HIGHLY RECOMMENDED W/ NON-FUNCTIONAL HARMONY
#1 - WHAT IS THE ONE ALBUM (OR EP OR SONG) THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE VERY NEXT MUSICAL THING THAT EVERYONE PRESSES PLAY ON THE NEXT TIME THEY FIND THEMSELVES THINKING “WHAT SHOULD I LISTEN TO NOW”?
When at college studying music and music technology my sporadic collaborator Nicolas and the Saints and I were taught by a contemporary classical composer by the name of Martin Read. He lit a musical fire under everyone he taught - in my case not only by teaching composition and the classical stuff but also introducing me to Squarepusher, Eno, Lemon Jelly, Laurie Anderson, Charles Mingus, etc, and by showing us that throwaway pop can be just as great as classical or jazz, on its own terms. He was also the first to really show me the use of a studio as an instrument and the importance of learning my way around a sampler, and so paved the way for everything musical I've done since.
As fresh-faced and nervous 16-year-olds at the end of our first lesson (spent doing little more than getting to know one another) we were assigned our homework for the week: obtain and listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. This remains possibly the best advice anyone's ever given me.
Of course, most readers will already be familiar with the album (we can do a 'recommend some obscure stuff' interview another time...) but that would be no reason to listen again - every listen presents something new, whether it's some nuance of phrasing, an interplay between instruments, the specific tone chosen to deploy one particular note (that happens a lot), or just the sound of the tape hiss between tracks.
I find that when making music, asking what decision would be made if this were the Kind of Blue sessions is a good a place as any to find answers.
#2 - WHAT IS THE ONE MOVIE OR TV SHOW THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE NEXT IN EVERYBODY’S NETFLIX QUEUE (OK, DOESN’T HAVE TO BE NETFLIX, WE’RE ALL INTERNET ADULTS HERE AND KNOW HOW TO FIND ANYTHING ONLINE, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER)?
Again, I'm not going for underground obscurity hipster cred here - I know this is something which most people will be familiar with, and if not they'll have had recommended. I'm equally aware though that there are still some people who've never watched The Wire, and so if you've had it recommended a thousand times and shrugged it off as just 'cops n robbers' or avoided it because everyone else likes it, I'd urge you to reconsider.
Yes, if you like police procedurals or gangster stuff, that's undoubtedly there, but The Wire is also for you if you're there for Shakespearean drama, novelistic character development and social commentary, satire, comedy, tragedy, pathos, wit, and just a lot of fantastic writing. Push through the first couple of episodes, come to terms with the fact that there are hundreds of characters, you won't remember who all of them are immediately and even by the end won't necessarily know if they're 'goodies' or 'baddies', and jump in.
#3. I (AND BY “I” I MEAN “THE PERSON THAT IS READING THIS”) AM GOING TO THE BOOK STORE (OK, PROBABLY AMAZON) TO FIND THE VERY NEXT BOOK THAT I WILL BE PUTTING SOME EXTREMELY VALUABLE ‘ME-TIME' ASIDE FOR. WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU GET, IF YOU WERE ME (AND, I SUPPOSE, YOU HADN’T ALREADY READ WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO SUGGEST)?
It's been around for a while now, but it's a book whose ideas I often come back to when making sense of how brains, perception, and thinking work: On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee.
It outlines what we know of the working of the brain and then goes on to propose a model of how various 'levels' of cognition take the signals from the previous level and combine them into gradually more complex patterns: points of light into lines, lines into shapes, shapes into objects, objects into concepts. I'd be intrigued to hear how people au fait with the current science feel the book has held up since it was published.
#4 - WHAT IS THE ONE WEBSITE (OR JUST ANY OLD INTERNET THING: APP, GIF, SERVICE, WHATEVER) THAT YOU WOULD GET REALLY DOWN IN THE DUMPS ABOUT IF IT WERE TO SUDDENLY GO AWAY?
I'm a podcast addict and huge fan of stand-up comedy. Aside from a couple of current-affairs pods and another comedy interview show (contact me and ask if you're intrigued enough!), the one I make a point of listening to as soon as a new episode drops is The Comedian's Comedian Podcast.
Stuart Goldsmith is a stand-up who interviews other comics about their work - it goes into detail about geeky stuff such as the structure of jokes and how various factors can affect an audience's response, but more than that there's a lot of discussion about writing techniques which can be inspirational for people in any other artistic endeavour and have been really helpful for me. Are you happy?
#5 - AND FINALLY… PLEASE GIVE ONE COMPLETELY UNAIDED RECOMMENDATION THAT YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD START DOING / USING / WATCHING / EATING / THINKING / QUITING / ETC-ING TO MAKE THEIR LIVES A LITTLE BIT MORE BETTER AND/OR BEARABLE.
Be more sceptical. Not cynical (admittedly that's a tricky line to walk), but demand a reasonable standard of evidence for everything, be it scientific, social, personal, or political.
Unfortunately this principle has recently been co-opted by certain groups to try to justify a general lack of compassion, but that's just a perversion of the idea of logical thinking. Trying to learn about how our minds can mislead us is a great exercise in humility, and understanding the ways in which we might be wrong is a necessary first step in being more right.
OK folks, there you have it. Things that Non-Functional Harmony thinks you should consider incorporating into your day/life. Before you log off and go start demanding a reasonable standard of evidence for EVERYTHING, make sure to follow NFH on the Facebook / Instagram / Twitter and then also give ‘---a---’ a listen below…