The Times – They Are A-Changin

guitar chordSwedish scientists are getting creative about their research papers. They’ve gone all Dylan-esque, according to Lost at E Minor or the Guardian.

They are racing to produce the most published articles with a Bob Dylan line in the title such as:

‘Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind’
‘Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?’

treble clefBut . . .


time passes slowly
there must be some way outa here
sign on the window says
one more weekend
if dogs run free, then
what must be must be

(apologies to Mr Dylan)



Seeing the world in a different way through music

Now I know what to do with my boredom, when I get sick of what used to amuse me musically. Do what the composer Mark Applebaum does – play. This composer has stopped asking the question, ‘Is it music?’ and asks instead, ‘Is it interesting?’. Much more fun.

Humour, making unusual connections, seeing the world in a different way, using multiple media – lots of creative elements connected and combined.

Connecting and combining, chindogu, keyboards and bananas

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have the Japanese art of connecting and combining objects, Chindogu, down to a fine art. Chindogu inventions are practical, but not. While at first they may seem like a solution to a problem, they are ‘unuseless’ because there is something a bit weird about them. They are not ‘appropriate’ in some way. What is appropriate? We have an idea how things should work, but might reject how they could work. And the thing with chindogu solutions is that because they are weird they might open the way to thinking in a new way about old ideas and problems, and come up with solutions that fulfil a pressing need or adress complex world problems.

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, two doctoral students, have created a kit called MaKey MaKey that gives the user tools to make a computer interface out of pizza, bananas, paintbrushes, dogs, people, anything! They see the world as a construction kit. They want everyone to be amazing. You are only limited by your imagination. Connect and combine, see what happens, and have fun.

Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard

Music and creativity

Music education

Even though the benefits of music for learning and personal development are well known, when there are budget cuts to education, music and the arts are often easy targets. Yet what we need is more music rather than less, as Peter Luff from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Griffith University tells a reporter from ABC news.

Watch interview here.

If you need to be reminded of the benefits of music education, Carolyn Phillips has a list of 12 benefits of music education, namely:

  1. Training and development of language and reasoning centres in the brain;
  2. Development of spatial intelligence, which includes mathematical thinking and the way we create mental models and perceive the world;
  3. Development of creative problem solving skills;
  4. Improvement on test scores in other subjects;
  5. Building of empathy and compassion through exposure to other cultural norms and practices;
  6. Learning the importance of detail and excellence;
  7. An appreciation of the value of sustained effort;
  8. Teamwork and discipline;
  9. Self expression;
  10. Learning the performance skills of communication and cooperation which translate into valuable workplace skills;
  11. Learning to conquer fear and take risks; and most of all
  12. ‘An arts education exposes children to the incomparable.’

Research into music, improvisation and creativity

This is some great research. Parag Chordia at the Music Intelligence Lab at Georgia University of Technology, Atlanta USA, has been researching creativity from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. Three things of note here. Firstly, as a musician he argues that music, like language, is central to all cultures. Secondly, he believes we all have creativity inside us and that it’s not confined to only a talented few.  In this interview with a reporter from the online magazine, Science Nation, he talks about his research and how the brain functions differently when its improvising versus playing music from a set score.

Watch video interview here.

LaDiDa – iPhone app

The third item I found interesting about Chordia’s work is that he’s created an  iPhone app called LaDiDa.  For $3 you can sing into your phone and the app creates musical accompaniment. It mends your poor performance so that you sound great, complete with a backing band. It does wonders for the ego. Try singing your favourite power ballad into the app and you might decide to change your career today. (Yes, I can sing!).


Creativity is all about connections – making connections, people connections, domain connections, international connections, serendipitous connections. Here’s a music connection – Dave Brubeck, jazz musician, working around political connections, art as corruption, and the power of music to connect people and make trouble and present moral dilemmas.