Monday March 11
Short but intense early morning practices. Playing in the stairwell is a
joy, even when I am tired and un-energized. Even the simplest repetitive
string of single notes come to life in the right reverberant space.
I suspect this is a secret but obvious technique that has more power than we
assume: if I sound good (because of the quality of my instrument and/or the
quality of the space where I am working) then my practice will have more energy,
and probably more value.
What affects the quality of the practice space? For me, it falls out in
this order of priority: 1) acoustic properties, 2) lighting, 3) order in the
space, 4) shape, 5) colors, 6) size.
Long day at work. Then, SBRS is giving up our rehearsal in response to a
need for a SC Development Team meeting. Many distressing and distracting
mails and conversations flying around over the past few weeks. There are
some things that require people to meet and speak face to face.
* * *
Considered putting my meeting notes here, then deleted them. There are
certain ideas/issues/topics that publishing in an online diary will only
* * *
Tuesday March 12
A quiet night at home with LH. Investing in my often neglected hearth this
* * *
Juggling an ongoing flurry of email discussing directions, potentials, opinions,
* * *
Once again, the highlight of my day:
* * *
Thursday March 14
No SBRS rehearsal this evening because TravisM has a show at EMP with Tiger
Zane. Meeting with CurtG before SGC rehearsal to discuss Circulation
* * *
Friday March 15
Attended an all day 'offsite' at MS called Design Day. Some very inspiring
sessions from some of the best UI and User Experience, and product designers on
-- a confirmation and reminder from a well-respected UI pioneer that we
each carry our own unique framework of perception that shapes and colors
everything we experience. Assuming that any two people understand or
experience anything in the same way is, at best, an illusion, at worst, a
delusion that can lead to disappointment, false expectations, and missed
-- a quick history and portrait of the life, struggles, and vision of Vincent
-- a study of the way people learn reveals/confirms that there are orthogonal
modes of learning, and UI (or instructors) that present only one 'mode of
presentation' will, by definition, likely 'miss' a majority of the audience.
There are certainly many good reasons to distrust Microsoft (or any large,
distributed organization.) There are also many amazing people and vital
activities going on inside this organism that the outside world rarely has
access to share in or experience.
We are so quick to judge, bad-mouth, write-off, and criticize each other and the
institutions in the world around us. We are especially hard on those
things, ideas, and/or people that appear to threaten us or our sacred
views of how things are, or worse, how things 'should' be.
Perception and the middle way: a) things are rarely as simple as they appear, b)
things are rarely as complex as they appear.
Level eleven: developing strategies for working with real complexities,
contradictions, paradoxes, and ambiguities within the vast gray areas that
* * *
Lisa is flying to LA tomorrow for a week of workshops and work activities.
This evening: preparations.
* * *
Been keeping this diary all week, but just deleted a slew of potentially
controversial entries. Necessary self-editing to preserve my own peace,
despite the potential for shared observation, growth, learning, and interaction
that may come from this.
Deciding, again, that this diary is not a forum for these kinds of writings.
* * *
Saturday March 16
Up very early to take LH to the airport. Missing Calisthenics (and maybe
sitting) to send her off in the right way. Later today: on to the third
official Seattle Circle Circulation Workshop. No agenda. No plans.
The art of instruction is in responding appropriately in the moment to the needs
of those in the room. I suspect this is the underlying skill of the Master
artist: the ability to transform what ever raw materials are available in the
moment into an expression of beauty.
My personal goal for this workshop: to generate more energy than I spend.
* * *
Just back from all day at HQ for the Circulation Workshop with eight guitarists
and a short SGC quintet busking show at (for?) Isabel's school.
I am wiped out, but still have 1/2 hour of AAD work to do. Better write
this now or it may not happen later.
The Circulation team was well prepared -- it felt to me as if we were picking up
where we left off at the completion of the last Circulation project.
This team was well aware of and executed many of the more musical aspects of
Circulation practice and primaries.
Our work began with an extremely musical Free Circulation, then we moved into an
exploration of Pulse Division in smaller groups, an exploration of applied Group
Loops, and more Pulse Division in 7 that provided empirical answers to the
question "How can I practice (prepare for) Circulations when I am alone?"
A good day's work.
Then off to the show in the basement of a church in the U-District. Our
SGC quintet busking was barely audible, so we kept it short and sweet.
