Why We Love Repetition In Music

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners. 

Lesson by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, animation by Andrew Zimbelman for The Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Young Minds in Critical Condition

Michael S. Roth in The New York Times Opinionator blog

Liberal education in America has long been characterized by the intertwining of two traditions: of critical inquiry in pursuit of truth and exuberant performance in pursuit of excellence. In the last half-century, though, emphasis on inquiry has become dominant, and it has often been reduced to the ability to expose error and undermine belief. The inquirer has taken the guise of the sophisticated (often ironic) spectator, rather than the messy participant in continuing experiments or even the reverent beholder of great cultural achievements.

The best form of criticism is to create new things. 

Instead of futurists, let’s be now-ists: Joi Ito at TED2014

Director of the MIT Media Lab Joi Ito speaking at TED 2014:

In the B.I. [before the internet] world, starting a business had a clear timeline: says Ito, you hired MBAs to write a business plan, you raised money, and then you built the thing you wanted to build. But in the AI world, the cost of innovation has come down so much that you start with the building—and then figure the money and business plan. “It’s pushed innovation to the edges, to the dorms rooms and startups, and away from stodgy organizations that had the money, the power and the influence.”

During Nicholas Negroponte’s era at the MIT Media Lab, the motto he proposed was: “Demo or die.” He said that the demo only had to work once. But Ito, who points out that he’s a “three-time college dropout,” wants to change the motto to: “Deploy or die.” He explains, “You have to get it into the real world to have it actually count.”

Ito takes us to Shenzhen, China, where young inventors are taking this idea to the next level. In the same way that “kids in Palo Alto make websites,” these kids make cell phones. They bring their designs to the markets, look at what’s selling and what others are doing, iterate and do it over again. “What we thought you could only do in software, kids in Shenzhen are doing in hardware,” he says.

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Ito urges us to follow a compass rather than a map. Instead of planning out every exact points before you start, allow yourself to make the decisions you need as you go in the general direction of where you need to be.

“I don’t like the word ‘futurist,’” he says. “I think we should be now-ists. Focus on being connected, always learning, fully aware and super present.”

 

Looking forward to seeing this talk when the video becomes available. 

Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline

Laura Pappano in The New York Times

Critical thinking has long been regarded as the essential skill for success, but it’s not enough, says Dr. Puccio. Creativity moves beyond mere synthesis and evaluation and is, he says, “the higher order skill.” This has not been a sudden development. Nearly 20 years ago “creating” replaced “evaluation” at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives. In 2010 “creativity” was the factor most crucial for success found in an I.B.M. survey of 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries. These days “creative” is the most used buzzword in LinkedIn profiles two years running.
Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.
Creative studies is popping up on course lists and as a credential. Buffalo State, part of the State University of New York, plans a Ph.D. and already offers a master’s degree and undergraduate minor. Saybrook University in San Francisco has a master’s and certificate, and added a specialization to its psychology Ph.D. in 2011. Drexel University in Philadelphia has a three-year-old online master’s. St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C., has added a minor. And creative studies offerings, sometimes with a transdisciplinary bent, are new options in business, education, digital media, humanities, arts, science and engineering programs across the country.

 

When asked I often say that I am an independent student. To me being willing to learn new things quickly and juxtapose them against what you already know to see what comes out of that friction is the key to smarter creative thought. My concern with institutionalizing the teaching of creativity is that if you are not curious and willing to constantly study no amount of university classes will instill that in you. Are we making creativity studies the new MBA? Wanted by everyone for the effect it may have on their careers without regard to whether it is the best way for an individual to cultivate creative thinking. You can teach someone how to play the piano, but if they are lacking musicality you can not make them into an artist.