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The Alternative Factor



Musings on the creative world by a Central Pennsylvania resident



Last Build Date: Sat, 19 May 2007 15:47:58 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2015
 



Speaking Another Language

Sat, 19 May 2007 15:46:13 UTC

2007-05-19T15:47:58Z

For years, you've probably heard about non-verbal communications, like body language, for example. There are also non-verbal facial communications as well. Artists have a channel of communications all their own which everyone has been contacted on from one time to another. For years, you've probably heard about non-verbal communications, like body language, for example. There are also non-verbal facial communications as well. Artists have a channel of communications all their own which everyone has been contacted on from one time to another. Musicians communicate through feeling. If you're having a good time listening to music, you'll more than likely want to hear a particular song or collection of songs again and again. Recently, more visual aspects have been brought into the mix in the form of videos, dance routines, and large props onstage. Still, the message is being transmitted on an emotional level--regardless of what style music is being played. The sounds of the instruments play a large role in how you're feeling the music. For example, a sharp note like an orchestra strike or a power chord played on an electric guitar can be interpreted as an "angry" sound, while a flute or a violin could be considered a "soothing" sound. Musicians aren't the only ones that do this. If you look at a painting, you can find different forms of communication from the use of colors to the different brush strokes used. Color is one medium that can communicate on its own. For example, red, yellow, and green are considered "warm" colors, where blue is considered a "cold" color. Why" Think of what you feel when you look at a blue object, then think about what you feel as you look at a red object. You can see these colors carry some feeling in them by the way they affect your senses. Brush strokes also carry a certain meaning. Sharp, pronounced strokes communicate aggression and smooth strokes are more calm and serene. If you dig deeper into a painting, you analyze where the subjects are located in the scene, the illumination, even gestures. All of this conveys meaning in one way or another. Photographers communicate in the way a scene is captured on film as much as a painter uses colors. Photography is the art of presentation. Two people can take a picture of the same thing and the two photographs will be different in some way. Professional photographers study composition and lighting. These are comparable to an artist's palette. Lighting is a big factor in photography. Setting the subject in dark light gives it a sinister appearance, while bright light often conveys warmth. Is anyone seeing a pattern here yet? Once again, like in a paining, subject location and gestures (to a lesser degree) all can convey meaning. Think about the photo of the marines putting the flag up at Iwo Jima or the firemen raising the flag on the still-standing antenna on the rubble of the World Trade Center tower. Even on paper, an artist can reach you on an emotional level. For example, think about what you like about the last book you read. (If you haven't read anything recently, you're missing out!) An author can use words to set the mood to be either suspenseful and active, or calm and reflective. Words, like tones and sounds, also carry an underlying meaning on an emotional level. There are certain words that insult while others inspire. Words take the form of colors much like tones do in music. Everyone has emotions therefore everyone understands this language. It is the language of creativity. I've only given you a few examples here. You can find this language being used in everyday applications. When you look at a tall building, think about what you feel while you're looking at it. Advertising is an area where creativity is being used as a form of manipulation. Making a picture a certain color, or the use of large or small text are all ways that the advertisement is designed to get your attention. Music in a film is designed to set the tone for a particular scene. Perhaps you may be using t[...]



The Audience Talks Back!

Thu, 03 May 2007 17:31:47 UTC

2007-05-07T15:43:08Z

A recent book entitled "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture" by Andrew Keen (Currency/Doubleday) claims that, among other things, the Internet is developing a culture of mediocrity and fraud with some of the recent tales of "lonleygirl15" and corporate bloggers. While this may be partially true, our culture isn't being destroyed, it's being changed.... A recent book entitled "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture" by Andrew Keen (Currency/Doubleday) claims that, among other things, the Internet is developing a culture of mediocrity and fraud with some of the recent tales of "lonleygirl15" and corporate bloggers. While this may be partially true, our culture isn't being destroyed, it's being changed. In fact, our culture is being impacted by the Internet in much the same way as Television impacted it in the 1950's. Sure, we're seeing a lot of mediocre content and a ton of blogs, (including this one--just adding to the confusion!) but that just makes for more of a selection. Without reviewing every single piece of content on the web, there's no way to determine the quality of a piece. Blogs have overshadowed the mainstream media in terms of news coverage. Anyone who can write can create and maintain a blog. It's not hard to do and you don't need a lot of extra software to do it. The content, however, is a little trickier. First, you must be able to write clearly and be understood. Then, you actually have to go out and do the legwork if you're serious about being a journalist. For example, one of the earliest blogs to receive credibility from the journalist community was the Drudge Report. Mike Drudge actually was able to scoop mainstream media journalists on a wide variety of stories and actually served as a source in one or two instances. There have been others since and throughout all this change, the media pundits have been pronouncing traditional journalism dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. Other blogs, such as the one you're currently reading, are for entertainment purposes only. It is an opinion column and while I've done a little bit of research in to the topic I write about, I don't pass any of this off as journalism. You're reading this because I have your attention and--hopefully--I'm entertaining you. Everyone has an opinion and now most people have a blog. What makes a difference is how many people will actually read what is being said in them and how much they'll remember afterwards. Recently, traditional journalism has taken a beating in the credibility department from unverified claims to outright fake news stories being reported. How many times has a sensational story turned out to be completely false? Even autobiographies can no longer be isolated from the creeping tide of illegitimacy. Anyone remember "A Million Little Pieces?" Before the Internet, integrity could still be a problem. In the early 1990's, NBC's Dateline aired a story about auto safety using a "rigged" demonstration. No one is safe from incredulity. The claim that a journalist must be allied with the "mainstream" media is ridiculous. If they're doing the job right, then they're credible. The problem here is that a few people aren't doing the job right and everyone suffers for it. It doesn't really matter which media they're broadcasting on; if it's wrong, then it's wrong. Advertising has embraced the Internet as a means of reaching a younger audience. According to the demographics, the 18 to 25 year-olds are the ones with the most money to spend--although this may change as the baby boom generation enters their 60's. More of this group is embracing the new technology--and the advertisers want their money. Traditional advertising doesn't always work on a new medium like the web, so there are new approaches to reach consumers. The "lonelygirl" ads were one way to generate interest in something by creating an audience. There have been blogs creat[...]



