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The Musician’s Lens

by Bill Selak
August 26th 2021
You’ve probably heard about viewing the world through a Scientific Lens, but what about a Musician’s Lens? What might that look like, and why might more educators adopt this way of looking at teaching... More
mm well hey there, welcome to an episode of Bill Select talks my name is Bill. So like this is mean talking. So I've talked a lot about music on this podcast and not just like, have you heard the latest whatever album, but actually like making music writing music, recording music, performing music, being a musician. Um kind of all that stuff by the way. If you've not Checked out the rising decline retrospective where I go through 30 podcast episodes talking about My punk rock bands 2002 album, you should check it out. It's good stuff. There's all kinds of educational technology and tech goodness. I said goodness! Who says goodness, I guess I do anyway, it's good stuff. Be sure and check it out. Um but I was thinking about that and uh I remember a couple years ago one of our science teachers Brian, he was talking about his goals and hopes for students as a science teacher. And he said, you know, I just really want them to develop a scientific lens to view the world through.

So for science, I feel like that's pretty straightforward, right? You have the scientific method, you can look at stuff and kind of go through the scientific method in your head, it's definitely more robust and nuanced then I'm describing, but you get the idea right? Like develop a scientific lens. I've been like, what's the musicians lens? And I think I've finally landed on it, right? So having music degree, like what, what does that get me in my role as director of technology at Hilbert school, What does that get me as an educator, as an adjunct faculty member? Um really like music? The answer is yes, like absolutely yes, and here's why I think that musicians are trained to have to kind of competing strategies to kind of competing like skill sets and I hesitate to use the word, but I'm going to use it. I think it's rigor and creativity, Maybe analytical and creativity.

What do you think? I don't, I don't know, let me know if you feel strongly about that, if you have a better word, but I'm gonna describe it just a little bit and kind of describe how it plays out. So the creativity, I think it's pretty straightforward. We'll have kind of our own imaginings of what creativity looks like for students for adults, for humans in general. So if we look just explicitly at writing a song, how do you go from? I have this idea for a song, two people are listening to your song. So it starts off with something I think we can all agree with is pretty deeply creative. You pick up an instrument or walk over to an instrument, you start making some noise and then slowly but surely it turns into a piece of music. Right? And now that's never really been my strength just to pick up a guitar, write a complete song and the guitar is done right? Not my thing. What I'm really good at actually is taking a partially developed song and then doing something with it almost like problem solving it to get it from a rough idea to a pretty polished piece of music.

And so I think that that that particular skill set is being able to obviously be like highly creative because you're writing music, but it's also like this really analytical in some ways, kind of troubleshooting how to get to a song. All right, So it's like, here's this idea and we have this section in that section, right? So how do you get to it? Sometimes you're just playing it and something that comes to mind, sometimes you're playing it and you just try a couple things and it works. But sometimes I actually just sit down and write it either just what the chords are or actually write the music out, you know, like have the staff and the chords and the notation and like get like pretty geeky with the music theory. All right, to go from here to here, this there's like kind of what you're supposed to do kind of traditionally kind of classically, right? So to go from point A to point B, there's there's a couple things that you can definitely follow the rules on, but you definitely need to have the like analytical know how to be able to actually get to those points and not kind of break the rules in a way that it just sounds bad, right?

Break the rules in a way that sounds good, or almost always follow the rules to get from point A to point B. Um Right? And so you have that. And even like within this this like highly creative moment of writing a song, there are these moments of being deeply analytical, deeply kind of rigorous with how you're kind of poking at the song at the idea to turn it into a song, then you have it. Maybe you write down what the notes are, maybe you don't maybe right, the cords, maybe you don't. But then some actually record. And again, I think recording music is the strangest, most beautiful combination of being deeply creative. Like you were literally literally creating stuff, but then also like deeply analytical and um more like critical, right? So as you're recording, let's pick guitar because that's what I'm best at. You're like, all right, we already have some drums, we have some base recorded, Let's record a guitar and record do it says me playing guitar and maybe you play through the whole song. Maybe you play through just diverse. And if you're really good, you're gonna listen back and go, all right, let's like the first five seconds are good.

