The Creative Director

Reviews, Books

180720 Who Cares About Particle Physics?

Momentous topic and clear content shine through ho-hum writing style

180707 On Photography

Wonderful, challenging intro to art photography

180402 How to Write for Percussion

Companion to my next composition session

180108 The Character of Physical Law

Skip and watch the videos

170909 Capturing Music

Ideas for taiko notation

170904 How the Universe Got Its Spots

The ins and outs of being a physicist

170808 The Quantum Divide

Quantum theory through the lens of history-making experiments.

170731 Drawdown

Great resource for environmentalist priorities

170708 The New Urban Crisis

Important topic, deeply researched... impact hampered only by my weariness for figures.

170617 From Mathematics to Generic Programming

Rewarding at any level of engagement, from general historical overview to deep programming study.

170524 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Quick but insubstantial read.

170311 Red Rover

Recommended for NASA lovers (aren't we all NASA lovers?!).

170225 Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

Highly recommended, for the physics and to fall in love with the author

170123 The Life You Can Save: Effective giving against extreme poverty

How to target your charitable giving

170112 Contemporary Directions in Asian American Dance

Stiff academic writing contains gems

161224 The Spy Who Couldn't Spell

Slow start, didn't finis

161023 Los Angeles Union Station

LA nerds unite!

160927 The Art of Learning

What chess and competitive Tai Chi reveal about learning

160903 Walkable City

LA voters, please read!

160822 Ending Medical Reversal

Important book for navigating modern healthcare

160819 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

"Fixed" vs "growth" mindsets in excruciating detail

160815 Creativity: The Perfect Crime

An artists notebook

160808 The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World

Convincing case for role of econ in addressing climate change

160726 Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

For the love of measurement

160706 Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

Useful reflection on the tragedy of our country's founding.

160620 Audio Culture, Readings in Modern Music

About 30 pages in, I almost stopped reading. What a shame that would have been.

160613 Decorating with Architectural Trimwork

Examples of what not to do.

160613 More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home

Not so deep

160416 This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Fascinating and fair look at online troll culture

160405 Half-Earth

New environmental conservation goal: 50 percent of earth surface should be protected

160405 Birth of a Theorem

Rare insight into working mathematicians, charmingly opaque math.

160321 How to Bake Pi

Charming and though-provoking, if a bit scattered.

160319 Letters to a Young Scientist


160307 The Search for the Perfect Language

Only for language/history buffs

160307 Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance

Highly recommended for cyclists

160307 Black Hole

Recommended for cosmology lovers

150303 When Clothes Become Fashion

The best book I didn’t understand

150303 Art Power

Artful start, powerless end

150303 Brioni

Better than expected (the book and Brioni)

150303 This Changes Everything

Climate change facts and figures

150303 Designing, Building, and Testing Your Own Speaker System

Great starting point

150117 Pay Any Price

Useful info, shaky through-line.

150117 Cloudspotter’s Guide

Wanted to like it more.

150117 How We Got to Now

Science history!

150117 Closet Smarts

How to cover flaws (rather than redefine them)

150117 American Fashion

So-so intro to design of women's fashion design in America

150117 Charles James

Well-made cliche

141108 The Extreme Life of the Sea

A fun read for nature lovers

141108 Absolute Value

Vacuous book about a vacuous profession

141108 Real Talk for Real Teachers

The best book this month!

141108 The Dictionary of Fashion History

OK as reference, not useful to borrow

141108 Moving Through the Universe in Bare Feet

Not enough to take the leap

140919 Terpsichore in Sneakers

Awesome primer on post-modern dance

140919 It’s All About the Dress

It's too much about her

140919 Fashion

No theory, no groundbreaking fashion

140919 A History of Men’s Fashion

The best on the topic!

140919 Chanel

Uninspiring writing on an uninspiring designer

140909 Automotive Chassis and Body

The only source for this info!

140909 The Divide

Frustratingly important

140909 Missing Microbes

Slightly alarmist but worth reading

140909 The Code Book

Cryptography primer

140909 No Place To Hide

Thank you, Snowden!