When Will The Stop Blaming Us?

Thu, 19 Apr 2007 19:16:40 UTC

2007-05-07T15:40:49Z

I've heard this time and again whenever there's a tragedy of some sort: "It's because of that movie," or "That song lyric made him do it." Hogwash; let's put the responsibility where it belongs, on the shoulders of the perpetrators. I've heard this time and again whenever there's a tragedy of some sort: "It's because of that movie," or "That song lyric made him do it." Hogwash; let's put the responsibility where it belongs, on the shoulders of the perpetrators. Artists are always the focal point of the blame whenever someone takes things into their own hands and causes an incident like the one at Virginia Tech. That was a heinous act and a totally meaningless waste of young lives. Considering we have people who are overseas in our armed forces right now fighting and dying on a daily basis that volunteered to be there makes this tragedy all that much worse. I do not, however, hold the Korean filmmaker whose movie the perpetrator allegedly mimicked accountable for what happened any more than I blame rap music for a rise in gang violence or mistreatment of women. The man who committed this offense was seriously disturbed and his actions were the result of whatever he was suffering from. Artists make observations about our lives and create something that we can all relate to that communicates these observations. Art makes you think and in some cases, not the way that you would normally think. Many times, a song of mine has been interpreted in a way that I never intended it to be. That's the beauty of art; the ultimate value is determined by those who experience it. We can go round and round trying to define what art is, but that isn't the point here. Everyone has their own idea of what is artistically pleasing. How many times has a movie or a song been blamed for some crime someone committed? As far back as the Manson murders, people have been trying to blame everything on art. The Beatles took the rap for supposedly sending messages to Charles Manson. I seriously doubt it, especially when John Lennon was known as a peace activist. Ozzy Osbourne was on the hot seat after four teenagers killed themselves after hearing his song "Suicide Solution." More recently, the movie "The Basketball Diaries" came under fire after a teenage gunman acted out a fantasy scene where the protagonist was gunning down his classmates in school. Accusing artists of supplying ideas to criminals is a trick the media uses to sell newspapers and television news programs. The bottom line is panic sells and the media is really good at creating and selling it. It doesn't take long for the general public to begin repeating these accusations once the media begins asserting them. These accusations usually force a discussion about cultural mores and what should and should not be allowed in our society. It is tempting to outlaw something we find reprehensible, but keep in mind that we are a free society. In a free society such as ours, people have the right to make bold statements as long as they're not hurting anyone in the process, which is why yelling "fire" in a theater is probably not a good idea. Neither is giving an enemy of our country vital information about our defense systems--ultimately, someone could get hurt or killed as a result. On the other hand, simply making a violent film in an effort to capture an artistic vision is not hurting anyone. The counter argument to this is that these images will inspire someone to do something bad, thus allowing people to come into harm. In this way, these depictions become indirectly responsible. I think that's a little simplistic to believe that if items of this type were banned, destroyed, or somehow wiped from the face of the earth, somehow that would make life better for us. There are always going to be unpleasant things we have to look at or face in one way or another. We can't go around hiding from things that upset us. There's also the fact that som[...]



Where Do Songs Come From?

