Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mozart: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Mozart is one of the most recognizable names in music history.  He was a leader and an innovator in the Classical music era and he has influenced many future performers throughout the last couple of centuries.  He proved to be a child prodigy at the keyboard and the violin from an early age and he started composing at age 5.

Throughout his lifetime he composed over 600 works and is the first artist that comes to mind when one things of classical composers.  Mozart is the essence of the Classical style, but Mozart was a unique composer in the fact that he composed music in every major genre such as symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music, and the piano sonata.  Although Mozart was not the inventor of these styles (some may argue he developed and popularized the Classical piano concerto) he took them to the next level. 

The central traits of each style are present in Mozart’s music, however Mozart added his own twist on each style fortifying the power behind his music.  Mozart had a unique ability of imitating the music he heard, often playing it back better than before.  With this gift he traveled a lot in his younger years, blending many influential composers together.  Traits of Bach from his London travels and the Mannheim orchestra from Italy are adamant throughout all of works.

Mozart first style was formed by playing a fast movement in one key, and countering it with slower strokes in a harmonious minor.   Mozart would then take these harmonies and leads them toward a dominant key and then finish with a classic cadence.  He later turned to more of a Barque style, which is an irregular form that contains incremental subtle and storm parts of the piece.

Mozart’s influence in classic art of music is immeasurable.  Rossini puts it best when he said “He [Mozart] is the only musician who had as much knowledge as genius, and as much genius as knowledge.”  Mozart’s legacy is unparallel to any other composer and his influence will last for many centuries to come.  Even pop music can be broken down as a 3 minute cord progression (usually in D), and can be traced back to classical music, with a more ‘jumpier’ melody working its way up and down the scale much faster than a classical piece would.

Mozart has influenced me quite a lot as well.  I have played piano since I was 8 and although lately I have drifted to more of a modern style of music, many of my favorite pieces are Mozart’s Minuets and excerpts from his sonatas.  His classical style will forever be remembered, as he is one of the most influential musicians ever to have been born.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Man Behind the Magic Cube

Nearly everyone has one, and almost everyone has used one - I'm talking about the best selling toy of all time of course, the Rubik's cube! Released internationally in 1980, the Rubik's cube is still considered one of the world's foremost puzzle toys, yet nobody knows the creative mind behind the cube.
Born in Hungary near the end of World War II, Ernő Rubik grew up studying the arts. An architect by trade, Rubik's motivation in creating the cube had nothing to do with math or technology, but rather was rooted in his fascination with physical space. Rubik always wondered how objects could interact with the things around them, and how space played a role in the functions of these objects. He wanted to experiment and push the boundaries of space to see how it could be altered.

As a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts, Rubik was searching for ways to challenge his students; and after some experimenting in the wood shop of the university, he came out with the first prototype of his well know cube.

In regards to Ward, Finke, and Smith, Rubik is an evident creative. According to them, forming mental images leads to creativity. They state that mental images allow people to determine spatial relations and transformations. That people can manipulate objects in space with their mind and see how these objects might act. Rubik was interested in precisely these aspects of space, but was looking to represent them physically rather than just mentally - hence the Rubik's cube. It was Rubik's understanding of space and the manipulations possible that displayed his true creativity. Then, by sharing his imagination in the form of the cube, Rubik hoped to provoke thought and creativity in others.

Since his creation of the cube, Rubik has been active - he has created more puzzles, designed furniture, and become a tenured professor. However, Rubik is interested in leaving behind a different legacy. Claiming his life and success is a direct result of his education and schooling, Rubik is trying to bring opportunities to young minds. He founded the International Rubik Foundation to support talented engineers and designers, and performs lectures and tours focused on promoting education. Whether through his current efforts or from the concept created over 35 years ago, Rubik and his cube continue to inspire children to imagine space differently and engage in creative thought.

Internal Motivation

Death Grips is a band that is not for everyone. They fall under a category of music that probably does not apply to any other group that exists.  In a few words as possible their genre would probably be called experimental Punk/ Rap.  Their music is not meant to bring everyone in but instead it is intended to convey the artists pure emotion and how they are feeling at the time. This often alienates the average music listener because it can come off as extremely aggressive or hateful.


