Next month parliament will debate the removal of performing arts from exam options for 16-18 year olds. The debate will only take place because over 100,000 people signed an online petition. MPs on all sides seemed to have little understanding of the impact that creative and performance based subjects have on students. Both on their potential futures and the needs of businesses.
I am someone who benefited enormously from studying music and drama throughout my schooling. In particular studying performance based subjects at GCSE, A-Level and then at degree level. These studies equipped me for life and work in many ways.
These studies introduced me to a creative literacy that I hadn’t experienced before. The ability to communicate abstract thoughts or big ideas through sound, word or gesture wasn’t always part of my life. I grew up in a declining northern town in the 80s and 90s. Performing arts field trips to local theatres and concerts opened my mind to a broader view of the world. It wasn’t easy for most 16 year olds to stumble across Brahms or Brecht in Rochdale.
Beyond exposure to a broader hinterland, these performance lead studies also started to develop a set of softer skills. They gave me confidence in-front of an audience, the ability to communicate as part of a group and an understanding the importance of rehearsal time. These are skills I continue to use and develop as part of my day-to-day work. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do the job I do now.
As with most of our daily lives, technology plays an increasingly important role in performance and the arts. I spent my late teens playing with a whole range of niche and now obsolete devices. Trying to wrestle their output into some sort of communication or emotional response. I do the same sort of thing now, just with a different set of technologies.
The key skills of the future are creativity and communication linked to technical capability. We should be encouraging more children to take creative performance based subjects seriously, not fewer.
2016-06-09 10:58:07 GMT permalink
What does work sound like.
What should work sound like.
If you walked the floors of a successful, creative digital agency with your eyes closed could you tell if ‘things’ were getting done.
One of the 12 items on the Joel Test is a quiet working environment, without distractions. For many developers, what this means in practice is a quiet environment where they can put on some oversized headphones to filter out interruptions and side conversations - and create their own carefully controlled musical accompaniment to coding.
In most cases developers are trying to create or maintain ’flow’. Flow is for many coders the thing that gives them most satisfaction - the point where almost effortlessly working code seems to shoot from the brain through the keyboard and onto the screen without interruption. Coding downhill, with your feet off the pedals.
For many developers a day with good flow is a ‘good day at the office’.
Flow can be deceptive - extended periods of head down development without collaboration or an alternative viewpoint can result in a spaghetti code pile up of insane proportions. I’ve worked on plenty of projects where someone sat up all night writing code poetry - 'fixing everything’ - because they were in the zone - only to leave the team saddled with the Object Oriented equivalent of doggrel.
Collaboration is a key attribute of a good developer, something that is especially true within an agency environment, but also true for anyone who isn’t just a 'lone wolf’ developer. Which means how effective is 'headphones on, head down coding’? Finding the right channel and balance of communication is important - traditionally IRC has provided the right level of persistence and real time for most developer discussion, but increasingly new tools such as HipChat and Campfire are finding ground. This seems to be especially true with more distributed remote teams.
So what to listen whilst coding, or rephrased, is there a musical shortcut to achieving ‘flow’. If it was that simple then I’d have one playlist or a couple of tunes to listen to on loop that would instantly transport me to the land of easy coding. If only it was that simple.
2014-01-20 15:39:27 GMT permalink
This is a demo / work in progress of a tune I started writing just before our daughter was born at the end of last year. It’s a bit rough and ready at the moment, but I’m hoping to ‘gloss’ this up shortly into a more polished and complete version.
2010-02-09 09:52:00 GMT permalink
Dir. Ross Cairns
In ‘Lives of the Artists’, Ross Cairns takes three different, but in his view, related 'artists’. These are not painters or sculptors, but a British and Irish trio of surfers (Tom Lowe, Fergal Smith and Mickey Smith), a French free-riding snowboarder (Xavier De La Rue) and a hardcore band from Watford (Gallows).
Cairns’ belief is that these disparate creative practitioners, through their commitment, dedication and the passioned execution of their various disciplines are true artists. They are able to communicate in a powerful yet abstract way. This thesis, here beautifully illustrated in high-definition and often in slow-motion, is often found in more cerebral soul sports publications, and when accompanied by such stunning cinematography is persuasive. However, Cairns’ exposition is undermined by his subjects.
To be an artist is to communicate, and all three subjects are communicative, both in their chosen fields and in individual pieces to camera. But to be an artist, as opposed to an aspiring artist, there must be something to communicate, a life lived. Unfortunately, as so often in soul sports and contemporary music, the candidates offered here know too little of life to be genuine artists.
That’s not say that the talents of those on show are not exemplary, and in time they may go on to excel and transcend their individual disciplines, but only Xavier De La Rue is able to suggest something other than committed obsession. In one chilling sequence De La Rue talks of his renewed resolve and love of the mountains after a near fatal avalanche. It’s a moving moment, especially when accompanied by footage of the 'chute’.
Ultimately the film fails to prove the theory. It is a beautifully illustrated and argued point, but perhaps due to budget or sponsors involvement the triptych is uneven. This is unfortunate as Cairns is able to move effortlessly between the disciplines and carefully constructs his narrative. A flawed, but engaging film.
2010-02-07 23:28:39 GMT permalink
2008-10-05 23:25:00 GMT permalink