140621 Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

Agreeable premise, disagreeable writing

140621 How Bad Are Bananas

Facts and figures for the climate-aware

140621 Cool Tools

A bit thin on content

140621 The West Without Water

A CA water-drinker's resource

140412 A Perfect Moral Storm

Why accepting responsibility for climate change is hard

140412 The Sixth Extinction

Captivating, terrifying, motivating

140412 The Ethics of Climate Change

Life changing

140412 Climate Change

Good overview, likely outdated

140312 Climate Matters

Mix of esoteric philosophy and practical advice

140312 The Small Wood Shop

Inspiring ideas

140312 Sustainable Energy

Top-tier resource

140312 Eating Animals

Eat in line with your beliefs

140312 We are the Weather Makers

Not particularly inspiring

140312 Now or Never

Not my favorite on the subject

140312 How to Grow Fresh Air

So-so book on an awesome topic

140124 Mastery

Perfect for ambitious taiko players

140124 The Power Surge

Not groundbreaking but well-written and even-handed

140124 The Silent Pulse

Unnecessarily mystical

140124 Delusions of Gender

Part of the long march toward gender fluidity

140124 Stuff

Fascinating trivia yearning for more depth

140124 The Time of Music

Great for percussion composers

131121 The End of Money

Uninteresting book by a cash-hater

131121 Traffic

Required reading for LA residents

131121 Fresh Lipstick

Nuanced connections between fashion and feminism

130710 Web of Debt

Confirmation of why I don't like loans

130710 The Castle

Engagingly tedious

130710 Just Being At the Piano

The musician's path

130710 Contagious

How to trade integrity for popularity

130710 Pension Fund Politics

A useful, if biased, opinion

130710 Ethical Markets

Great points poorly written

130710 The SRI Advantage

The bottom-line benefits of socially-responsible investing. (Are those what matter?)

130710 Thinking, Fast and Slow

For all thinkers!

130710 The Fashion Reader

Critical fashion textbook

130413 Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire

A classic!

130413 Kanjincho

Serviceable summary of the play

130413 The Inner Game of Tennis

Great for teachers and students

130413 The Creative Director

Great for taiko teachers and composers

130413 Effortless Mastery

How to become the music

130413 The Green Collar Economy

A rising sea floats all boats

130413 A Universe From Nothing

Connections between the smallest and largest scales of the universe

130413 Steal Like An Artist

Thin. Should have stolen more content

130413 Antifragile

A challenging, deep tome

121231 Trust Me I’m Lying

Resist all advertising

121231 Notes and Tones

Felt guilty not liking this... will try again when I'm a more mature musician

121231 How Much Is Enough?

Info for the good life

121231 What Money Can’t Buy

Important read to resist the negative influences of markets

121231 How Music Works

Will check out again

121231 Which Side Are You On?

What page are you on? I stopped reading.

121231 Turing’s Cathedral

The personal computer's sordid start

121128 How Children Succeed

The fundamentals behind student success

121128 Basic MIG Welding Practices

Not useful

121128 The Handplane Book

Decent overview

121128 Towards A Poor Theatre

Interesting take on stage "honesty"

121128 Drift

Better than the TV show

121128 Welder’s Handbook

Great beginning welder's book

121128 Imagine

Can imagine worse... can imagine better

121128 Working with Handplanes

Good collection of articles

121128 Mathematics

Helped me love math

121128 Rethinking A Lot

Useful for LA commuters

120901 Choreography and the Specific Image

Not particularly inspiring

120901 Workshop Math

Oh to be a renaissance man!

120901 Kill or Capture

Still a pacifist but more understanding of Obama

120901 Being Watched

Useful inspiration when chorographing

120901 The Man Who Quit Money

Inspiring approach to life

120901 Consent of the Networked

The revolution will not be on Facebook

120901 The Net Delusion

Internet policy required to protect democracy

120901 The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

Why we lie and how to resist it

120701 The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Great. And video is even better.

120701 The Intimate Act of Choreography

Great for choreographer's block

120701 The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance

Expertise is an adaptation

120701 The Art of Making Dances

Absolutely inspiring!

120701 Predator Nation

Wasn't in the mood for self loathing?

