My first Native American flute build. This is from a kit sold by Blue Bear Flutes and is made of cedar. I added some detail of my own, of course, with an inlay of poplar along two sides and a crow totem on the sound block. Thanks to Charlie Mato-Toyela for his great YouTube video guidance, supplies, and book on the subject.

Listen to a brief recording of me playing this flute.

Here is a link to the Open Culture web site where they have a post with jazz piano great Bill Evans talking about improvisation. The accompanying video, “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans”, is about 45 minutes long. Worth the time and attention.

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Joshua Wolf Shenk has a new series on on creative pairs, Two is the Magic Number. Accompanying a long essay is a 3+ minute video on John Lennon and Paul McCartney's creative relationship. Related to the previous post here on creative relationship evidenced by remixing, this article explores in depth the "myth of the lone creator". This is Part 1, here is Part 2Part 3. Enjoy.

Everything is a Remix

September 14, 2010

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Led Zeppelin, 1968

Everything is a Remix is part one of what promises to be a very interesting and well done web series video by “Kirby”. Lasting about 7 minutes, this first installment covers the relationship of elements from some music sources to another in hip hop and rock. The creative journey has many avenues. Cool. I’ll be waiting for the next parts. Watch it here. (Thanks John Gruber)

September 16, 2010

Here is a link to a response to the above written by songwriter John Woods furthering the discussion- and some responses to him as well.

Beautiful and Strange

June 21, 2010

Tony Wood Photo 
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    Photo by Anthony Wood 

These photos by Anthony Wood caught my eye and my imagination. I found them to be strange and beautiful- surreal and evocative. This is Photoshop-ing that avoids over-use and shows how one can make fine art with the same tools that so often stray into harshness or kitsch. There are three sets of photos on the web site– Nudes, Angels-Visions-Visitations, and Trees. I found the Nudes to be most interesting but all three bear a close look. Enjoy.


Here is a provocative article from the web site of the BBC based on some current research. But don't jump to any conclusions before reading the article. Does it suggest that creativity is based on a deficit of brain function? Or that schizophrenia is creativity run amok? Is this another example of scientific research performing its necessarily highly focused tasks of discovery and then relying too heavily on the resulting reduced variables to draw conclusions? What do you think?

Salvadore Dali B&W
Artist Salvador Dali is known for his surreal paintings and eccentric personality 

By Michelle Roberts, Health reporter, BBC News

Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.

Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.

Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.

It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to "think outside the box", say experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

In some people, it leads to mental illness.

But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms.

Art and suffering

Some of the world's leading artists, writers and theorists have also had mental illnesses – the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and American mathematician John Nash (portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind) to name just two.

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

The thalamus channels thoughts 

Associate Professor Fredrik Ullen believes his findings could help explain why.

He looked at the brain's dopamine (D2) receptor genes which experts believe govern divergent thought.

He found highly creative people who did well on tests of divergent thought had a lower than expected density of D2 receptors in the thalamus – as do people with schizophrenia.

The thalamus serves as a relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," said Professor Ullen.

He believes it is this barrage of uncensored information that ignites the creative spark.

This would explain how highly creative people manage to see unusual connections in problem-solving situations that other people miss.

Schizophrenics share this same ability to make novel associations. But in schizophrenia, it results in bizarre and disturbing thoughts.

UK psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society Mark Millard said the overlap with mental illness might explain the motivation and determination creative people share.

"Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes.

"Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way.

"There is no sense of conventional limitations and you can see this in their work. Take Salvador Dali, for example. He certainly saw the world differently and behaved in a way that some people perceived as very odd."

He said businesses have already recognised and capitalised on this knowledge.

Some companies have "skunk works" – secure, secret laboratories for their highly creative staff where they can freely experiment without disrupting the daily business.

Chartered psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says an ability to "suspend disbelief" is one way of looking at creativity.

"When you suspend disbelief you are prepared to believe anything and this opens up the scope for seeing more possibilities.

"Creativity is certainly about not being constrained by rules or accepting the restrictions that society places on us. Of course the more people break the rules, the more likely they are to be perceived as 'mentally ill'."

He works as an executive coach helping people to be more creative in their problem solving behaviour and thinking styles.

