An Orchestra and a Jazz Band Walk Into a Bar …

There is any number of ways to screw up an orchestral performance, but the one excuse that won’t work is for the musicians to say that they didn’t know what was coming. The orchestrator has taken that one off the table. In this art form, the act of composing and the act of performing are… Read More »

They Can’t Both Be Right … Can They?

Max and Isaac come to the Rabbi’s study to settle a dispute. The Rabbi’s wife is also seated in the room. Max explains his complaint to the Rabbi: the story is such and so, and he has to do this and he has to do that. He gives a fine account and argues his case… Read More »

Beyond Technique

Miles Davis had, as we say, great chops. But in his spontaneous, creative transformation of Herbie Hancock’s “wrong” chord into a “right” chord, he went beyond technique and showed, as Hancock says in reflecting on the event, a willingness to experience and accept situations as they are. We don’t know, of course, what Miles had… Read More »

If This Then That – If This Then Maybe That.

If This Then That – If This Then Maybe That. Orchestral music is composed and then performed. In jazz music, composition and performance occur simultaneously. The difference can be put quite simply – at the downbeat, orchestral musicians will know what’s coming; jazz musicians won’t. Two different worlds – a world of “if-this-then-that” and a… Read More »

Tribalism

First there were tribes and then there were nation states and now there’s the global village a feature of which is Facebook offering us 1.7 billion friending opportunities. (Be wary – many of them aren’t who they claim to be.) Marshall McLuhan saw electronic technologies in all their forms as creating a worldwide extension of… Read More »

It’s a Nail … Right?

“It’s a nail … right?” If it isn’t, not only will that hammer you’re wielding not work, it’s likely to do serious damage. Which gets me to this: Mastery is both an asset and a liability. I get the importance of acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to perform in our chosen domains. When we… Read More »

Beyond Technique … One More Time

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Stephen King, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” My ruminations about leadership continue. Mastery is a two-edged sword. It’s important that we master the skills and knowledge needed to perform competently in our chosen fields of… Read More »

Where Have All the Adults Gone?

The philosophy prof was telling the interviewer about his new gig working with computer scientists and engineers developing self-driving cars. What might someone who spends time with Plato, Nietzsche, Hegel, Kant and the rest of the boys in the band, bring to that party? A two-word answer: Algorithmic morality. How do you program a car… Read More »

Yes! We Have No Bananas

Pathogens don’t take defeat lying down. Back in the 1950s, a fungus called the Panama disease acquired a voracious appetite for the world’s favourite banana, the Gros Michel, and rendered it virtually extinct. Banana growers in Asia, Africa, Central America and Australia replaced it with a variety of banana, the Cavendish, that was, happily, resistant… Read More »

The Uncomfortable Edge

David Bowie died and, in the tributes that followed, many people spoke of many things. One of the first personal recollections I heard was from CBC music journalist Laurie Brown who had interviewed Bowie six times over a period of about a dozen years. Their encounters, she said, were not so much interviews as they… Read More »