120701 Flow

Didn't finish... flowed on to the next book

120701 Feelings Are Facts

Insight into genius

120701 Free

Decent but not as inspiring as Eben Moglen

120701 Redirect

How to create productive self-narratives

120701 iDisorder

Not my (tech-inspired) problems

120604 Canning for a New Generation

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Canning for a New Generation
Liana Krissoff
pub. 2010, 303p
source: LAPL

120604 Make Space

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration
Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft
pub. 2012, 272p
source: LAPL

120604 Salted

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Salted – A manifesto on the world’s most essential mineral, with recipes
Mark Bitterman
pub. 2010, 312p
source: LAPL

120604 Choreography Observed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Choreography Observed
Scott Belsky
pub. 1987, 294p
source: LAPL

120604 Making Ideas Happen

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the obstacles between vision & reality
Scott Belsky
pub. 2010, 242p
source: LAPL

120410 Adapt

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Adapt, Why Success Always Starts With Failure
Tim Harford
pub. 2011, 309p
source: LAPL

120410 Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars
William Patry
pub. 2009, 266p
source: LAPL

120410 The Creative Habit

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

The Creative Habit – Learn It and Use It for Life
Twyla Tharp
pub. 2003, 243p
source: LAPL

120410 A Guide to the Japanese Stage

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

A Guide to the Japanese Stage
Ronald Cavaye, Paul Griffith, Akihiko Senda
pub. 2004, 287p
source: LAPL

120410 Willpower

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
pub. 2011, 291p
source: LAPL

120410 Knocking on Heaven’s Door

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How physics and scientific thinking illuminate the universe and the modern world
Lisa Randall
pub. 2011, 442p
source: LAPL

120410 IBM and the Holocaust

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

IBM and the Holocaust, The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation
Edwin Black
pub. 2001, 519p
source: LAPL

111220 Creative License

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Creative License, The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling
Kembrew McLeod, Peter DiCola
pub. 2011, 325p
source: LAPL

111220 Program Or Be Programmed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Program Or Be Programmed: Ten commands for a digital age
Douglas Rushkoff
pub. 2010, 149p
source: LAPL

111220 Using Drupal

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Using Drupal
Angela Byron, Addison Berry, Nathan Haug, Jeff Eaton, James Walker, Jeff Robbins
pub. 2009, 464p
source: LAPL

111220 The Chairs Are Where the People Go

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

111220 But Will the Planet Notice

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

But Will the Planet Notice — How Smart Economics Can Save the World
Gernot Wagner
pub. 2011, 258p
source: LAPL

The book’s ending provides the most concise summary.

111220 Moby Dick

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Moby Dick
Herman Melville
pub. 1851, 620p
source: LAPL

Just as I was lamenting my long lapse from reading fiction, my mom recommended Moby Dick. Why not be ambitious?!

I loved it.

111022 Moonwalking With Einstein

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Moonwalking With Einstein — The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Joshua Foer
pub. 2011, 307p
source: LAPL

111022 Life Inc.

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Life Inc. — How the World Became A Corporation and How to Take It Back
Douglas Rushkoff
pub. 2011, 247p
source: LAPL

111022 Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed — Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century
Howard Gardner
pub. 2011, 244p
source: LAPL

111022 The Art Instinct

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

The Art Instinct: beauty, pleasure, & human evolution
Denis Dutton
pub. 2009, 278p
source: LAPL

111022 Physics for Entertainment

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Physics for Entertainment
Yakov Perelman
pub. 2008, 330p
source: LAPL

110917 Freedom of Expression

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Freedom of Expression – Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity
Kembrew McLeod
pub. 2005, 375p
source: LAPL

110917 Learning OpenCV

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Learning OpenCV: Computer Vision with the OpenCV Library
Gary Bradski & Adrian Kaehler
pub. 2008, 555p
source: LAPL

110917 Small Is Beautiful

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Small Is Beautiful — Economics as if People Mattered
E. F. Schumacher
pub. 2010, 324p
source: LAPL

110917 The Warrior Diet

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

The Warrior Diet
Ori Hofmekler
pub. 2001, 359p
source: LAPL

110723 The Essential Touring Cyclist

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The Essential Touring Cyclist
Richard A. Lovett
pub. 2001, 160p
source: LAPL

110723 The One Pan Gourmet

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The One Pan Gourmet: Fresh food on the trail
Don Jacobson
pub. 2005, 182p
source: LAPL

110723 Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook — Worldwode Cycle Route & Planning Guide
Stephen Lord
pub. 2006, 288p
source: LAPL

110723 Designing Furniture

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Designing Furniture: from concept to shopt drawing, a practical guide
Seth Stem
pub. 1989, 215p
source: LAPL

110723 Great Soul

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India
Joseph Lelyveld
pub. 2011, 425p
source: LAPL