Some fun and funny moments.
Isabel's school really seems to have their act together.
* * *
Tobin's link to the NY Times article on the future of music hits a few nails on
the head -- some of these are nails that I have hit on before, and some are
nails that have been driven into my head (and into the coffin that contains my
bank account) during my multiple careers as a music technology entrepreneur.
The article is recommended reading. TravisH had some wonderful email
rebuttals to some of the points in which the writer eloquently states the
obvious. I'll leave it to Travis (or Tobin) to share those should they
Tobin's mention of a potential DirectMusic/Ximer-esque project re-birth at MS
comes about six months too late for me, although I may still be able to pour
some of my considerable gasoline on the sparks (mistaken for "new ideas") that seem to be flying around in
a few heads there.
Now, onto my final obligations of the day.
* * *
Sunday March 17
Late night phone call last night from music-sister DebraK in Sacramento.
Nice to hear her voice and catch up briefly, even though I was deep asleep when
The bad news: even after two decades of practice, working in groups is difficult
* * *
I am a knife. You are a hammer. Together we can create a sculpture, design
and build other tools, or pound and slice the crap out of each other. I am
not a hammer. You are not a knife. I will not pound that nail.
Please do not attempt to cut that paper.
* * *
SC Circulation Project III - Day Two Notes
Participants: SB, CurtG, TravisM, ChrisG, JohnH, ElisabethP, ChadB, MarkJ, with
StephenG in the Kitchen.
0. Airport Exercise warm-up and Free Circulation (Whole Team)
1. Composed Melody Circulation (CG)
a.) one person begins choosing the first note
b.) each person in sequence follows and listens before choosing their note
c.) the melody is composed intentionally one note at a time, one note per person
The sequence unfolds as follows:
1-2-3-4 ... n-1-2-3-4 ... n
and each person chooses their note quickly as the previous notes circulate
around to their seat.
c.) when the first pass is complete the first person chooses a second note and
the process continues until each person has chosen two notes. At this
point, the Composed Circulation is complete.
d.) when the last player has selected the last note, there is a brief pause,
then the completed Circulation is played twice
e) the Circulation is then played 4 more times with each player "cascading"
their notes (3 pulses)
f) then the Circulation is played twice again sans cascade
g) the 'performance' is completed with 3 un-cued chords:
chord 1 = first note
chord 2 = second note
chord 3 = first note
EXECUTION NOTE: There should be as little 'gap' between each 'round' of note
selection as possible. Ideally, an audience should not know that 'composition'
or note selection is even happening. The audience experiences a
Circulating melody being built up one note at a time.
2. Follow the Leader (SB)
The designated 'leader' begins play a short simple part (a part is not short or
simple if the part cannot be easily and quickly transmitted around the circle),
and the person to their right 'learns' the part by whatever means necessary and
repeats it exactly as if they were acting as an 'analog delay' to the leader's
part. Each player inserts is a 'delay' between the time when then
accept the part and pass it on to the next seat Each part is transmitted
around the circle until the leader sees that at least two people are playing the
first part; then the leader 'enters' a second part into the circle, providing
multiple layers of parts that are each 'circulating' with at least two players
on each. The Follow the Leader Circulation completes when the leader
passes 'silence' into the circle, and the silence circulates around until the
last player completes his last part.
3. Group Loops with Sectional Circulations (TM)
Too difficult to describe in my current state. Perhaps another diarist
will give this a shot. My Argentinean "Greenthumb" pals will recognize this as
the "greening" we did on 'Dark.'
4. Cascading Dynamics (CG)
Too difficult to describe in my current state. Perhaps another diarist
will give this a shot.
5. Lunchtime Comments and Observations (Whole Team)
a). we generally play within a dynamic range that moves from 6 to 8 on a
possible scale of 1 to 10.
b.) Group Loops give us a structure within which we may learn to improvise.
Love to see this brought into performance situations. Principles that keep
it safe: keep your part simple and and the overall length short.
c.) Question: how to signal chords, key changes, cascading, dynamic changes,
section changes during Circulations and Group Loops? Shall we simply use our
voice and speak to each other during the pieces or is there a
yet-to-be-discovered vocabulary of non-verbal cues we can develop?
d.) Historical review of the primary characteristics of 'Squird.'
