Good Points, Well Made

It is, I must admit, a bit of a fantasy of mine to be the keynote speaker at some colossally inspirational event. After a bout of inflammatory rhetoric, close with a single sentence of silent power.
And then – scarcely a squeak of inhalation is heard throughout the throngs, before –
A million mortarboards ascend heavenwards, a testimonial deluge to the speech-making prowess of yours truly.
And to think I was planning to Rick Roll the audience instead.
However, until my prestigious invites come in, I’ll have to make do with PZ’s wonderful speech here:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/keck_school_of_medicine_commen.php#more

The main reason I’m posting this is because of all the parallels I can find with my own field in music performance & education.
Here are a few points PZ makes that would be worth repeating around musicians:

I’m a strong believer in stochastic processes, and while individuals may go off
in directions we don’t like, I’m confident that the aggregate activity of large
numbers of smart people expressing themselves in public will end up making the
world a better place.


So let me just give you a few general guidelines.

Create more smart people. The best thing you can do for the future is to
encourage and enable more people to follow you, by teaching, mentorship,
example, or support. This is basic: you all know that science is a collaborative
enterprise, so you should have had this dunned into your head by now. I should
also warn you that your alumni association will be contacting you regularly from
now on to remind you of your duty.
– Here’s another one you may take for granted, but I assure you, much of the world outside your circle of nerds does not: Criticize. It’s one of the most powerful tools in the scientific toolbox, and self-criticism and constant testing and evaluation of our ideas is how we make our understanding greater. If you haven’t gotten out of the lab much in the
last few years, you may be surprised at how much shock and dismay you can
generate with the simple words, “I think you’re wrong, and here’s why.” Don’t be
shy about using them!

And, here’s a beauty of a point:

– More generally, communicate. All these years of training have stuffed
your brains with arcane knowledge — you know amazing things that few other
people understand.

You already know about the expectation that you will write
your knowledge up in the form of arcane articles for even more arcane journals,
but you should also feel an obligation to explain it all to everyone else. I
don’t mean this as an excuse to be a deadly bore at parties, but that you should
put serious effort into explaining the significance of what you do to people
like your grandmother, or the readers of your local paper, or the president of
the United States.


– One final admonition. What is going on here is a small miracle. You are all going to be receiving a nearly identical piece of parchment that says you are all graduates of the Keck School of Medicine. Yet, did you notice, you did not have to sign a loyalty oath to enroll here? There is no USC Dogma you are expected to adhere to. Some of you may have immersed yourself in such different specialties that you scarcely understand what your equally specialized peers say about their work, or you may disagree with each others’ positions.

You have different politics, different religious beliefs, different
cultural backgrounds, and I think you can even go so far as to decide to root
for the UCLA Bruins, and they won’t revoke your degree. I look out at you all
sitting there in your identical black uniforms and ridiculous hats, and am
amused at the incongruity, because the one thing I can know about you all is
that you are intellectually diverse and independent.

For topics of this nature, I’d heartily recommend Peter Gregson’s website & blog for examples of this sort of thinking, his specialised company Coffeeloop is based around these premises.
And in my own field of them electric geetars, we have a wonderful age in which The White Stripes & Dream Theater can co-exist as ‘rock bands’, both of whom are valid reasons to want to learn & share music; and ‘Guitar Hero’ has kids actively developing fine muscle dexterity AND HAVING FUN whilst doing so.
Bands like Madame Blavatsky’s Overdrive, followed by Radiohead, Marillion et al are experimenting with new methods of conveying media directly to fans, as Frost*’s Jem Godfrey discusses here on his wonderful blog.
Since my last post on Frost* I’ve become such a huge fan, I’m more excited about them opening for Dream Theater than I am about seeing DT themselves.
Huzzah for the joy of new music, and all who sail in her!
John.
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2 Comments

Filed under Guitar, music, soapbox

2 responses to “Good Points, Well Made

  1. Peter

    Really great point by PZ there.. I really think criticism is underrated: as a quality control tool, it’s unbeaten! The single greatest thing about the Internet is it is removing the pillars of the ivory towers in the creatve industries, and it’s all because the public are realizing their power isn’t absolute; it’s relative, and largely only to their own marketin budgets.

    It’s an interesting time and certainly an exciting time to be asking question… Thanks for the hat tip!

  2. John Gregson

    Glad you enjoyed.
    And frankly, I think if you have a hat, you may as well tip it in worthy directions.
    Otherwise, what’s the point of having the hat?

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