In the above interview linked you can actually here MC Ride, the 36 year old rapper and front man for the group, say that he is not motivated by human achievement, or the things that other people do.  Instead what drives him is extremely personal and comes almost entirely from within. This is extremely interesting because it is the attitude of more of a little c creative, yet Death Grips work has effected the world of music and art like big C creativity.  Both members of the group show classic signs of creative individuals such as alienating themselves and others.  They are constantly in emotional turmoil and always want to be as different as possible.  As mentioned before they are internally driven and only wish that their artistic direction allows the listener to feel raw emotion and respond in that way.  If the song is aggressive they want the crowd to be aggressive (which is a lot of the time).  The members of Death Grips have made the music they want to make for years and it just so happens that their niche genre has been able to captivate a much larger crowd than they had ever expected. And whether they are appreciated or not, they will always be known for changing the world of music in ways that no one else ever has.

Attention Disorders, Kids, & Creativity

Attention Disorders, Kids, & Creativity

FUN FACT: Calvin from Calvin & Hobbs has ADHD! Well it’s not explicitly stated, but there are scenes where he talks about having trouble focusing and others where he’s on ADHD medication.

As we discussed in class, there is thought to be a link between mental illness and creativity. Specifically, in the field of mental health, there has been a movement towards relating ADHD and other attention disorders to imagination and creativity rather than disability.

A study done by Gary Davis in the book, “Creativity is Forever.” Davis reviewed literature from a 40 year span (1961-2003) and identified common characteristics of creative people. There were so called “positive” and “negative” traits. Some positive traits were high energy, curious, and artistic. Some of the negative traits were impulsive, hyperactive, and argumentative. Nearly all of the traits that Davis found to be shared among creative people were also shared among and even used to diagnose those with ADHD. You may have noticed that the identified traits could probably describe just about any toddler as well.

While Google searching ADHD diagnosis, there were two very common questions that kept popping up: is my just “being a kid” or if they have ADHD and do I have ADHD or just a creative personality? Gary Davis’s study confirms why many parents cannot determine whether or not their child had ADHD and why people are unsure of their own diagnosis, it is simply because the symptoms are strikingly similar.

So as far as “What’s Creative,” apparently children and those with ADHD are since their most prominent personality traits are same as those of creative people.

As far as I can tell, there are two ways that attention disorders stimulate creativity: ability of the mind to wander and a need to find creative solutions for accommodating the disorder. The latter example can be seen in the first comic, where Calvin derives a creative solution for this attention disorder. While there are limited studies to be found on creativity derived from attempts to compensate for ADHD, it is commonly seen from ADHD blog. Bloggers with ADHD will often post about unique organization tips and tricks, for example, or "life hacks" so to speak, that will help compensate for ADHD. The need to alter one's lifestyle (relative to that of someone without ADHD) due to an attention disorder requires creative solutions. 

The ability of the mind to wander due to attention disorders can be seen in the comic above. It is believed that creative geniuses like Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon had ADHD due to showing the traits listed earlier. Current celebrities in the music and comedy industry have been diagnosed with ADHD including Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Jack Nicholson, Howie Mandel, Vince Vaughn, Jim Carrey, Adam Levine, and Avril Lavigne. Music and comedy are related because they both require a “wandering” mind. For example, when writing music, most artists hear a tune in their head as opposed to focusing and formulating a tune. Their mind must be able to wander to follow the tune and the possible directions it may go. Similarly, comedians often find humor in obscure connections. need to think on the spot! They must have an active and wandering mind to make unexpected connections between topics and to "think on the fly" so to speak.


