a part of my life that is dead, wasted, shrivelled, kaput.

I no longer play live music. I no longer play the drums. I used to fucking love playing in bands, and now i don’t. So the next question is – Why??!

The easy answer is: if I knew why, then I wouldn’t be in this predicament! But I am in this shrivelled, pathetic predicament and so i must explore the genesis. A couple of points…..to make my point….pointedly:

Most recently – Having four kids in 5 years leaves little time for hobbies or passion projects. Even the most juicy passion will shrivel like a dead carrot under this pressure for time and attention……..However, I stopped playing the drums well before I had children. The last band I regularly played in was about…..14 years ago!!!! Therefore my kids are off the hook…dammit. What else do I have?

Traveling. I moved around a lot in the last 14 years. From Kenya to Australia to Johannesburg – back to Australia and now Cape Town for the last 6 years. This is a huge one – the most successful bands i have played in have involved friendships more than anything else. Friends getting together with music as the common interest and focal point. It feels like i haven’t been anywhere long enough to form the appropriate friendships. This is another way of saying I am bloody lazy socially. I have little excuse. I need to start somewhere. I can do this with work, with fitness, and with my household relationships – so I must do the same with friendships and music.

As with anything important – success comes from developing streaks. Pitching up time after time to play some music is the best way to play some music.

Sounds ridiculous but it’s not.

In a small way I think I also need to get an acoustic drum kit again. This electronic Kit was a gift from my wife and if i am honest I never quite took to it. I need to make some more noise.

Happy Wednesday all.

What will you want when you’re old?

If you are a human, you are going to get old one day. That in itself is a reason to look around at how the elderly live. How are they treated? What would you want to have around you if you were that elderly person?

When I do this sort of observation, besides access to social interaction and family caring for me, I would like three things to be in good order when I am old: I want technology to assist my life, I want enough money to get through the months, and I want easy enough access to medicine and healthcare for my ageing body and mind.

These three things are not the answer, but I am sure they can help someone to enjoy their later years. There is enough of a need and supply of all three to start a service and make a change for the good.

Swimming toddlers

I just saw my second eldest child swim a width of the swimming pool for the first time. Being able to swim is so important for so many reasons.

That single width opens up possibility for exercise, survival, health, holiday, piece of mind, play and more.

There is no down side to being able to swim. Sometimes I take it for granted.

Discovery

As a boy, I used to have music played for me by my parents. Taste makers and influencers, my folks showed me variety and quality of music for which I am grateful. My dad worked for music companies so our collection of LPs and CDs was huge at home.

Then came adolescence and the urge to fit in and stand out in equal measure. I embraced playing drums, Aerosmith and metal music. My fellow band members at school were the biggest influencers at this stage. We shared CDs and listened to obscure radio stations.

The internet. At school in the late 90s our guitarist was very good with computers and the web. He must have been one of the earliest adopters of Napster. I used to watch him downloading catalogues with a mix of awe and disgust. This wasnt the way it was supposed to happen, was it? Little did I know.

Around about this time I also became hooked on music magazines like Q and Kerrang! As I headed off to university, These told me what to listen to along with Rolling Stone magazine.

Lately of course my discovery of music relies on an algorithm from Apple or Spotify. Sometimes this is a magical process. Serendipitous discovery of a favourite new tune. A sweet moment of bliss from an Apple music Radio station.

I am trying to influence the discovery algorithm actively, channeling the recommendations into my own playlist. I do miss sharing CDs sometimes.

Syncing to Apple music

I have now made my chimpwithcans playlist available on Apple music as well as Spotify.

See the following link: https://music.apple.com/za/playlist/chimpwithcans/pl.u-r2yBBvqC3Exe1

This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.

Happy Thursday chimps!

Limits on Spotify

There used to be a 10,000 song limit for liking songs on Spotify. As of May this year this is no longer the case.

This is good news for my chimpwithcans playlist project. It means I can influence the Spotify algorithm and like all the songs from this book: link

Then I can pick the favorite recommendations i receive in my discover weekly playlist.

The things I do for a good playlist. Oh, speaking of which, if you want to hear it, then follow this link.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Songs on a Monday

Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).

Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:

  • On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
  • I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
  • I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).

The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.

This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:

  • Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:

Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.

“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.

https://thenativemag.com/music/shuffle-trouble-sleep-yanga-wake-fela-succinct/
  • Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Happy Monday chimps!

Do I only like Songs in my voice?

I shared some songs with my sister on Spotify. There was a chilled Japanese pop song song and an Irish folk song. Her feedback was interesting. She said both these songs sounded like I was singing, if I was from Japan or Ireland.

This got me thinking – are we more likely to like a song if it is within our range, has similar tone to our own, or generally sounds like us?

I don’t think this is necessarily true, although I do think it makes us more likely or fun to sing along to a song if it is within our range.

Conceptualising myself as a Japanese pop star is fun. It feels like the premise for a computer game – you can transfer your voice from one human to the other, bouncing across the world into different situations, languages and accents. Sort of like you can take control of any avatar in Watchdog – Legions – but focused on the voice. Maybe you could transfer yourself into great speeches of the past, or great album recording sessions. It’s a ridiculous premise but an interesting one. 🙂

That’s day two of streaming to Twitch. Perhaps a habit is forming?

Happy Thursday, chimps.

SOSN Post 2 – How it started vs. how it’s going

While this meme has been flying around (see Ellie Goulding’s cool muso related effort at this link) – it has me thinking about the nature of popular music today. How exactly did we get here? How does the current state of pop compare to where we came from? A big topic no doubt. But let’s try to express this story succinctly shall we?

How it started

The music business was perfect for a long time. Radio was engineered to channel and market songs into the homes of teenagers, record chains were the outlets for owning your own copy of your favourite song at a massive premium – a copy which would no doubt need replacing soon enough (LPs scratch easily!). Rolling Stone magazine decided who would be the next big hit, and there was limited access to recording studios and marketing of content across the world. It all added up to a business that seemed perfect, one that could run for ever and ever.

How it’s going

The digital revolution destroyed this perfect business while enabling something extraordinary: easy access to the market by new musicians, and a quick and easy way to find every song ever recorded.

There is no returning to the perfect days of the LP (despite what the audiophiles and the small revivals would have us believe) – and in the last 20 years the artists have no doubt suffered as revenue streams dried up and touring became the most lucrative avenue. We have been force fed old music on tour for a long time. Just look at the highest grossing tours of the last 20 years.

So pop music is going much differently than before. But it is again (recently, finally) making money. Streaming of music is profitable and there is hope for future talent to feel as though they can get into the industry and have a future.

An imperfect industry then. But perhaps a more honest and fair industry allowing access to those who had none in days gone by.

Happy Wednesday, Chimps.