110723 The Perfect Edge

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The Perfect Edge — The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers
Ron Hock
pub. 2009, 221p
source: LAPL

110723 Practical Furniture Design

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Practical Furniture Design: from Drawing Board to Smart Construction
various authors
pub. 2009, 268p
source: LAPL, no longer available

110708 The Information

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The Information: a history, a theory, a flood
James Gleik
pub. 2011, 526p
source: LAPL

110708 Decoded

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Jay Z
pub. 2010, 317p
source: LAPL

110708 Einstein: The Life and Times

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Einstein: The Life and Times
Ronald W. Clark
pub. 1984, 878p
source: LAPL

110708 The 4% Universe

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark matter, dark energy, and the race to discover the rest of reality
Richard Panek
pub. 2011, 297p
source: LAPL

110708 Celebration of Awareness

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution
Ivan Illich
pub. 1989, 189p
source: LAPL

110708 In the Mirror of the Past

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

In the Mirror of the Past, Lectures and Addresses 1978-1990
Ivan Illich
pub. 1992, 231p
source: LAPL

110708 The Workbench

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The Workbench – A Complete Guide to Creating Your Perfect Bench
Lon Schleining
pub. 2004, 202p
source: LAPL

110509 The Happiness Project

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

The Happiness Project
Gretchen Rubin
pub. 2009, 301p
source: LAPL

110509 Michael Polanyi

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Michael Polanyi
Mark T. Mitchell
pub. 2006, 195p
source: LAPL

110509 Organizing from the Inside Out

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Organizing from the Inside Out
Julie Morgenstern
pub. 2004, 320p
source: LAPL

110509 Massive

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Massive – The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
Ian Sample
pub. 2010, 260p
source: LAPL

110509 Against Method

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Against Method
Paul Feyerabend
pub. 1978, 339p
source: LAPL

110509 Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite — Evolution and the Modular Mind
Robert Kurzban
pub. 2010, 274p
source: LAPL

110509 Modern Spice

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Modern Spice — Inspired indian flavors for the contemporary kitchen
Monica Bhide
pub. 2009, 265p
source: LAPL

110509 Making Workbenches

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Making Workbenches
Sam Allen
pub. 1995, 160p
source: LAPL

110509 Treasure Chests

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Treasure Chests, the Legacy of Extraordinary Boxes
Lon Schleining
pub. 2001, 200p
source: LAPL

110509 The Workbench Book

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

The Workbench Book
Scott Landis
pub. 1998, 247p
source: LAPL

110401 A Long Way Gone

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

A Long Way Gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Ishmael Beah
pub. 2007, 229p
source: LAPL

110401 The Moral Landscape

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Moral Landscape – How Science Can Determine Human Values
Sam Harris
pub. 2010, 291p
source: LAPL

110401 The Science of Good and Evil

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Science of Good and Evil – Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
Michael Shermer
pub. 2004, 350p
source: LAPL

110401 The Master Switch

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Master Switch
Tim Wu
pub. 2010, 366p
source: LAPL

110401 Piracy

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

Piracy – The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg to Gates
Adrian Johns
pub. 2009, 626p
source: LAPL

101024 Decoding the Universe

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Decoding the Universe
Charles Seife
pub. 2007, 296p
source: LAPL

101024 The Gift

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
Lewis Hyde
pub. 2007, 435p
source: LAPL

101024 Very Special Relativity

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Very Special Relativity
Sander Bais
pub. 2007, 120p
source: LAPL

101024 Common As Air

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Common As Air – Revolution, Art, and Ownership
Lewis Hyde
pub. 2010, 306p
source: LAPL

101024 The Shallows

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains
Nicholas Carr
pub. 2010, 304p
source: LAPL

101024 Shop Class As Soulcraft

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

Shop Class As Soulcraft, An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
Matthew B. Crawford
pub. 2009, 246p
source: LAPL

101024 The Matchbox That Ate A Fourty-Ton Truck

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

The Matchbox That Ate A Fourty-Ton Truck – What everyday things tell us about the universe
Marcus Chown
pub. 2010, 269p
source: LAPL

101024 Payback

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

Payback, Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth
Margaret Atwood
pub. 2008, 230p
source: LAPL

100828 Laban for Actors and Dancers

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Laban for Actors and Dancers
Jean Newlove
pub. 1993, 158p
source: LAPL