Let's take it from like five seconds or 10 seconds, right? So you're like really, really, really being critical. And I know you're not supposed to say really more than once, but that's how critical you're being of it. Like you're just deeply critical of every little bit, getting the rhythm absolutely perfect, getting, like, the vibe of it just right, you know, like, if you're doing any sort of melody, making sure that every note just right, all those things in your suspend, just like, hours to get that just right, do anything that mr on vocals, because it could spend easily 20 hours recording just one main vocal track, not even backing vocals, you can get deeply into it. And that whole thing is this, like, obviously, you know, you're being creative, you're doing this cool thing, but then you have to really, really be critical of every little thing you're doing, and then you got to do something with it. So once you have the song, how do you market it?

How do you sell it? How do you share it? How do you promote it? And then it's actually performing it right now, I think we're actually performing it. Um you know, you, at that point you've played it thousands of times, so you kind of have the mechanics down for the most part. It's a more creative thing, which is always funny when, when you're about to play a concert or any event, you know, like at weddings, people tend to say this to me and I don't play a lot of weddings, but I came in, good luck, like, thanks, I think I don't, I don't need luck to play the guitar. I know what I'm doing. Um It's like going out. I don't know, like nobody wished me luck on my way to my lunch. I just ate it because I know how to eat lunch. Um, you know, it's just like, you can have, you don't have to worry as much about the mechanics. You can just kind of play the thing. Um, but I think that applies so much to being an educator and I know so many educators, the two musicians either kind of formally or just happen to play really cool music. And I think this whole idea about like being really creative, but then also being really analytical is a really cool way to approach projects with students, right?

So like the obvious example is, let's write a song, right? What do you want to write? What's it going to be about or write the lyrics? But even as you're writing the lyrics, you can be really, really specific with how it rhymes, how many syllables, what it's communicating just all those types of things that go into something we typically call poems or poetry or writing, but you're doing with a focus on the song. And I think this fits with most creative things. So visual arts, aside from like photo and video, like anything that you do where you like hold a thing and right. So any sort of painting or drawing, I'm super bad at, I just have never practiced. So whatever. I'm gonna ignore that, but assume it's kind of the same. But I know for sure writing songs, making videos and movies and taking photos, I'll have that same thing where it's this interesting intersection of being deeply creative, literally creating things while you are being like deeply critical of the work, you know, and sometimes it's this like instant feedback loop as you're taking a photo, looking all around you, seeing like what just on the outside of it, is it going to ruin?

But also just like what's the vibe of the photo, right? You know, the same thing with video and you have to for sure plan stuff out. There's a lot of pre production as you're shooting in production. You have to do with a lot of big kind of physical things to overcome with kind of getting the lighting right? Audio right? The background, right? The actors, right? Even if you're just holding like an ipod touch, you still have to think about kind of all these things and then you actually edit it again, the way you organize all the information categorize it, tag it the way you actually added stuff is this highly analytical but also highly creative art. I think it's really cool. I think that this intersection of being critical over your work and being creative of your work is such a cool place to be doing projects with students because you can bring that critical mindset, that analytical mindset, that rigorous mindset to all these creative things and I wonder for people who aren't musicians or artists when they look at their subjects.

If they're like, oh, like songwriting just there, you know, we don't have time for that. But if you actually bring like an artist's mindset to projects, like can I teach this math subject lesson? Math subject lesson? I said that we're going to just keep that, that's cool. You know, like this lesson on math or science or creative writing, Can I do that through video through song and actually keep that level of academic rigor that you would apply if you were just doing it as like, let's write on pencil and paper or take notes on an ipad. And I think the answer is yes. I think that there's so much untapped potential, but I think we just need to do a better job of describing what kind of the musicians lens is. Maybe it's a mindset, I'm not quite sure what to call it. I know that other disciplines tend to refer to something that's kind of a lens of seeing the world, you know, seeing it through a scientific lens. So maybe it's just looking at things the room musicians loans. Um, yeah, there's a lot to that, right?

I think it's time to have some little outro music as I thank you for listening to this episode. By the way, I'm back on the road caster, get that nice low end, we have a little button, the theme song. I have to push the button. It's back up. Um Yeah, we're back on it. I hope you're able to stay Safe in this 2021, 22 school year. Uh huh. It's a time, right? Be safe, be creative, being political. My name is Bill Celik. This has been me talking. Yeah.

The Musician’s Lens
The Musician’s Lens
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