Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BROCKHAMPTON redefines the American boyband for the 21st century

Hailing from San Marcos, Texas, BROCKHAMPTON identifies as an all-American boy band. Despite creating music that most would not consider a part of the "boyband" aesthetic, founding member Kevin Abstract (pictured below) insists on this title.   
Breaking the mold of the traditional 4 or 5 piece boyband, the group is a 15-strong collective of artists, rappers, filmmakers, and producers. Current members include Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Matt Champion, Jabari Manwa, Kiki Merley, Ashlan Grey, Henock "HK" Sileshi, Merlyn Wood,
Ciaran Ruaridh McDonald aka BearfaceRobert Ontinyent, Romel Hemnani, Dominic Michael Simpson a.k.a. Dom McLennon, and Russell Boring aka JOBA. Most of BROCKHAMPTON's members are involved in multiple facets of the creative process. The sheer amount of talent present in this one group is astonishing to say the least. Because of the diversity of creative pursuits found between the band's members, BROCKHAMPTON is a self-sufficient machine. The band writes, records, and produces all of their own music and films, directs, and edits its own music videos.
However, what really sets BROCKHAMPTON apart from other boybands is the heterogeneity of their sound. They often seamlessly transition between sad boy crooning, trap-oriented rap, and experimental RnB. The band is inspired by and dependent on a largely collaborative style. After meeting on an internet forum for Kanye West, the members decided to move from Texas to LA and live in a house together. All of the time they are able to spend creating together has definitely paid off, as debut album SATURATION (first photo below) and sophomore album SATURATION II (second photo below) have seen massive success in the music community. 

While their process is informed by a spirit of collaboration, the band's individual members often rap about their personal experiences. The incredible thing about the diversity of voices represented by BROCKHAMPTON is that listeners get access to many perspectives within one track. For example, Kevin Abstract is often vocal about his experience as a gay man of color, while other band members rap about their own experiences navigating their intersectional identities. 
With the current political climate being what it is, it is empowering and important to see a band breaking the hegemonic structure of popular music. The amount of members and the complexity of the band's lyrics mean that BROCKHAMPTON is not a band that is necessarily instantly consumable to a massive public. It is rare for an American boyband to create such an authentic, unique sound, but BROCKHAMPTON is here to shatter everything you though you knew about the genre. Watch out, world.


A Portrayal of the Fifth Dimension

Christopher Nolan. The cinematic genius behind Interstellar, The Dark Knight, and Inception. Nolan’s phenomenal ideas behind his movies never cease to amaze his audience. His perplexing and divergent approach to movies elicits curiosity and admiration from critics as well.

            His filmmaking process comes in layers which is what makes his films successful in the first place. The basis of his process incorporates the basics of technical filmmaking. Nolan places a large emphasis on the nature of cinematography. He thoroughly understands how the camera with capture an image, from lighting to angle to focus, each little aspect of the frame plays an imperative role in the process. Another way he is able to perfect his process is to bring the best put in visual effects, and make use of as many realistic and physical props as he can.

            Nolan can be personified as a collaborative filmmaker. For his film, Interstellar, he collaborated with the legendary theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. He wants makes sure all the collaborators have a strong sense of his vision and filmmaking process (and vice versa) so their ideas can have a medium of bouncing off one another. He wanted to make to be very familiar with the theories of space in order to better portray the film; this assisted in him being able to direct a film in which the audience understands the concepts, but are also working their way to a clearer understanding with each scene at the same time.
            What is amazing about Nolan is that he is a walking paradox. He is also known as the epitome of auteur direction. The auteur theory is defined as “the director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is more to be considered the “author” of the movie that is the writer of the screenplay. In other words, such fundamental visual elements as camera placement, blocking, lighting, and scene length, rather than plot line, convey the message of the film”.[1] Nolan dives into his work and his process by trying to figure out the heart of the story, what concepts he wants to portray and HOW you want to portray the story. The basis of the film is the plot which in turn makes the film prosper.
            His motivation relies on making the film an immersive experience. A part of him is extrinsically motivated to elicit the problem solving, intense attention and curiosity out of his audience. He craves for the audience to see the level of intellectual complexity that is put into the film. There are many symbols that the audience can subjectively interpret; this brings various meanings on to the movies.
The fifth dimension (Spoiler Alert!!!):

Overall Research: http://observer.com/2016/04/meet-the-artistic-genius-behind-interstellar-dark-knight-and-inception/

And on the 7th day, God said, “Let there be house music!”