100828 Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body
Vladimir Ivanovitch Stepanov
pub. 1969, 47p
source: LAPL

100828 On the Count of One

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

On the Count of One
Elizabeth Sherbon
pub. 1969, 47p
source: LAPL

100828 Dance Notation – The Process of Recording Movement on Paper

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Dance Notation – The Process of Recording Movement on Paper
Ann Hutchinson Guest
pub. 1984, 226p
source: LAPL

100828 Dance Writing Shorthand for Modern and Jazz Dance

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Dance Writing Shorthand for Modern and Jazz Dance
Valerie Sutton
pub. 1984, 226p
source: author website

100828 Principles of Dance and Movement Notation

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Principles of Dance and Movement Notation
Rudolf Laban
pub. 1956, 56p
source: LAPL

100828 Movement Study and Benesh Movement Notation

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Movement Study and Benesh Movement Notation
Julia McGuinness-Scott
pub. 1983, 148p
source: LAPL

100828 Your Move

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Your Move
Ann Hutchinson Guest and Tina Curran
pub. 1993, 158p
source: LAPL, no longer available

100630 What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – June 2010"]


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Haruki Murakami
pub. 2008, 179p
source: LAPL

100630 Healing with Whole Foods

I eat like this for totally different reasons

100630 Beautiful Evidence

More great Tufte!

100504 The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint


100504 Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value

Not my favorite on behavioral economics

100504 Brain Rules

Can you find the signed copy at LAPL?!

100504 The Ethics of Authenticity

Didn't finish

100504 Virtual Music, Computer Synthesis of Musical Style

David Cope is incredible!

100401 The Art of Possibility

Zander's TED talk outshines this book

100401 Ayn Rand and the World She Made

The best way to know Ayn Rand

100401 Visual Explanations

Good as primer to "V.D. of Q.I."

100401 The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The best in the field

100401 Envisioning Information

Read everything by Tufte

100401 Just Food

Good info, so-so writing

100401 Money for Nothing

Insight into a sleazy industry by a half-reformed opportunist

090709 Outliers

A classic

090709 Musicophilia

A scientist's appreciation of music

090709 This is Your Brain on Music

A fun look at the biology behind music

081227 home-construction (various)

All-things house design

The Creative Director

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – April 2013"]

The Creative Director — Alternative Rehearsal Techniques
Edward S Lisk
pub. 1991, 220p
source: gift

The study of learning behavior and the psychology of memory points out that memory for the beginning and end of a rehearsal is almost perfect. The first ten minutes of each rehearsal is the most critical regarding the proportion of material retained.

Director Awareness Scale…
Level 1 – Key signature, Note values, Rhythm, Articulation, Dynamics, Range
Level 2 – Isolate specifics, Repeat thru logical sequential analysis
Level 3 – Form, Transitions, Design
Level 4 – Perception, Conceptual Images, Expressive qualities
Level 5 – Removed from reality, unaware of surroundings and time. “Free” of analytical detail and difficulty. Allowing the images of beauty, emotions, and expressive qualities to exist.

If a guest conductor works with your organization, he should not have to address the first three levels if the students have been properly prepared. A guest conductor should only address his inner perception of the composer’s intent (levels 4 and 5), and allow the students to enter his world of expression and emotional interpretation.

When we first initiate this system of musical learning, we must remove all forms of written notation which trigger a physical or mechanical reaction tofingerings, note duration, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, etc. … This allows the student to develop auditory skills by re-directing attention primarily to pitch and its characteristics of quality, intonation, balance and blend, instead of the written notation.

By having students close their eyes and perform the many exercises in this text, we remove all distractions of the room, people, and things.

Vertical Sound Structure … removes independent interpretation of sound while directing it to the total ensemble sound. … Vertical Sound Structure creates an aural response tothe “total” or “whole” ensemble sound from bottom to top (tuba to piccolo) relative to entrance, release, and rhythmic subdivision. All ingredients of sound; tone quality, balance, blend, intonation, volume and dynamics, are maintained relative to the quality and texture of sound from bottom to top.

While playing through major chord qualities around the Circle of 4ths, have students in groups 1, 3 and 4 play at a “PP” level while group 2 plays at a “FF” level. The results will dramatically show how proper balance is achieved. …

Correct the above by having only groups 1, 3 and 4 play and then bring in group 2 with a hand signal and increase or decrease the volume of sound until it is balanced to your liking. …

The term “Chord Color” has more significance to students than other terms to identify quality of total ensemble sound.