Fri, 13 Apr 2007 15:23:08 UTC

2007-05-07T15:41:20Z

We're virtually surrounded by music anymore. No matter where you go, whether it's a shopping mall, grocery store, or even a waiting room, chances are there will be music playing somewhere. People readily identify with music; they incorporate songs into their daily life. Music provides us with both a distraction and a means to identify with ourselves and others around... We're virtually surrounded by music anymore. No matter where you go, whether it's a shopping mall, grocery store, or even a waiting room, chances are there will be music playing somewhere. People readily identify with music; they incorporate songs into their daily life. Music provides us with both a distraction and a means to identify with ourselves and others around us. We all have experienced music, but has anyone thought about where the idea for a song comes from? Before a song is performed, it has to be thought of. There have been some famous tales of how certain songs came into being, but what is the thing that actually drives the songwriter from humming or whistling a few notes to setting an idea down on paper? This is something artists refer to as inspiration. Inspiration comes in many forms, and doesn't always have to be the same thing. Inspiration can be something an artist reads or hears, or something much more ethereal, such as music heard in a dream, or a random series of notes. For me, inspiration can be a magazine article or a simple observation of mine. You can get an idea for a tune just by hearing a noise or someone uttering a phrase or a certain expression. This is the source of creativity and it scared Plato half to death. Sometimes it has to do with listening to someone else's song--or even your own, for that matter. Something in the tune's composition sets off a series of switches in your brain and you begin building something new ith the pieces you've assembled. I've even drawn inspiration from watching nature and viewing artwork and sculpture in a museum. Many times, a string of words will form in my head, usually with a fragment of a tune. This often becomes the basis of a chorus. It's usually very catchy and hard to ignore. I have had tune fragments that I couldn't work into full pieces for many years. One of my songs took about five years to complete from the time it was first thought of. Usually, for me, the idea for a song comes like a rap on the head: an unexpected event that gets one's attention. In some cases, it comes and the most inconvenient times. Before I was married, I used to keep an acoustic guitar at the edge of my bed for those times when I was awoken with a song idea. It's much harder to do that now, so I have to rely on my memory a lot more. One time, I wrote a whole song without even putting anything on paper until after the fact! This is rare, but it made it easy for me to memorize. I've found that it may take a considerable amount of time to "flesh out" a song idea from the time it's thought of. During this process, you may find that things don't match up right or the idea doesn't seem to go anywhere. That's when a song is unceremoniously tossed into a folder and forgotten about. As most everyone knows, there are two main aspects to a song, unless the piece is an instrumental. Music plays an important part in the song; a tune can carry words in many directions depending on the mood of the music. Words, however, also can play an important part if they have something to say. In some cases, words can be communicating two separate messages at the same time, adding an additional aspect to the piece. To me, writing a lyric is akin to writing poetry. The difference being that poetry doesn't always have to follow a strict timing, although most poetry does have a rhythm of its own (the meter) it does not need to answer to a beat for every line. This is my process and not everyone works like this. There are writers who develop lyrics first, then create a musical fr[...]



Living In an Unreal World

Sat, 24 Mar 2007 17:00:43 UTC

2007-05-07T15:41:57Z

There are two worlds in which we live in: the real world, in which we carry out the everyday details of our lives and the imaginary one, where we like to spend our time either with a movie, a book, or a video game. For many years the boundaries between these two worlds was easy to determine. Real life was... There are two worlds in which we live in: the real world, in which we carry out the everyday details of our lives and the imaginary one, where we like to spend our time either with a movie, a book, or a video game. For many years the boundaries between these two worlds was easy to determine. Real life was what happened every day and if you were successful, it was good and if you failed, it was bad. Nonetheless, nothing could change reality; that's the way it is, as Walter Cronkite used to say. The imaginary world was a place where dreams came true, the good guys always won, and there was always a happy ending. Our contact with the imaginary was usually through some form of storytelling. The boundaries, however, are no longer as clearly defined as they once were. For example, people used to play actual sports outside, like baseball, basketball, and hockey. Many people just play the virtual game on a videogame console--some have never even handled an actual ball! The virtual world allows you to be somewhere else or to imagine that you're doing something, whether it is training for a surgical procedure or flying a jet aircraft. This sort of thing is an effective training tool, since making a mistake on a live patient or traveling at Mach 2 could be disastrous. Virtual reality games allow you to exist in imaginary worlds where you can accomplish things you couldn't in real life. This takes the place of role-playing which is the term adults use to describe make-believe. With role playing games, you are playing a character while existing in the real world. In virtual reality, you're surrounded by the imaginary world and become a part of it. Some games allow you to be someone entirely different from who you really are. Instead of being the geeky guy with the un-athletic physique, you could be a dashing warrior with impressive fighting skills, or you could become a member of the opposite sex. Virtual reality and role-playing go hand-in-hand and you don't need much of an imagination since most of the imagining is done for you, unlike traditional role-playing games. Television used to be the realm of fiction, with dramas, adventures, and comedies all being played out in one form or another. Today's popular form of television entertainment is reality. It comes in the form of television shows, movies, and now available on the World Wide Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even the fictional shows strive to mimic reality using precise details and authentic terms. Many shows feature real people competing for real prizes or a chance at stardom. Others features people trying to prove how smart they are. These programs have populated the major television broadcast networks as well as quite a few of the cable channels. Mostly, this is because these programs are easy and inexpensive to produce. Upon a second look, you'll find that some of this so-called reality is actually scripted, since real life is never as much fun as imaginary life is. What once was relegated to game shows and a few news documentaries are now the main staple of television. Since television has to entertain, sometimes changes must be made to make it more interesting. After all, what did YOU do today that was so great? Conversely, some individuals are watching television to get ideas on how to improve their own lives. For example, a thief sees a crime played out in a movie or on TV and decides to try and duplicate it in real life. Police maneuvers such as the PIT, where the police car strikes the rear end of a suspect's car in order to cause it to spin out of control and off the road, have actuall[...]