- usually green; sometimes brown or orange
- of indeterminate organic origin
- usually somewhere between a liquid or solid
- supposed to be 'good for you'
Later postulation on entomology of the word. My personal hypothesis: contraction
of 'squirt' and 'turd.'
6. Story Circulations (SB)
a.) Free Word Circulation
b.) Themed Word Circulations:
i.) describe a skirt performance; (one word per person) -- result: a
cacophony of nonsense sentences, no theme, no clear message, no perceived
connection between speakers
ii.) provide feed back about lunch; one word per person -- result: clearer
meaning, and connection between speakers directed by 'group intelligence'
delivering an 'averaged' but somewhat coherient assessment of lunch;
c.) Sentence Circulations
i.) describe the vision of Seattle Circle; one sentence per person; result:
another 'averaged' group monologue that held together remarkably well given the
potentially divisive and ambiguous subject matter
ii.) in an emotional tone, describe the problems you are having with your group;
one sentence per person; result: more flow and less focus on the 'process',
more focus on the content of what each person was saying, as if the group and
each person in it had a larger 'investment' in the overall message; more
energy and connection between the individual 'players' as well within as the
d.) Reading SC Mission from Flyers (one word each person)
result: first time, chunky, no flow; second time, more flow, more focus on
e.) Story Circulations with Guitars -- repeated themes above a) - d)
replacing words/sentences with notes and phrases on Guitar. result:
many clear parallels between how we speak (as a group and as individuals) and
how we play
7. GC Theme Circulation in Gm (CG)
b.) distributed theme, one person per string
c.) trading Circulations and theme
8. Weekend Review Performance for DougB (SB)
a.) Intentional Melody Circulation
b.) Group Loop
c.) Follow the Leader
d.) GC Gm Theme Circulation with Cascades
9. Follow Up Observations (Whole Team)
a.) one person mentioned confusion about 'presence' vs. 'absence' of music: to
this person, if notes 'sound good' then it might be Music, but they do not know
if that means that Music was present.
b.) comment: Circulation work is really a form of practical work on the
technique of developing musicality and improvisation skills: Circulation demands
a different form of group listening and response to what is happening in the
moment unlike our 'normal' musical situations where you can play your stream of
notes on auto-pilot.
c.) one person would like to see these forms, structures, practices and
performance techniques taken back to individual performance teams and applied in
both rehearsal and performance situations.
* * *
Monday March 18
Up early and out the door this morning with 'homework' taken care of first thing. Even had time to clean up some loose ends and get organized this morning around the house. The morning seems to have been a full day so far.
A few mundane errands to run on the way to work this morning: gas, dry cleaning, bank, post office, and I'll still be on time to my all day "offsite" meeting.
* * *
In the Seattle GC community, there is a general and often expressed disdain for
the idea of "meetings." Granted, meeting face to face is only one of at
least six strategies for collective planning and problem solving. But given this
disdain, scheduling meetings is like pulling teeth. And yet, we also seem
unwilling or unable to explore other alternatives.
At MS, periodically, small teams go off together and sequester themselves in a
shielded room (no email, phone, or net connections) all day to plan the next phase of operations and/or strategy. The team
usually comes back with notes, a long list of items to research, and a list of tasks to execute
with dates by each task.
But perhaps more importantly, the offsite team often comes back with a better understanding of each other
and how to work together. The real benefit of these kinds of 'meetings'
may have less to do with what gets put on paper and more to do with the fact
that the people in the room are in one place with clear a purpose -- there is a
common mission: to work together to face the problems at hand.
* * *
Tuesday March 19
This just in:
----- Original Message -----
From: David LaVallee
To: SB, CG
Sent: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 4:44 PM
Subject: dismissal of pressures
"I am not a creator," Fuller once said. "I am a swimmer and a dismisser of
irrelevancies. Everything we need to work with is around us, although most of it
is initially confusing. To find order in what we experience we must first
inventory the total experiences, then temporarily set aside all irrelevancies. I
do not invent my thoughts. I merely separate out some local patterns from a
confusing whole. The act is dismissal of pressures. Flight was the discovery of
the lift - not the push..."
-- Buckminster Fuller Anthology for a New Millenium, Thomas Zung pp 40.
* * *
Wednesday March 20
Up early for AAD tasks and a quick picture of the day. Nice to have these
out of the way early. The rest of the day sort of took care of itself.
