The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

Thought For The Day: Try Being Original


Trying to be ‘original’ is a lot like that ‘buy low and sell high’ advice about betting on the stock market. It’s not as easy it seems.

We’re taught from an early age to emulate something (or someone) that ‘works’. Which makes sense. But that strategy simply leads one off course if you’re trying to find your own voice. When you and I follow the stocks? That’s exactly what we’re doing—following the path cleared by some other guy who already made the big money. (Yeah Dim, the big, big money!)

As I keep workin’ on Detroit, I keep running into bits where I need some sort of ‘direction’. So naturally I go to the trove of opera and musicals and see how the greats all tackled various similar problems. And then I end up with a section of music with a melodic rip-off of Bluebeard’s Castle…but with a snappy West Side Story beat. Oy.

Do I have the magic answer for stock picks? Nope. (Though I’m sure there are currently ten suggestions in my spam bucket.) But one thing that occurs is a strategy of ‘poor listening’ I did unintentionally for years and now try to do very intentionally.

When I first started learning tunes off of records, remember that records (especially when played on my phonograph) sounded pretty crappy. I would learn the parts as best I could, but I soon realised that I would almost never get them precisely right—especially bass and harmony parts, since these were often quite hard to hear. (Come to think of it, lyrics too, as in ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy’ and about 40% of Led Zeppelin’s catalog. 😀 ) But those mis-hearings started turning into some interesting stuff; harmonies that were unusual, bass parts that were definitely not the norm. Eventually, of course, someone would show me what I was doing ‘wrong’ and then I’d have to decide whether I preferred the ‘right’ way or ‘my’ way. But! I now had a choice. I had unwittingly given myself an expanded vocabulary of choices.

Of course, when I started travelling about, I found, in a combination of shock and relief, that I had not invented this fabulous creativity booster. Over the years, I’ve talked to guys as far away as Ireland, Brazil and India who also learned songs ‘the wrong way’ and learned to use that as a creative plus.

Nowadays, I generally hear things ‘the right way’ (ear training: it’s like Room 101, but without the rats.) So I have to game the system if I want the same idea generating effect. Some quick (but loonie-appearing) tips:

1. Start the stereo really loud (real loud) in one room and walk into another room; or better still go outside. Just listen for various parts, or perhaps just the bass notes or lyrics. You’ll likely end up humming a part far different from what’s ‘real’.

2. If you have outdoor speakers, listen to the stuff out of doors. If you’re unlucky enough to have an insensitive neighbour who plays his stereo way too loud (and probably with that ridiculous T-Pain stuff) try listening to it from across the street. Get far enough away that the sound becomes just this ‘cloud’. You’ll likely hear some interesting stuff once you stop perceiving the AutoTune.

3. Take yer totally dinosaur boom box to the beach and turn it up. Way up. Now run back and forth past it (ya gotta run fast enough to create yer own ‘doppler effect’. 😀 )

4. Too lazy for that? Try the ‘insane-o ice cream man effect.’ Have yer boyfriend/girlfriend turn the car stereo up. Way up. Roll down all windows. Got a rag top? Put ‘er down. Now have them drive up and down the street past yer front porch while you enjoy a gin and tonic. Have them vary the speed until they get that proper doppler thing going. As The Good Humour Man has proven time and again, this tends to work best with higher pitched sounds.

BONUS: If you’re like me, and your eyesight is becoming total crap, you can do a bonus visual enhancer. Just take off yer glasses and look at whatever. Or take a picture of it with yer crap phone-cam and look at that.

As you can see, there are many, many fun (and zero dollar) opportunities for hearing things in a different way—and thus spurring the creative process. I think these tend to work far better than simply emulating what has worked in the past.

When I figure out how to apply the above strategies onto stock picking, I’ll get back to ya.

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