Monday, February 13, 2012

Mental Plasticity

Yeah... So... The Grammy's, eh? It seems that almost everything I've read is about Adele. Undoubtedly Adele has an incredible voice, but honestly, what competition did have last year. I also noticed that Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennet won for their duet. It just really seems like some people like to give awards away for dying. The problem with that would be that it's a publicity stunt you can only pull once... usually. And I really have to ask, when did they start giving away Grammy's for liner notes? Obviously there are times when you'll find some interesting information in liner notes. I think I'm going to try an experiment: I'm going to try to start a conversation with, "Hey, did you hear that some compilation album of 60's jazz that you've probably never heard of won a Grammy for best liner notes?" I'm just curious to see what kind of reactions I'll get.

The second big winner of the night was the Foo Fighters. I admire Dave Grohl. He's a talented, he's a multi-instrumentalist, he knows how to write and connect with people, and he's dedicated. He has to be one of the hardest working people in entertainment at the moment. Besides Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, he's had two smaller projects called Pocketwatch and Probot. He's played drums for:
Buzz Osbourne
Mike Watt
Killing Joke
Tony Iommi
Tenacious D
Cat Power
Queens of the Stone Age
Nine Inch Nails
Pete Yorn
Neil Young
David Bowie
Them Crooked Vultures
I'm certain there's more. It's an impressive list, not just for it's size, but also the quality and variety of the collaborations.

Somewhat related to hard work, WSJ has a review of Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus. Marcus is a neuroscientist and sets out to correct some misguided notions on brain plasticity, specifically the idea that:
"the brain's circuitry was only alterable in certain 'critical periods,' or brief windows of extreme plasticity; these were thought to occur in childhood, when experience helped to form the brain's circuitry. The conventional wisdom was that certain skills must be learned early on; it was generally 'too late' for adults to pick up a new language or musical skill. Plasticity was for kids."
He does this while documenting his experience learning guitar in his book, and conducting interviews from musicians.
"Guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), we learn, didn't start playing until he was 17, but he practiced six hours a day for four years while a doing an undergraduate degree at Harvard... 'Guitar Zero' makes some delightful counterintuitive fine points. Kids are not quicker learners; but they are more persistent. Kids will practice riffs over and over, just as they will play a new videogame ad nauseam."
So not only is creativity good for the soul, but anyone can get there through hard work.

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