Not my 'perfect day', but a pretty good day, nonetheless.
* * *
Thursday March 21
Much to say, but not here, not now. Furious email flurries all around.
Much articulation and 'processing' underway within the extended SC team.
Good news: projector experiments for tomorrow's show seem promising.
* * *
Friday March 22
Very bad allergies today. Must have sneezed two-hundred times this
* * *
SGC septet debut at Pitcairn Scott Gallery of Design.
A packed house and a good show using the new sound system borrowed from SBRS.
Fine and fancy programs too thanks to a generously and skillfully executed
printing job by Dean.
Also, a new twist: song titles projected on the wall behind the group. A
minor success with some execution bugs to be smoothed out should we do this
Also, very nice to have special guests, TomR and JonathanB in the house.
We even managed to pull BillR out of his KMFDM batcave for the event. I
blew off potential social events afterwards to conserve energy and fight
* * *
Saturday March 23
Wow. What a day. Where to begin?
Highlights: Seattle Circle 2002 Spring Gala and Fundraiser sponsored by
the Seattle Circle Development Team. Over 45 people and $700 in donations.
Performances by Tom Redmond and the Hellboys, SBRS, SGC, and Casting
Shadows/Four Cheeses. A slide show partially broadcast on borrowed
equipment entitled, Seattle Circle: History of the Future.
And wonderful historical photos adorning the walls by Ingrid Pape-Sheldon.
All in all, a successful day of strong efforts and generosity. Need to
download and post the pix I took later next week and share some snapshots of the
fantastic lighting that Frank, Ingrid, Chad and Jaxie put together.
We have a new sign at HQ and new stage lights after many delays and
difficulties. Congratulations to those who took on these thankless tasks and
delivered the goods.
* * *
Sunday March 24
Reading this morning:
Rock as Art
"Rock is eating its young. Rock musicians are America's most wasted natural
Popular music and film are the two great art forms of the twentieth century. In
the past twenty-five years, cinema has gained academic prestige. Film courses
are now a standard part of the college curriculum and grants are routinely
available to noncommercial directors.
But rock music has yet to win the respect it deserves as the authentic voice of
our time. Where rock goes, democracy follows. The dark poetry and surging
Dionysian rhythms of rock have transformed the consciousness and permanently
altered the sensoriums of two generations of Americans born after World War Two.
Rock music should not be left to the Darwinian laws of the marketplace. This
natively American art form deserves national support. Foundations, corporations
and Federal and state agencies that award grants in the arts should take rock
musicians as seriously as composers and sculptors. Colleges and universities
should designate special scholarships for talented rock musicians. Performers
who have made fortunes out of rock are ethically obligated to finance such
scholarships or to underwrite independent agencies to support needy musicians.
These days, rock musicians are set upon by vulture managers, who sanitize and
repackage them and strip them of their unruly free will. Like sports stars,
musicians are milked to the max, then dropped and cast aside when their first
album doesn't sell.
Managers offer all the temptations of Mammon to young rock bands: wealth, fame,
and easy sex. There is not a single public voice in the culture to say to the
musician: You are an artist, not a money machine. Don't sign the contract. Don't
tour. Record only when you are ready. Go off on your own, like Jimi Hendrix, and
live with your guitar until it becomes part of your body.
How should an artist he trained? Many English rock musicians in the Sixties and
early Seventies, including John Lennon and Keith Richards, emerged from art
schools. We must tell the young musician: Your peers are other artists, past and
future. Don't become a slave to the audience, with its smug hedonism, short
attention span and hunger for hits.
Artists should immerse themselves in art. Two decades ago, rock musicians read
poetry, studied Hinduism, and drew psychedelic visions in watercolors. For rock
to move forward as an art form, our musicians must be given the opportunity for
spiritual development. They should be encouraged to read, to look at paintings
and foreign films, to listen to jazz and classical music.
Artists with a strong sense of vocation can survive life's disasters and
triumphs with their inner lives intact. Our musicians need to be rescued from
the carpetbaggers and gold-diggers who attack them when they are young and
Long, productive careers don't happen by chance."
-- Camille Paglia, essay #4 from "Sex, Art, and American Culture" (essay
originally printed in the New York Times , April 16, 1992.)
* * *