DREAMing for M(ore)AGIS

Throughout the last school year, student leaders in the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) and the Latin American Students’ Organization (LASO) have worked tirelessly to bring recognition to and find a solution for an issue affecting many college students across the country. The issue is one stemming from a lack of comprehensive immigration reform and, specifically, a lack of support for the Dream Act. In the United States today, undocumented high school students face a harsh reality. While they may thrive and succeed in the public school system through high school, they are not eligible to receive federal aid or loans to attend college upon graduation. With the soaring costs of higher education, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for an undocumented student to earn a college degree, and thus their future is, in so many ways, stunted. While this is often taken up as a polemical issue, Loyola students chose to see the challenges and disincentive faced by their peers, rather than the politicking that limits any meaningful provision or change in the current system. So often, these undocumented high school grads, often referred to as DREAMers, grew up in the states. From a young age, they went to school, conversed in English, and grew up within U.S. culture. For all intents and purposes, the United States is their home. Leaders of SGLC and LASO sought to circumvent the political issues surrounding these DREAMers' status of citizenship, and fought to allow them access to the same education that so many of us can, with the help of federal financial aid, afford. Recognizing and capitalizing on their platform as student organizations, they harnessed the energy of the lived reality and experience of undocumented students at Loyola and elsewhere, and worked with the resources available to them to bring about change. Urging the Loyola Administration to offer financial assistance to undocumented students, SGLC and LASO created energy around the Magis scholarship. The official language of the Magis Scholarship is as follows:
“The Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) and Latin American Student Organization (LASO) intend to raise funds to create a scholarship for Loyola students who demonstrate financial need, display academic merit through a 3.0 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale, and exhibit leadership potential and a strong desire to pay it forward. The scholarship will be awarded to one or more students each year, and will be available to full-time, undergraduate students seeking their first degree who are ineligible for federal financial aid (FAFSA).
In solidarity with the undergraduate student body, USGA and LASO feel the creation of this scholarship is a vital manifestation of Jesuit values at Loyola University Chicago. While the university does much to emotionally and socially support students who do not qualify for federal financial aid once they arrive on campus, it is overshadowed by the fact that access to higher education at Loyola for these individuals is almost impossible. The Latin word “Magis,” meaning “the more,” has long been a motto of the Jesuit community reminding its members to always strive to do “the more” for others. This is why USGA and LASO are partnering together to create The Magis Scholars Fund: to empower tomorrow’s leaders from underrepresented and diverse communities and to inspire other Jesuit institutions, by doing “the more” for this unique population, to provide equal access and opportunity for all. If sufficient funds are raised, an endowed scholarship may be created to award more scholarships in the future.”
            In so many ways, this effort has been a creative force in meeting a real and immediate need of students right in our own community. SGLC and LASO harnessed the student voice through a referendum vote on the potential for funding fromstudent fees. They were able to directly communicate student desires to administrators because of the platform already in place for SGLC to operate from.  They have subverted any potential economic rebuttal by offering, with the support of the student body, to fund the education of the DREAMers. In addition, this movement was the perfect collaborative effort between SGLC, a body with the platform to consult the general population and make effective change, and LASO, an organization that provides a space for many of these DREAMers to find consolation and support within the context of community. Finally, the unwavering energy and hope that has allowed these student leaders to push forward through the challenges, both fiscal and bureaucratic, can be traced back to an intrinsic desire to be in communion with their undocumented neighbors. Their insights into the realities of an undocumented student put them in a unique position to discover a meaningful resolution to this growing dilemma.[i] On the whole, it has been a privilege to be a witness to this movement, solely energized by students and solely for the benefit of students. I would hope that the board and university administrators can summon they same courage and creativity to propel the Magis Scholars Fund into a reality. Students are already ready and willing to invest in this mission-realizing proposition. One would hope that Loyola, Chicago’s Jesuit, Catholic University, would be, too.

[i] While I’m aware that I just dropped a load of buzzwords on you, I believe that each is truly relevant and applicable to the efforts of SGLC and LASO to turn the Magis Scholars Fund into a reality for the DREAMers of LUC. What is inspiring to see, as their peer, is the depth of insight and compassion these students had that allowed them to respond so meaningfully to this issue. Students in both of these organizations already had a deep conceptual understanding of this issue and all of its components. Using this understanding and joint perspective, they were able to restructure the problem and discover new ways to resolve it using resources and mediums available to them in the immediate (Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, Kounois). This insight allowed them to respond creatively to the need (indeed the question – and the right one) that they saw arising in their peer community. These students make me proud to call myself a Rambler.

A Negative Attitude

For most people, putting an image from the mind onto paper does not come naturally. It is extremely difficult for many of us to paint, draw, or generally create beautiful art. Some people are gifted and can see exactly what they want to paint. From these few people emerge an even smaller number with truly amazing talent. Brian Lai is one such person. His artwork is not what one would normally expect to see; in fact, it often looks like meaningless scribbles at first glance.

When viewed in the negative, however, these images become perfectly clear:

It is absolutely incredible to see the inverted image. To me, it looks like there is so much more detail in the negative than in the normal image. If you look closely at the original, however, you can see all the same detail. Brian Lai exploits the human mind and eyes by showing them something they are not used to seeing. It looks like a blob, yet hidden within the blobs are drawings with amazing detail. 

