Illustration by Jorge Mascarenhas.

Beliefs about Creativity

Evidence for an insight bias
October 17th, 2021

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."

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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."

Thanks to Frank Dommert @ a-musik, the best record store on this planet !

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."

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"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."

How to do philosophy

by Robert Paul Wolff
August 23rd, 2021

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."

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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.

As founder and chair of the Visual Music concentration at the Institute of Music and Media (IMM) at the Robert Schumann music academy I am also editor-in-chief of the highly praised Visual Music Archive online forum.

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Stil from the film 'The Invisible Woman' (1940).


My pyramid
June 5th, 2021

Faith – Honesty – Serenity
Creativity – Intuition – Joy – Love – Music – Presence.

Take another step toward what matters.

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Grid systems in graphic designs

A visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers
by Josef Müller-Brockmann

A true legend of a book. And now online for free.

Via Eye Magazine: "I have always felt obliged to make a constructive contribution to the future of society. I have never lost the feeling that I have a task to perform. What pleases me is that I have always sought what is better, that I have remained self-critical, and that I am still interested in things outside my own field. My library is the expression of my curiosity. I would advise young people to look at everything they encounter in a critical light and try to find a better solution. Then I would urge them at all times to be self-critical."

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Talk @ field notes / Initiative Neue Musik

Design brief - a useful requirement for visual communication
May 11th, 2021

Lisa Benjes, progam coordinator at field notes in Berlin, invited me to give an online talk for contemporary musicians. I will introduce a specific way to brief designers as a tool to optimize their visual communication in order to get in contact with their listeners.

Via field notes' website: "field notes is a central resource of information and mentoring for the contemporary music scenes in Berlin provided by inm – the initiative neue musik berlin e.V. Its goals are to strengthen and improve production conditions for the independent contemporary music scenes in Berlin, and to raise public awareness of social relevance of the art form."

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Jury member @ DAAD

Postgraduate Studies in the Fields of Fine Art, Design, Visual Communication and Film
April 29th, 2021

Had the great honour to serve as jury member alongside my wonderful colleague Uwe Reinhardt for the Postgraduate Studies in the Fields of Fine Art, Design, Visual Communication and Film committee at Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst [German Academic Exchange Service].

Via the DAAD's website: "The DAAD is an association of German institutions of higher education and their student bodies. Convening in a general assembly, they elect the Executive Committee which oversees the organisation’s day-to-day operations. Since it was founded in 1925, the DAAD has supported more than 2.6 million academics in Germany and abroad. It relies on a strong organisational structure, a worldwide network of partners and alumni and a motivated staff of over 900 employees."

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Being different, 1970-86 (1981) by Anna Oppermann, single canvas, photo emulsion on canvas, hand-coloured.

Workshop @ Academy of Art and Design Basel

April 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th, 2021

Rasso Auberger invited me to give the 4-day workshop at HyperWerk (Institute for Postindustrial Design) in Basel. HyperWerk is one of the institutes of the Academy of Art and Design in Basel. The students at HyperWerk are trained in complex process design to initiate and shape the social changes of the future.

Had the great pleasure and honor of co-teaching with Ralf Neubauer.
We named our workshop TEXTFILMSOUNDZITIERCOLLAGEN, and introduced the students to the estate of artists such as Mark Leckey, Arthur Lipsett, and Anna Oppermann.

Ralf and I also invited Phantom Kino Ballett (Sarah Szczesny and Lena Willikens) to talk with us about their deep and transformative performances. We asked Lena and Sarah how they managed to evolve their content, visions, and techniques during the pandemic.
And finally we read All about love by bell hooks as well as This is water by David Foster Wallace with the students.
The students worked in teams to compose a found footage-based experimental short film.

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Sarah Maple, The Worlds as we know it, 2020.

Zoom fatigue

...and their simple fixes
March 6th, 2021

Via Stanford University: "In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as Zoom fatigue. [...]

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural. [...]
Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.
Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. 'In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,' he added. [...]
Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the hide self-view button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. 'There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,' Bailenson said.
Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.
Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an audio only break. 'This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,' Bailenson said, 'so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.' [...]

He notes that humans have been here before. 'When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,' Hancock explained. 'We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.' "

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