Words + Music

Sometimes, after I have read a review, I don’t want to hear the music and want to close my eyes and just imagine it. Here are a few examples, all by the same writer… no need for the names of musicians or the titles of songs.

like listening to an ambient record on headphones at such a low volume that the background noise of the metropolis bleeds through

illuminated by the lens flares of flugelhorn and then slightly darkened by some fragmented guitar figures

washes of melody that drift to the surface before slowly sinking into the depths again

dissolving the sound into a glossy decay, as though a Rothko painting were slowly fading to black

eventually, the curtain is pulled aside to reveal the piano behind the noises

there are sharp bursts that stir these dreamy tracks quickly awake

pulsing minimalism given an acidic tang via tones that sound like a bad mobile phone connection

imagines a repeating four-chord sequence as the blinking eyes of a dozen androids while little flutters of electricity and long pulses flow through the room

it is nearly overwhelmed by the drunken bass notes and fluttering racket going on around it

This only works when the critic has a way with words and has good ears to go along with that… All examples were pulled from the writing of Robert Ham for Pitchfork.

Short Story

I have this idea for a short story and it would be so meta if the short story was itself written by ChatGPT.

Write a short story in the style of Haruki Murakami, about a young man who goes to a zen temple to ask for instruction. He is taught meditation and receives a koan from the zen master. Instead of meditating with the koan, the young person queries ChatGPT and from it he receives a detailed response regarding the solution of the koan. The man represents this solution to the zen teacher as his own, who in turn gives him the next koan. And so on…

Stolen Grief

But fundamentally this version of AI can only ever counterfeit insight by being the average, the approximation derived from analysis of the human cloud. It has no judgement, no taste, no self. It’s all stolen grief, stolen love, stolen experience. Maybe that’s good enough, or maybe we’ll become frustrated by its product.

from Nick Harkaway’s Substack

I added the emphasis. That’s at the center of the so-called AI threat, isn’t it. Without lived grief, love, experience, how deep can the poetry or music coming from an AI be. So far, nothing I’ve learned seemed very interesting. Sure, it’s new and will become better. That’s a possibility.

I remember a story from a friend who went to a food exhibition. In one booth he was invited to try a bottle of wine. So he did. He was asked what he thought of it. It’s not very good, he replied. Then he found out that the wine had never been touched by a grape, it was purely chemical. He was told that he was correct, it wasn’t very good… yet. I remember thinking that in the future there will be two kinds of wine. The first might be made by combining chemicals. It could taste very good and would be reasonably cheap. The second will be wine the way we know it. Grown on fields, touched by sunshine and rain, harvested by people, and so on. It will, of course, be more expensive.

Perhaps this is what will happen with stories and music? There will be books and music created by AI. Lots of it. Cheap. Accessible. And there will be books and music by humans. Those will be words and melodies touched by lived grief, joy, love, despair.

Maybe we will use the words of Nietzsche when we investigate a book or piece of music, wondering whether it is human or not: Can it walk? Even more can they dance?

Do check out Harkaway’s above linked post on Substack. I consistently find him very insightful.


We remember the information contained in handwritten notes better than notes typed into a computer. Perhaps it is the hand motion, perhaps it is because we are actually forming the letters instead of simply selecting them from a keyboard. Writing (vs selecting) is deeper work and therefore more easily remembered.

It would follow that writing on a stone with hammer and chisel would be even more memorable?

I’m going to find me a nice block of stone to carry with me.

A Place to Grow

If you look closely you will see that this ficus tree was not planted at all. It stands above the ground, retaining the shape it had when it was growing inside a pot, in an apartment on the other side of the street.

After she left him, he became morose. Is there a word that combines despair and anger? That’s what he felt, especially late at night, after drinking too much beer. One such night, he noticed that the little tree she had cared for wasn’t doing so well. Maybe that was because of the cigarettes he stubbed out and left in the dirt. Or maybe it was because he didn’t remember to water it. He certainly didn’t sing or speak to it as she had often done. In a fit of despair-rage he picked up the plant by the trunk and flung it from the balcony. The dirt was dry and so the little tree easily slipped out of the pot, which fell and shattered on the balcony, and flew in a glorious arc across the street and landed somewhere in the dark. The root ball, and the dirt it clung to, was the heaviest part of the little tree and thus lead the way, which is why it landed right side up on the sloping meadow. Later that night it rained and by the morning little roots were drilling down into the grass and the dirt below, anchoring the tree to this spot. It had found a place to grow.

Moving Forward

the need becomes desire
the power of desire gets channeled into practice
over time practice becomes ritual
eventually, unstoppably, ritual creates change