social stuff

Turning Thoughts Into Things

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

I had one job today. One. Head out to a bookstore and buy classic literature books. Things did not all exactly go that way. Follow me on an intriguing discourse on productivity, self-fulfillment and cross-disciplinary learning while having the short attention span of a cat.

For All Mankind is one of my top favorite shows. I’m currently on my 3rd re-watch! I got pulled in initially by its high production value. I just love those panoramic moon shots, amazing soundtrack and charismatic characters. I then stayed for the well written story, character development, smart humour and the occasional learning opportunity. For example I’ve become familiar with US Navy terms as “FUBAR”, “SNAFU” and “BOHICA”. For the most part, there are a lot of “feel good” moments in the show, which at times can be quite comforting.

So, one way or another, you might understand why early today I was struggling to stop myself from watching “just one more episode”, go out and carry on my “due goal diligence” at the bookstore. That there were also high winds and heavy rain today in Amsterdam wasn’t helping my motivation to go out either.

But, alas, the show must go on. Like a Portuguese explorer of old, but not even close, I dragged myself up and headed out into the storm. While on the Metro, I was pondering on which books to buy. I was interested in certified authors which I shamelessly admit I haven’t read yet, maybe Hemingway, Edgar Alan Poe, etc. Or even classic Philosophy, there’s always room for a few more existential questions.

Eventually my train of thought lead me into another matter, hobbies. What cool things could I pickup on my spare time ? I recalled how around here, at least in the bigger rail stations, there are publicly available classic pianos. Earlier this week, when heading back home from work through one, I even noticed what seemed liked a Music teacher wrapping up on piano lessons to a set of youngling pupils, which was quite cool.

Sometimes when questioning the future, we find answers in the past. A long long time ago, we had Music as compulsory class in basic school. We learned basic Music Theory and the flute. Having to hear me commit musical murder on “FrΓ¨re Jacques” with a flute might explain why I wasn’t that popular in school.

Anyways, fast-forwarding a few years, my dad actually gave me a classic guitar for my 15th or 16th birthday or so. I was so excited! Over time I then proceeded to download off the internet every Guitar music sheet I could find that wasn’t nailed to a wall and started practicing on my own. After a while, I really wasn’t getting anywhere. Youtube hadn’t even been invented yet. I was also living in a small village, so there wasn’t an abundance of either Music teachers or even guitar players either.

By chance, a childhood friend slash neighbor was actually joining my village’s Philharmonic Band at the time and pulled me into it. While classic guitar wasn’t really part of their line-up, first months actually involved learning Music Theory, reading music sheets and so on, quite cool!

Not long after tho, I got into highschool at a college in the city, which was quite a ways from home, so I dropped out from Music classes due to “scheduling conflicts” (music lessons started at around 17h whereas i’d usually get home from school past 18h). And that was pretty much that.

Eventually got busy with other things like “teenagering”, exploring the fascinating world of Computer Science and THE time-sink, video games!

Over the course of the years, even recently when walking by those public pianos, I occasional have a sense of regret in that, yeah definitely should have learned an instrument!

So, getting back to my train of thoughts on the Metro, I started wondering that maybe it was a good idea to pickup some Music Theory books as well, try something different again. I then batphone Dimitris, one of my local friends which I know to be a jazz aficionado and good on the keyboard, for book recommendations.

His advice was “Adult Piano Adventures”, by Nancy and Randall Faber, which is “Ideal for the beginning adult or as a refresher course for the returning Adult, the All-in-One Books give skills to play hundreds of familiar melodies”. Nice tip, that sounded very noob friendly and just what I was looking for! Made a mental note for looking for a copy at the bookstores as I’d prefer a physical edition, or as last resort, just order it off Amazon.

One problem down so far, a few more to go. Will need to get my hands on a second hand piano slash keyboard to actually practice. Maybe also scout town for lessons, lest the guitar situation repeat itself. Made mental note to sort that stuff out too.

So much was happening by now and I hadn’t even stepped out of the Metro! After stepping out and still considering what books to focus on at bookstore, I take two important detours. “Cocotte”, one of my favorite food places in Amsterdam. Creative juices flow better on a full stomach. Second detour was the Stedelijk, which is both my favorite Modern Art museum AND the handiest location for, when in the area, letting the creative juices make a run for a toilet break. I am only human after all.

While having some coffee at the museum, I also took the opportunity to start organizing some technical content by splitting the subject in several high level sub-topics. I will then refine those sub-topics again sometime soon, fill in the content between the lines and, boom, finally pump out some technical content!

While so far and at a superficial level it might appear I have so far completely deviated the article from the topics I’ve set out to initially initially explore, let I remind you, dear Reader, that by clicking the article detail and making it here, you are doing this to yourself by your own free will :-p.

Any case, I did so far touch a few “oldie but goodie” tips:

  1. Museums are generally safe bets when exploring cities and nature calls
  2. When working towards something and being blocked by lack of ideas and solutions, it’s generally a good approach to the avoid risk of burnout/over-focusing by reaching out to other people, change our surroundings …
  3. One, or the most common (?), way to tackle the penning of larger pieces of content is to break it down into smaller, more manageable key points, then fill in the blanks key point by key point

Even just letting ourselves get immersed by a completely different environment, like a museum, can give our brain the space it needs to be able to work things out.

Things actually get even hotter when this opens up opportunities for some cross-disciplinary action, which is a subject that generally fascinates me. For example I recently came across a band named “Master Boot Record”, computer generated music. Not going to digress into that tho.

“Cross-disciplinary” does bridge us closer into our grand finale here. By the time I actually make it to the bookstore, I did not have long before closing and so decided to postpone the classic literature purchases for another visit very soon.

I just head straight into the Music section, which was conveniently straight in from the door. I scan down the options there, keeping an eye out for either my friends recommendation or similar book. A lot of the books there were mostly biographies, which wasn’t really what I was looking for.

I had almost given up hope when, right as I was about to turn tail and bail out, a particular book stood out. “Song Writers On Song Writing (Fourth Extended Edition)”. I snatched that book faster than a kid through a cookie jar. Music and listening to it, is an integral part of my daily life. To the point that I practically live inside my headphones and people who might not know me better might think I’m the type of anti-social monster that normal anti-social persons check under their bed for at night before going to sleep, which is hardly true. I prefer to spook people out of closets myself, to each its own.

Anyways, my angle on the book and what fascinated me immediately was not wanting to get into song writing myself per se, but curiosity over that particular creative process. How do THEY turn thoughts into things ? Is it completely all art, not any bits of science (method) ? Are there any commonalities with producing other types of “content” ? If nothing else, according to the synopsis, it also contains an “invaluable historical record of the popular music of this century”, which makes quite a gem in itself.

I’m quite pumped about it! Between all of the above and also writing this piece, I ran out of energy for reading today. So, soon I will find a nice tree, chain myself to it (as reportedly we’re still expecting strong winds here in the Netherlands) and chug that book down!

If you made it all way down here, thank you for reading. I hope to have lit up any kind of good light on your inspirational switchboard.

Ta tah.