When I was invited by Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage to contibute to their exhibition catalogue The World of Music Video, I knew in no time that I could and would only do a text about Gender Roles in Music Videos if my friend and renowned sound artist, poet and professor Swantje Lichtenstein and I could work on it together.
Swantje Lichtenstein and I enjoy ultra long and deep phone calls. So, we applied what we do anyway to this project. Ultimately, Swantje took the pieces of our conversations and wove them into an intimate piece of text. I admire her craft, the way she uses her tools, and her inspired, honest, and free spirit.
"0-7 age of the body and dreaming/socialization, yet retaining imagination 7-14 age of separating yet weaving together reason and the imaginal 14-21 age of new body/young maidenhood/unfurling yet protecting sensuality 21-28 age of new world/new life/exploring the worlds 28-35 age of the mother/learning to mother others and self 35-42 age of the seeker/learning to mother self-seeking the self 42-49 age of early crone/finding the far encampment/giving courage to others 49-56 age of the underworld/learning the words and rites 56-63 age of choice/choosing one's world and the work yet to be done 63-70 age of becoming watchwoman/recasting all one has learned 70-77 age of re-youthanization/more cronedom 77-84 age of the mist beings/finding more big in the small 84-91 age of weaving with the scarlet thread/understanding the weaving of life 91-98 age of the ethereal/less to saying, more to being 98-105 age of pneuma, the breath 105+ age of timelessness"
Via Plum Village: "With a deep mindful breath, we announce our beloved teacher Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh has passed away peacefully on 22nd January, 2022."
"We are a wave appearing on the surface of the ocean. The body of a wave does not last very long – perhaps only ten to twenty seconds. The wave is subject to beginning and ending, to going up and coming down. The wave may be caught in the idea that I am here now and I won’t be here later. And the wave may feel afraid or even angry. But the wave also has her ocean body. She has come from the ocean, and she will go back to the ocean. She has both her wave body and her ocean body. She is not only a wave; she is also the ocean. The wave does not need to look for a separate ocean body, because she is in this very moment both her wave body and her ocean body. As soon as the wave can go back to herself and touch her true nature, which is water, then all fear and anxiety disappear." –Thích Nhất Hạnh
Via The New York Times: "Thich Nhat Hanh dismissed the idea of death. 'Birth and death are only notions,' he wrote in his book No Death, No Fear. 'They are not real.' He added: 'The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is.' That understanding, he wrote, can liberate people from fear and allow them to 'enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.'
Artist Immensely enjoyed the visits to Sarah Szczesny's studio, and love conversing with her. Her energy, creativity, and knowledge are extraordinary and an inspiration for me. Am ultra delighted that she now joins us to teach in my Transmedia Forms concentration for the Klang und Realität master degree program at Institute for Music and Media.
Exhibition Due to the pandemic the students and I had to do our annual visit to the Julia Stoschek Collection one person at a time. What a privilege and concentration to be completely by myself in these chambers. This moment reaffirmed for me the immense relevance of art for our society.
Film My favorite film experience this year was Sisters with Transistors by Lisa Rovner about the pioneering women of electronic music. It was moving and it gave me goosebumps to finally see so many distinguished female composers gathered in one documentary.
History Learned that the former name of the submarine Hai –that my father was supposed to serve on as a reservist of the marine– was U-2365. The numbers are day and year of my birthday. My father got really lucky that he was not allowed to board in September 1966 for the crossing from the base in Neustadt to Aberdeen in Scotland, because the submarine sank, and all but one of the crewmen drowned. I am grateful for the marine bureaucracy that had him stay on land for lack of insurance, and me have a father.
Mouse The Last Supper relief in St. Mary's Church, Lübeck includes a detail associated with Lübeck: a little mouse gnawing at the base of a rose bush. Touching it is supposed to mean that the person will have good luck. But the mouse is also a symbol that a great disaster can arise from small mishaps. Well, I touched it when still a kid, and again this summer when I revisited some of those memories.