"The result is typically a significant rise in their well being, so as opposed to creativity being associated with mental illness it becomes associated with good mental health."

Where Poetry Begins

April 17, 2010

Poetry Festival Music

The most recent version of the Poetry Fridays email from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation is a beautiful and well-written essay by Martin Farawell, Program Director of Poetry, called, “Where Poetry Begins”. 

I reproduce this essay below with the suggestion that, if this is at all of interest to you, follow the link at the bottom back to the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation web site and explore what they have to offer. Especially, notice the upcoming poetry festival scheduled for October in Newark, NJ, USA. I have a tending a couple of these festivals in the past and can attest that they are wonderful.


Poet Heather McHugh has pointed out that in all the photographs of 9/11, none of the witnesses covered their eyes. Instead, they covered their mouths. Their bodies said what their words could not: What they were seeing was unspeakable.

In the days and weeks following, newspaper editorial offices across the country were swamped with poems. Long-experienced editors had never seen anything like it.

Where speech stops, where syntax shatters, where prose fails is where poetry begins.

When we are most profoundly moved, our syntax not only shatters, it shatters into rhythm. We stammer and stutter and repeat ourselves. Our language, illogical and irrational and emotional, is rhythmic and repetitious.

“I love you,” is prose: clear, simple, direct, and completely understandable, but utterly inadequate to the task of conveying profound love. The instant we start, as we inevitably do, to repeat ourselves out of awareness of the inadequacy of this language to convey our meaning—“I love you. I love you. I really really love you!”—we’ve fallen into rhythm and repetition.

In any extreme—of horror, mourning, terror or ecstasy—our speech becomes rhythmic. In our most primitive, pre-verbal responses, sobbing or laughing, our entire bodies are wracked by rhythm. Shakespeare understood this. Lear’s “Howl howl howl howl howl” as he cradles his dead daughter is likely the most perfectly natural line ever written.

And yet, rhythm has also always been the gateway to the spiritual realm. All spells, incantations, rituals, and prayers are rhythmic and repetitious. The goal of chanting, in a war dance, a rite of passage, or a celebration of the mass, is to influence or communicate with the higher power, even if, as in many meditation practices, the higher power sought is within us.

All these ancient rituals originated in a time when it was believed that breath is the source of inspiration because spirit and breath are one: We expire (exhale and die); we inspire (inhale and are filled with spirit). Spiritus, the Latin word for breath, is the root of spirit and inspiration.

But this direct experience of a higher power has always required what modern psychology would describe as a letting go of the ego: that is, of that formulation our consciousness has created and named the self. Our consciousness fights like the devil to avoid this letting go. It is frightening to explore who we are without our usual habits, fears and concerns, to go beyond the narrow limits of what we’re willing to know about ourselves. Who are we in the unknown, that place made entirely of our ignorance? Almost all mystical traditions are rooted in exploring this question, as are all the arts.

All ancient spiritual traditions used rhythm in some way. Somehow they understood to be set free of the self, we must step off into that deeper place rhythm opens up in us. That place is the source of our humanity, where we are both visceral and spiritual beings, where we discover that we are the unknown, that, as Melville wrote in White Jacket, “We ourselves are the repository of the great mystery.”

On the first anniversary of 9/11, a memorial concert was scheduled to be broadcast live from Liberty State Park, just across the river from where the Twin Towers had stood. Severe thunderstorms forced the cancellation of the concert. Instead, the film of the rehearsal was aired. With ground zero as a backdrop, the New Jersey Symphony played before an amphitheatre that contained almost exactly one empty seat for every person who had died.

As Verdi’s “Requiem” rose into the clear sky, I thought of all the hours the assembled musicians had to work to master their instruments—whole lifetimes devoted to music—and of all the hours they had to rehearse together to become a symphony. And then I thought of other lifetimes, those devoted to planning the murders of complete strangers. We are the creatures who make music. And make death.

To attempt to speak of this, to try to step outside of ourselves and understand why, is where poetry, theater, music, art begin.

Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry

* * *

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark is October 7 – 10

For more information, visit the Poetry website.


Poetry Poetry Fridays 2010 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival National Poetry Month