Brian Lai is able to see something that most of us cannot see even after it has been put on paper. His artistic cognitive ability surpasses what most of us could ever dream of possessing. I would argue that Brian Lai's Q is relatively small; it does not seem that he collaborates with many other artists, perhaps simply because what he is doing is so unique that he has not met any other artists drawing in negative. He simply works by himself, furthering a niche of art that is unlike any other. 

It also appears that Brian Lai has an extreme fondness for X-Men's Wolverine. Where most artists have their own internal creative inspiration, it seems that Lai pulls from the movies and comics that he enjoys. This is interesting; his creative thought process seems to be slightly behind his creative abilities. 

Ultimately, though, Brian Lai creates amazing artwork that is unparalleled in its niche. His creative ability catches the eye of everyone who sees it, even those who do not like the Wolverine. 

Nick Metzler: Game Master

Nick Metzler’s motto: live in the present while maximizing your potential for fun in the future.  Not only does this attitude coincide nicely with his SoCal lifestyle while he finishes up his junior year at USC, it also serves to foster this young entrepreneur’s creativity as he constantly works to conceive of new and exciting ideas for original games.  

Though only 20 years old, Nick has already experienced more professional success than most people do in their entire lifetime. For as long as he can remember, he has had a passion for creating games of all varieties-- board games, video games, card games, physical games, and his most recent interest: psychological interview games. What started as a childhood hobby has quickly turned into a promising career path highlighted by the use of one of his designs for a challenge on the hit reality TV show Survivor.

Nick attributes his success to his dynamic childhood and, most specifically, to his mom. Instead of succumbing to video games and endless hours of cartoons, Nick’s mom kept him on his toes with imaginary treasure hunts, tree-houses, and puzzles.  When waiting for their food to arrive at restaurants, she would arrange the ketchup and mustard packets in specific orders and then challenge him to complete the pattern. As he grew older, he began combining his own ideas with his mom’s to create his own games. 

For this reason, his favorite childhood toy was simply markers--as long as he had these he was free to develop a limitless amount of games to entertain himself. By the time he reached middle school, he had already created his own, quicker version of chess called “Extreme Chess,” a pokémon-type game with over 400 original characters, his own version of “Stratego,” designs for his own video games, and countless more.

Much of Nick’s creative process stems from his talent in recognizing and analyzing patterns.  He begins with one single concept for a unique game that he thinks will entice his audience. He often comes up with this idea by thinking of patterns that current popular games follow and then continuing the pattern with an added, original flair.  He then expands upon this single concept, often working backwards, until he has a complete product.  According to Nick, he first asks himself, “How will people try to cheat in this game?” By thinking of all the potential ways to cheat, he is then able to create sufficient rules to prevent all types of cheating, while still allowing players the freedom to develop their own strategies.

Nick’s creative process reminded me of the personality traits that Sternberg describes in his 1984 study in the characteristics of a creative personality.  I believe that Nick has many of these characteristics, particularly “integration and intellectuality,” “decisional skill and flexibility” and “drive for accomplishment and recognition.” He is highly innovative in his ability to put old ideas for games together in a new and exciting way, he has the natural instinct to know what types of games will succeed, and he is highly motivated to succeed in the business world. Nick attributes his creative personality to his parents.  He explains that his father is logical and analytical, while his mother is free-thinking and excitable.  By drawing on both his parents, he is able to conceive of original ideas that are still firmly grounded in reality.

Nick’s biggest achievement showcases a culmination of his creative process. Immediately following high school graduation, he flew out to the Pacific Islands to work on the Survivor Dream Team, designing challenges for the show.  While there, he learned inner trade secrets about production and collaboration, and also continually pitched his own ideas to his boss.  His perseverance paid off when his idea for a Vertical Spinning Wheel was taken up by the show.  Nick created his own prototype of the wheel using a trash can lid and then watched his idea come to life when the production crew assembled a life size version.

Nick’s creations are dictated by whatever grabs his attention.  Currently, he is working on a psychology minor at school to go along with his entrepreneurship major, and is fascinated by social psychology.  To go along with his interest, he has been creating a series of psychological games to be conducted at job interviews, so that employers can get insight into their prospective employee’s personality.  He expects these games to shape the future for job interviews and plans to make psychological games his new focus.  However, if he ever gets bored with this angle, he will not hesitate to change directions. The most important thing for Nick is to stay consistent with his motto: live in the present while maximizing your potential for fun in the future. 

Works cited:
Sternberg, Robert J.,Todd I. Lubart, James C. Kaufman, Jean E. Pretz. “Creativity.” The                         Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. 351-356.