Music I heard Kirtan: Turiya Sings by Alice Coltrane for the first time during a visit to the infamous a-Musik record store, had to have it immediately, and played it for weeks. "As Ravi Coltrane writes in a producer's note, this is functional music, meant to guide the practice of chanting: creating vibrations inside of oneself in order to transcend, like embodied meditations." (Pitchfork). My album of 2021.
Quote „Being resentful, they say, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." – Susan Cheever
Ritual The last day of 2021 provided two fire rituals for me. It was a warm day, almost as if spring had arrived. For the first ritual I fed all the things that I am not taking with me to 2022 to the flames. With the second, even bigger fire we acknowledged the strength and empowerment of our ancestors to deal with their traumas – on their own. Am so grateful for the company next to the fires.
Face (Fear), 2020, collage on paper by Christian Marclay. Courtesy Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo.
The Truth About Multitasking
A scientific treatise on the topic December 7th, 2021
Via Medium: "The common belief is that multitasking makes you more productive, that multi-taskers are more talented and that women are the better multi-taskers, yet science suggests otherwise. Multitasking makes you unproductive . It slows you down, increases the rate of your mistakes and reduces your ability to process information . Moreover, it changes the structure of your brain, resulting in decreased cognitive control performance and less socio-emotional regulation . [...]
The idea is that you can do two things at once. But you cannot focus on two things at once. Daniel Kahneman describes in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow that there are two systems in our brain, which he calls System 1 and System 2. System 2 is slow and logical and is used when we solve a difficult math task for example. System 1, on the other hand, is quick and intuitive and is used when we walk, talk or do any other automated task. While we can do several intuitive tasks at the same time, our System 2 requires full attention . Think of driving a car: Both driving and talking is an intuitive task, so you can do both at the same time. But suddenly, something unexpected happens. Your System 2 requires your full attention. In the lucky case, you stop talking and handle the situation well. In the worst case, talking occupied so much of your brain power that your System 2 wasn’t able to react quick enough. This is why multitasking fails: Knowledge Work as described by Peter Drucker, i.e. work that requires us to code, manage, organize or think in general, requires our System 2. It’s neurologically impossible to multitask!"
Sources:  Bannister, F. & Remenyi, D. (2009). Multitasking: the Uncertain Impact of Technology on Knowledge Workers and Managers. Electronic Journal Information Systems Evaluation. 12.  Lohr, S. (2007) Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic,The New York Times, March 25th, 2007.  Loh KK, Kanai R (2014) Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity Is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106698. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106698  Jones, Keith and Schambach, Thomas, “Student Perspectives On Multitasking” (2009). 2009 Proceedings. 23. aisel.aisnet.org/siged2009/23  Laloyaux, J., Laroi, F., & Hirnstein, M. (2018, September 26). Research: Women and Men Are Equally Bad at Multitasking. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from hbr.org/2018/09/research-women-and-men-are-equally-bad-at-multitasking  Gary, K. & Papasan, J. (2013). The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Austin: Bard Press.  Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Via ScienceDirect: "Research finds that creative ideas are often generated via two cognitive pathways: persistence and insight. Persistence refers to the effortful, deliberate, and sustained search for creative solutions. In contrast, insight refers to the effortless and unexpected comprehension of new ideas or solutions, colloquially called the ‘A-ha!’ moment. People report both pathways in their subjective experiences of creativity and both pathways promote creative performance. Yet, emerging research suggests that people’s beliefs about the creative process do not reflect these dual pathways. It appears that people associate creativity with effortless insight and undervalue persistence; a phenomenon we refer to as an insight bias. We next present evidence for an insight bias, consider the mechanisms behind it, and discuss the implications of these (faulty) beliefs. [...]
The studies summarized above provide evidence that people undervalue persistence and overvalue insight. Understanding these (faulty) beliefs is important because they influence how people choose to engage in creative work. For instance, undervaluing persistence and believing one’s best ideas come early leads people to disengage from creative work more quickly, which limits creativity. Valuing insight leads people to expect more creativity when in the bathtub than at one’s workstation and to discount the value of others whose accomplishments draw on persistence rather than innate genius.