Inform the students that it is extremely important that total silence be maintained when the entire ensemble is “sensing” and mentally counting “SILENCE”. Any type of noise will distract the students intensity of concentration. If such a condition arises (movement, chair squeaking, class bells ringing), stop and wait until total silence is restored and then proceed… with a different odd number combination! The different combinations are what controls “thinking”.

… establish a pulse (counting or tapping aloud) for the students to sense. Start the ensemble and count aloud during the first 2 or 3 pitches they are sustaining and for the SILENCE part “REST 2,3,4,5,etc.” This is important in unifying the mental pulse.

At this point, stop counting and step away from the podium. Allow the students to continue through the Circle of 4ths on their own. When you detect a poor entrance or release, stop the organization and START OVER WITH A NEW COMBINATION OF NUMBERS.

… “step away” from the score more often during a rehearsal. The occasional “listener” role triggers a totally different auditory response and reaction!

When we are constantly working with formula structure (eliminating errors), a tendency to stifle the students musical potential is possible. Formula is based upon “pattern” and individuals must fit into this “pattern” instead of shaping the individuals talent without the restrictions or confinements of a formula. …

If rehearsals are structured toward the correction of errors … it more often than not ends as being a contrived expression. … The students are being derived [of music’s] non-verbal language of expression.

… 8% of a message is communicated through Words, 37% is through the tone, nuance and vocal inflections of these Words, and 55% of this message is communicated through non-verbal body language. … it is important we give greater consideration to the body language we use when conducting our organizations…

An important state of awareness arises approximately one or two weeks before a major performance. During this 1-2 week period of time, our listening becomes far more critical and demanding… It is a “state” in which our goals for superior performance conflict with the results of our rehearsal techniques…

The most phenomenal abilities… are demonstrated by the conductor. The conductor has the ability to discern between indistinguishable error and preciseness with all musical demands of quality, balance, blend, intonation, phrasing, rhythms, technique and dynamics coupled with the individual and section relative to the total ensemble.

“Play a beautiful lullaby or ballad; start on ANY note, don’t be concerned with any specific key, note values or rhythms, and focus your attention on the beauty of the notes you are playing. Don’t be concerned with the direction or number of the notes, only your feeling of beauty. Your sense of beauty will lead the notes in a natural direction.” …

This free form of playing should be a part of daily practice for a few minutes each day. It is the only approach which allows the student tofree themselves of the mathematical, mechanical restrictions of early instruction. This musical experience simply starts with “nonsense” and gradually evolves into “sense”.

1. Direct the student to look at a phrase and silently sing the phrase to themselves. Encourage them to project the “feeling” of expression when they were playing [“free form”].

2. Do not have the student sing aloud. They become preoccupied with pitch, vocal quality, and intervals. Singing a musical phrase is extremely important but should not be attempted at this stage… we are removing restrictions and building confidence!

3. Allow the student time to internalize the subtleties of nuance and inflections. When the student feels comfortable with what they are silently singing (and holding the feelings of nuance, inflections, and shadings in their “minds eye”), proceed to the actual performance of the written musical phrase.

4. Several interpretations should be performed. Have the student choose an interpretation and repeat the phrase which they believed to be most expressive (it is important that this be the student’s choice and not the director’s choice).

When we use our imagination, it is error free.

First, attention is directed to sustaining one note while focusing in on air column (speed, physical feel). Second, attention is directed to mentally moving fingers while sustaining this note.

Having students trained in responding to sub-divisions… allows greater access to many more musical needs. … if a composition is written 4/4, then perform it in 8/8; or 2/4 would become 4/8; 6/8 would be 12/16… The important aspect is to create the motion and energy of double time under the basic 2/4, 4/4, 6/8 etc. time signature. This does not mean that the conductor will conduct a sub-divided pattern! …

3. While the snare drum is playing the constant eighth note pattern (not the written snare drum part) bring the band in and play through the introduction and first strain. …

4. … Pause and direct the students to silently imagine the sound of the snare drum and eighth notes. Give them a few seconds to imagine the sound and feel the motion of the eighth notes.

5. Start the march again, without any snare drum or other percussion Direct the students to hear and feel the sound and motion of the snare drum…