Friday, August 7, 2015

Different Takes on Creativity (August 7, 2015)

I've been looking at creativity in different fields this week. In particular, I listened to some brief interviews with the film composer John Williams during a show on PBS, then did a deep dive into how movie music gets created and synced into the final movie. It's absolutely fascinating.

What surprised me was how late in the process the actual 'music' gets pulled together. Williams spends a considerable amount of time coming up with the different themes, two or four or six notes, that he uses for critical things in a film. Da-dum (from Jaws) is two notes and can be made to do incredible work (set the heart racing, make you fear swimming in the ocean, etc.).

Williams and the orchestrator he works with can't put music on paper until the film is done and the exact timings of sequences are written down. Then it's a matter of weeks before he's in front of an orchestra setting the music to the film. (Note how rough the director's cut of a film is, really really rough. These clips are about older films, but I wonder if much is different these days?)

Watch some or all of these YouTube videos for yourself: Scoring Indiana Jones, Scoring Empire Strikes Back, Scoring E.T.

My other big discovery was Marc Maron's podcast WTF. I'll let him speak for himself. He interviews President Obama. He reflects on interviewing President Obama. He interviews Ian McKellen.

Here are some other fascinating things to digest:

  • Freakonomics on failure [Freakonomics]
  • Video: Some more Louis C.K., hilarious (right?) [YouTube] [YouTube]
  • The NYT takes second graders out to a fancy meal, with video [New York Times]
  • Matt Taibbi predicting a few things about the presidential pre-debates [Rolling Stone
  • Cringeworthy: An observer witnesses (and tweets) a bad first date [Storify]
  • When 'experts' help to make bad problems worse [NYTimes]
  • A long piece exploring our present culture of 'willful ignorance' [Chronicle of Higher Education]
  • Video: The traditional rebuilding of a bridge in Peru [Smithsonian @YouTube]
  • An obit for Robert Conquest, the writer/thinker who figured out Stalin's game before anyone else would believe him, among other marvels [Daily Beast]
  • Website: Marketplace Wonder, for when you have a question you'd like a journalist to answer [Marketplace Wonder]  For example, how much do TV theme song writers make? One hit can be worth millions... [Marketplace]

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