What causes the insight bias? One explanation relates to the subjective experience of idea generation itself. Specifically, the feeling of effortfulness experienced while generating ideas (also called metacognitive fluency). Generating ideas via insight feels less effortful and less mentally exhausting than generating ideas via persistence. This more pleasant experience of insight, versus persistence, leads people to think and feel more positively about insight. For example, the research where people underestimated how many ideas they would generate while persisting found that the feeling of effortfulness experienced during initial idea generation accounted for the discrepancy between predictions and performance. Similarly, people’s belief that creativity declines across an ideation session was explained by people’s pessimism about the difficulty of producing ideas over time. Future research should continue to test this and other mechanisms."
[ Latest additions ]
New favorite record
Kirtan: Turiya Sings by Alice Coltrane September 9th, 2021
Via Pitchfork: "Turiya Sings was the first album she made alone. Having left the commercial music industry behind, she released these uncanny compositions based on Hindu devotionals, or bhajans, on cassette through her Vedantic Center’s publishing imprint, Avatar Book Institute. Luxuriating in every prayerful syllable, naming deities like Krishna and Ramachandra, Coltrane made a small number of the tapes available to her students and Vedantic Center visitors. Though she used relatively spare components—the subtitle of the original album cover read, 'Devotional Songs in Original Composition with Organ, Strings and Synthesizer'—they contain an unusual, self-contained grandeur. In the aching shimmer of these hymns, which evoke both South Indian classical music and the Black church, you can hear Coltrane’s life coursing through: her journey from gospel accompanist to jazz prodigy, the drama of the European classical music she loved, the soulful melodies of her Detroit youth, grief and exaltation. Yet the power of this music is elemental. The tone of the original Turiya Sings is as certain and spectral as anything associated with the Coltrane name. Her voice hovers distantly above the mix as if she’s floating, or astral projecting—which she wrote about extensively in Monument Eternal—like a woman actively inhabiting a higher dimension.
The recordings of Coltrane’s ashram period have taken on a mythical status in her catalog over the past decade, particularly Turiya Sings, which has circulated online and on bootleg cassettes, never officially re-released. The 2017 Luaka Bop compilation of Coltrane’s ecstatic music included no tracks from Turiya Sings. If there is reluctance to make those particular recordings commercially available, it’s understandable: The music emerged at the very moment Coltrane was trying to divorce herself from the material world. On a more technical level, according to a label representative, the original Turiya Sings remains formally unreleased because the Coltrane family has never found its master synthesizer recordings.
What Coltrane’s son Ravi did find—around the time of his mother’s final album, 2004’s miraculous Translinear Light—were 1981 recordings she made of Turiya Sings featuring only her voice and Wurlitzer electric organ, an instrument that she once said came to her in a divine vision. ('In one meditation… the precise instrument I should get was revealed to me,' she said in an interview. 'I didn’t need to do any research; it was just conveyed to me.') These pared-back tracks of Coltrane’s most minimal music are now released as Kirtan: Turiya Sings, like seeds of the cassette that also, in some sense, expand it. As Ravi Coltrane writes in a producer’s note, this is 'functional music,' meant to guide the practice of chanting: creating vibrations inside of oneself in order to transcend, like embodied meditations. During a call-and-response kirtan performance, the leader sings devotionals, typically with a harmonium pump organ, and the audience joins in collectively. Despite the surge of interest in kirtan in the U.S. in the 1990s—and Coltrane’s groundbreaking fusion of gospel and jazz elements into the form—her spiritual music remained little known in the U.S., as scholar Franya J. Berkman notes in her 2010 Coltrane biography, in considerable part because she didn’t perform it outside of her ashram.
