Valuing Writing and Music

Claire Cain Miller writes an interesting article in the New York Times titled, As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up.

Yes, I know, we have been through what, three or four “computers are going to kill jobs” moments in the last half-century.  Economists think those prior scares didn’t kill jobs.  Miller’s article is worth reading, and it raises the issue of intellectual property.

Intellectual property?

Sure.  The general thinking has been that computers/automation/artificial intelligence is stripping the repetitive, lower-skill jobs, so we all ought to go to college and get jobs that require more brain and less brawn, right?  Create intellectual property, right?

Okay.  Great idea.  But consider the reality that intellectual property — songs, music performance, writing — is highly undervalued.  And that seems to be a trend, one which seems to be exacerbated by — guess what? — the same forces of technology that are supposedly driving us up the intellectual content curve.  Whether we are discussing musicians or writers or sports or (in the future) college professors, the new electronic media tend to make the few, the very top-notch (in public opinion), available to all.  So the great jazzman that’s not famous struggles to make a living.  Smashwords says that the average self-published author makes a pittance.  The wonderful university professor’s lecture is trumped by the famous guy on TED talks.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but we’d better find one.  Intellectual property really shouldn’t be free.

 

Warehouse 13

Just a quick personal note that SyFy’s Warehouse 13 will finish out with a short fifth season beginning April 14th.  My son Edward has written the music, and it’s been a good run.  Each episode goes to a different time, different place, which made it an exciting creative platform for a composer. The theme song was nominated for an Emmy.  Edward passed on these details:  “Hey gang… the PREMIERE date for Season 5 of Warehouse 13 is MONDAY, April 14, at 9pm  (4-14-14, which, btw, totals 14 when you add it up…).  I’m still finding out the full schedule, but if they show all 6 in order with no pre-emptions, the finale will air on Monday, May 19th.”

See Edward’s website for more of his music.

Rollin’ the Stone Up the Hill

I knew it had to happen, but I figured I’d be reading Hemingway or Shakespeare, Steinbeck or Joyce when it did.

I’m talking about the hit-upside-the-head feeling of being a talentless dSmashed Guitarrudge.  I recognized it right away, because I’ve had it more often than I care to admit as a musician, listening to other guitarists play spectacular stuff that I couldn’t touch.  Makes you want to go home and trash your axe.

So here I am, deep in the middle of the story arc of my second novel, Skins and Bone.  The Cape Cod Writers Conference has come and gone.  Lots of pearls, lots of help. Yes, they tell me, not all writing can be lyrical.  Really, you just have to plug along.  Write every day.  Pretty soon you’ll have something you can revise.  Then I pick up Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  Here are a couple of bits.

“He has a great smile, a cat’s smile. He should cough out yellow Tweety Bird feathers, the way he smiles at me.”Sleeping cat

“You drink a little too much and try a little too hard. And you go home to a cold bed and think, That was fine. And your life is a long line of fine.”

Drat!  Well, the good news is that trashing an Eberhard Faber #2 is not a big deal.  Wait a minute, I write on my computer …

Writing Groups

They always say “Join writing groups”. When I started out, I was skeptical.  After all, my voice is my voice.  Could other people perfect it?  But, ‘they’ always say to join writing groups … So …Writing pictures

There are quite a few groups where I live and work, and I’ve been lucky to find a couple that I really like.  Having found them, I’m learning their value.  First off, listening to other voices makes one’s own voice stronger, better.  At risk of being obscure, it’s a little like the bracing that keeps the soundboard of a guitar from warping.  In a fine instrument, the luthier shapes the bracing by shaving away parts that are unnecessary, leaving the soundboard as strong as it was before the shaping but more responsive … clearer sounding.  That’s what a writing group does, at least for me.  Torturing the musical simile a little more, having a good writer look at your own stuff is a little like listening to covers of a song you know well done by other musicians.  You always love the original, but the covers broaden your horizons.

Writing, storytelling and the music of language

I’m finding that the process of writing sometimes gets in the way of the goal of writing, which is storytelling.

Language may be the most important gift from the genetic dance that formed us.  It allows us to remember things and share ideas beyond tribe and lifetime.  But writing is a johnny-come-lately at maybe 6,000 years old or so, and writing seems to want to squash the tempo out of language.

I have to admit a little bit of a grudge against you, Alphabet.  After all, you hijacked our stories.  Oh, Alpha, I know you didn’t mean to, and I know it was important to count heads of cattle and amphorae of wine so we could get on with the business of civilization.  But, Alphabet, you made us too often ignore the music of language. Before you came along, I suspect that there were no stories without music.  Even if unaccompanied by instrument or choir, spoken words always have music.  The oral tradition values that sound and rhythm.  You can still get whiffs of it today, but modern media often override sound and rhythm with sound bites and volume.  It’s hard to compress art into a Tweet.

I spent a lot of my career writing for business.  Precise, accurate, dry writing.  Facts strung together by logic in pursuit of matters legal and financial, didactic and persuasive.  I enjoyed it … there is a challenge to making something clear in as few words as possible.  ImageWriting the novel has been different and harder.  Tone and rhythm are take effort to maintain.  I test out my words by speaking them.  I do it to find their natural melody.  I have a pretty strong suspicion that nobody’s going to read something with no beat and no flow.

Preamble

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Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.  Geoffrey Chaucer said that about 600 years ago as part of the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, the first writing we would recognize as English.  I believe it.  What would life be worth if it weren’t a pilgrimage?  Every day.  I hope you will join my pilgrimage.  I’m writing a book … well, several.  Writing is pilgrimage, and I’ll need sustenance along the way.  I hope you will follow along, comment, help lead me.  C’mon, it will be an adventure …