Via James Grissom's blog: "It is the pursuit of beauty in things and people that is the journey… the real journey. I was happiest when I sought beauty in words and music and images. I was happiest in movies or in the middle of a symphony… whatever allowed the mind to ponder all that was possible and glorious. The world, I suppose, is the result of actions taken by people possessed of an image or an idea, and the world I care most about is constructed from those images that reminded someone of the beauty and the nobility of people… I'm back on the job of looking for this beauty, and nothing is safe from my eyes and my ears. I want to find and host the beauty of the world."
Interview with Tennessee Williams conducted by James Grissom in 1982
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In 2022, fifty-two years after it was created, Robert Smithson’s "Spiral Jetty" (1970) is a barometer for the climate emergency.
You Think Failure Is Hard?
So Is Learning From It July 4th, 2022
Via Perspectives on Psychological Science: "Society celebrates failure as a teachable moment. But do people actually learn from failure? Although lay wisdom suggests people should, a review of the research suggests that this is hard. We present a unifying framework that points to emotional and cognitive barriers that make learning from failure difficult.
Emotions undermine learning because people find failure ego-threatening. People tend to look away from failure and not pay attention to it to protect their egos. Cognitively, people also struggle because the information in failure is less direct than the information in success and thus harder to extract.
Beyond identifying barriers, this framework suggests inroads by which barriers might be addressed. Finally, we explore implications. We outline what, exactly, people miss out on when they overlook the information in failure. We find that the information in failure is often high-quality information that can be used to predict success."
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Written and presented by Max Tobin.
Death is a trip
Farewell, Julee Cruise June 9th, 2022
Today the beautiful, fabulous, highly intelligent, courageous, and incredibly creative Julee Cruise passed on. Her husband said that she "left this realm on her own terms. No regrets. She is at peace [...] I played her [The B-52's song] Roam during her transition. Now she will roam forever. Rest In Peace, my love." I had the great pleasure meeting Julee Cruise several times, in New York and in Cologne while she was working on two Pluramon albums with composer Marcus Schmickler. Every conversation with her was deep and light at the same time, and wherever she went she worked her program. Julee continues to be a huge inspiration for me. She was a giant.
Via aoen: "Over the past several decades, scientists have began to better understand dying as a biological process – whether it happens over the course of weeks or appears to occur in an instant. In this short video, the UK filmmaker and presenter Max Tobin deploys a heavy dose of gallows humour to investigate a groundbreaking series of studies that may offer hints at what the stage between clinical death (cessation of vital functions) and brain death (cessation of brain activity) actually feels like. In particular, he looks at the biological and experiential similarities between near-death experiences and taking the hallucinogenic drug DMT, in discussion with Chris Timmermann of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, who led the research."
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Seminar @ Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln
Visual Music in the 1980s June 7th, 2022
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 two-day seminar we considered a classic in the realm of Visual Music, the 1982 American experimental non-narrative film Koyaanisqatsi produced and directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke. Only a few months earlier on August 1, 1981 MTV (an initialism of Music Television) launched from New York City, and changed our perception of music forever. The students used both milestones to contextualize their own music and visualizations.
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'The World of Music Video' exhibition catalogue by Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage arrived yesterday. (Thanks to Andrea Piontek for the flowers.)
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.