Where before, the stately music of Turiya Sings had evoked celestial bodies, inquisitive synth lines whirring as if in accordance with their own cosmology, now there’s the tactility of earthly reality. The click of the organ on Jagadishwar makes its soul-stirring melody—which Coltrane reimagined unmistakably on Translinear Light as well—feel newly intimate, and she enunciates each word with enlightened precision. It puts you in the room, into electric air. By this point, Coltrane had been playing the Wurlitzer for a decade, having first used it on 1971’s mind-bending galactic trip Universal Consciousness. Her subtle flourishes of extra notes make the compositions bloom and groove anew. Her mystic organ lines seem attuned to the drone of the universe. [...]
Listening to the Kirtan: Turiya Sings recordings feels less like discovering a hissy cassette lost in time than what it must have been like to experience Coltrane leading the songs at one of her legendary Sunday services."
Also, check out this 16mm color film print. A "short documentary made for a segment of National Education Television's Black Journal television program. The segment focuses on the life of Alice Coltrane and her children in the wake of the death of her husband, famed jazz magician John Coltrane. This film was shot sometime during 1970; three years after the death of John Coltrane."
[ Latest additions ]
"The Mouth of Krishna" by Anna Cabrera & Ángel Albarrán. "In any part of the universe there is a whole universe –Hamlet saw the infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, and eternity in an hour."
Via Lars P. Syll: "A contest was announced to see who could do the best job of carving up a side of beef. The judge was announced as a famous chef, who had earned two Michelin stars. Attracted by the prize money, a butcher and an analytic philosopher entered the contest.
The Analytic Philosopher went first. A fresh side of beef was placed on a large wooden table, and he approached to begin. He was dressed in freshly pressed chinos and a button-down shirt. The Analytic Philosopher laid a leather case on one corner of the table and opened it, revealing a gleaming set of perfectly matched scalpels, newly sharpened. He selected one scalpel carefully and addressed the side of beef. After inspecting its surface carefully, he raised his hand and made the first cut, a precise slice in a perfectly straight line. Working steadily, but with meticulous care, he proceeded to make slices and cross slices until he had completed the carving of the beef, a task that took him the better part of an hour. When he had finished, he stepped back, wiped the scalpel clean on a piece of paper toweling, replaced it in the case, and with a bow to the judge, withdrew.
The butcher was next up. Her side of beef was on a table next to that on which the Analytic Philosopher had been working. She was dressed in overalls and a butcher’s apron, on which one could see spots of blood and stains from her work. She took out a cleaver, a saw, and a sharp butcher’s knife, and went to work on her side of beef, wasting no time. Bits of fat and gristle flew here and there, some ending up on her apron and even in her hair, which she had covered with a net. She whistled as she worked at the table, until with a flourish, she put down her saw, bowed to the judge, and stepped back.
The judge examined each table for no more than a moment, and then without the slightest hesitation, handed the prize to the butcher. The Analytic Philosopher was stunned. "But," he protested, "there is simply no comparison between the results on the two tables. The butcher’s table is a shambles, a heap of pieces of meat, with fat and bits of bone and drops of blood all over the place. My table is pristine — a careful display of perfectly carved cubes of meat, all with parallel sides and exactly the same size. Why on earth have you given the prize to the butcher?"
The Judge explained. "The butcher has turned her side of beef into a usable array of porterhouse steaks, T-bone steaks, sirloin steaks, beef roasts, and a small pile of beef scraps ready to be ground up for chop meat. She clearly knew where the joints were in the beef, how to cut against the grain with the tough parts, where to apply her saw. You, on the other hand, have reduced a perfectly good grade-A side of beef to stew meat."
Moral: When butchering a side of beef, it is best to know something about what lies beneath its surface. Observation: This is also not a bad idea when doing Philosophy."
[ Latest additions ]
Talk @ Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln
A Perfect Match? On the Alliance of Sound and Visuals June 24th, 2021
Jono Podmore, professor of Popular Music and chair of the master's degree program in Music Production at the prestigious Cologne University of Music, invited me to talk to his class about one of my favorite subjects, Visual Music.
In my lecture I focused on the significance of the close interrelation between sound and images. I showed many examples from fields like experimental film, music video, and installation art to argue that the highest quality in audiovisual productions is only achieved if sound and visual producer work together in constant communication and exchange.