Dreaming of Becoming Zhuangzi

The title caught my eye. Zhuangzi means Master Zhuang. The Butterfly Dream. As in this song:

Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly…Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

— Zhuangzi

This is the painting by Xiyao Wang called The Butterfly Dreaming of Becoming Zhuangzi No.1 – 2023:

About the artist:
Why Xiyao Wang’s Relationship With the Canvas Is Physical, Personal, And Even Transcendental

Gallery Info

Rain Poems

Burned a CD of the album and am listening on an old and familiar system to check the relative volume of the tracks. Plus it’s a habit that is decades old. An album is done (or kinda done) when I have a CD of it. I remember listening to albums on DAT (digital audio tape), a prehistoric recording format, at home. In my car I would listen to Mini-Discs (a rather brilliant idea that was terribly executed by Sony) until we got a CD burner in my studio in the late 90’s.

The other day I thought it would be cool to have a 12×12 inch cardboard, which is the size of vinyl LPs, with the cover image on the front. On the back there would be credits and titles and a little foam button that holds a CD. Mailing this might be a pain but there should be LP mailers available that it could be shipped in.


Saw this on Ted Gioia’s latest newsletter. The lines are very very clear now.

Please read the comments 👇🏻. Steve makes a very good case.

Product Placement

There was a time when record companies paid music stores to have a CD in a listening station, or just to get the CD presented at the end of a row of album bins (end-capping). Or paid to get a song or an album played on an airline. At least the music had a chance to get listened to…

Now companies compete to appear on playlists of streaming companies, because that’s how you can rack up streams. I wonder how many promo people call Apple every week to get a song placed on a yoga playlist for the fitness app. Now, I assume, one has to be happy when the music is played in the background, barely audible. Do companies pay to get onto Spotify playlists? Is there a menu of services? 

I don’t know and am not sure I want to know. I remember how shocked I was–this was in the early 90s–that the CDs in a listening station weren’t there on merit, that a record company paid something in the neighborhood of $700/week for a CD to be in that station. 


Spotify created this mess. And the other music platforms are no better.

Boredom is built into the platform, because they lose money if you get too excited about music—you’re like the person at the all-you-can-eat buffet who goes back for a third helping. They make the most money from indifferent, lukewarm fans, and they created their interface with them in mind. In other words, Spotify’s highest aspiration is to be the Applebee’s of music.

Panic Among the Streamers – by Ted Gioia

Because, when you get excited about an album you might want to, well, get into it, you know, maybe by owning the files or a CD and by having a decent PDF or paper cover that you can look at, and which contains information about the musicians and the instruments they performed with, the studio, the producer, the engineer, the method of recording. Not to mention photos of the instruments, the players, the microphones that were used…

But getting into that one album means that you might not want to listen to that playlist of artist X, which the streaming company created, and which is usually sprinkled with “sounds like X” artists who signed away any payment, or a significant portion of their payment, because they were promised that they would appear on the playlist with X… 

For discovery, streaming is a great option, but for getting into an album or an artist it really is not. I find myself searching the internet for credits and anything else I can find out about any album I like.

I have to suppose it’s only going to get more so… because, until a law suit proves otherwise, AI will be able to compose in the style of artist X and won’t require ANY royalties. 

For light listening streaming is perfect. I have long playlists of guitar music or ambient music that I listen to during flights.

Playlists created by the streaming companies are similar to the algorithm-produced feeds for social media. It may be fine for occasional discovery but you can’t see under the hood, you can’t tweak it and it often feels like someone paid to be included.

Reasoning Reduces Satisfaction

There’s this behavioral economics study that completely changed the way i thought about art, teaching, and critique: it’s a 1993 study called “Introspecting about Reasons can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction” by Timothy D Wilson, Douglas J Lisle, Jonathan Schooler, Sara Hodges, Kristen Klaaren and Suzanne LaFleur:  LINK

Pluralistic: The art of Daniel Danger

Introspecting about Reasons can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction and it can make us miss out on creating something beautiful, too. Reasoning about why we like something, anything, can be a fun exercise, it can help us learn, and it can also ruin something tender that is being grown. 

The way I approach this problem is to record ANYTHING that comes to mind and then step away from it. Record first and inspect later. I often created something and my mind immediately got in the way: that’s not good enough. Why? It’s not serious enough, not complicated enough, not what it should be. Then I made the rule that I can, in fact I must, record anything that comes to mind without analyzing it right away. Call it a grace period. Walk away, and listen with fresh ears tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow it’ll sound terrible and maybe tomorrow it will sound amazing. I have had both happen.

And let the body decide. When the body moves, the feet move, the head starts bobbing, the mind gets overruled.