House music will set you free! If you aren’t familiar, house music is a genre of electronic dance music. The term refers to a lot of things these days, but it was initially coined to describe a new kind of music being played in Chicago loft and warehouse parties during the late 1970s and early 1980s. So yeah, Chicago beat New York in creating something new for once.

This Chicago house music was a blend of soul, jazz, disco, funk, European electronic pop, Latin salsa and even post-punk. It redefined dance music as we know it. The repeating drums were intended to get people on their feet, and it worked. Thousands of people came to dance at “The Warehouse,” a building in Chicago’s south loop, close to union station (the phrase “house music” comes from this name.) The warehouse was a refuge for gay and black youth in the city. They were able to meet and network with each other, and also dance away the horrors of Reagan-era politics.   

The creator of and one the most popular DJs at the Warehouse was Frankie Knuckles. He is known as the “godfather of house music” and was the life of the party. His music was radically experimental. He could take inspiration from anything - from disco to post-punk. He was constantly mixing genres and including strange samples, like recordings of Martin Luther King speeches. He was the life of the warehouse, often playing for up to eight hours a night.

Knuckle’s music was also radically independent. He disdained major labels and instead promoted a Do-It-Yourself ethic to the creation and publication of house music. Even the “Warehouse” as a venue was fundamentally independent. When this type of music and these types of people were denied entrance to the dominant, traditional nightclubs, they created spaces of their own. In this way, the music Knuckles made for the Warehouse was both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. He had a natural inclination to create groundbreaking music, but he also wanted to create a meaningful space for other people. In one interview he says, “I used to think that what I did was create a poor man’s paradise on the dancefloor. It gives them the opportunity to escape the rigors of reality.”

Knuckles process for creating music is very unique. In one interview, he says that he used to turn on the radio and “sketch out” the look of the music he was hearing. He was an obsessive record collector and constantly learning about different types of music.  

One of the ways we have talked about in class on how to identify a creative product is to see whether it has been recreated by other individuals. Using this quantifier, we see that house music was extremely unique and creative. After it’s creation in Chicago, house music quickly spread around the world - with new house music communities growing in Detroit, New York, London and Berlin. House music was also growing not only a genre, but also a philosophy. With it’s roots in Chicago’s black and gay warehouses, house music aimed to be radically inclusive. This inclusivity changed the way that nightlife looks like in many cities.

If anyone is interested in learning more about house music or experiencing it for themselves, check out the annual House Music Festival. It’s hosted every June in Millennium Park.


Anthony Hopkins: A Man of Many Faces and Facets

Image result for anthony hopkins

While probably best known for his role as the cunning cannibal Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Welsh born actor Sir Anthony Hopkins has dazzled audiences with performances ranging from Othello to Richard Nixon for over three decades. Acting isn’t his only passion: he’s been writing classical music most of his adult life and has released various compositions. Regardless of the medium he’s working in, Hopkins always brings a unique intensity that places him as one of the premier talents of his generation.
Born December 31, 1937 in the town of Margam, Port Talbot, Wales, Hopkin’s early life was relatively uneventful. That all changed when he met actor Richard Burton, who inspired him to pursue acting as a career. At the young age of 15, Hopkins applied to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. After graduating in 1957, he spent two years in the military before moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After training and working for several years, he became a protégé of Sir Laurence Olivier. In 1965, Olivier invited Hopkins to join the Royal National Theatre and become his understudy. This was the launching point of Hopkins’s professional life, and he would continue to act successfully for the rest of his career.
After building a reputation as a skilled stage and small-screen actor, Hopkins only reached superstardom with his performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Even though he was only onscreen for a meagre 17 minutes, audiences were enraptured with the chilling performance he delivered. His delivery of the role was so unsettling that costar Jodie Foster was too terrified to speak with him.
Hopkins has a penchant for doing quick, spontaneous takes for his films. The actor memorizes all of his lines through massive repetition, and as soon as the scene is done, he forgets them. Hopkins’s obsession for acting has diminished over the years, but he has no intention of stopping. He credits acting with keeping his mind sharp in his later years, as the amount of mental focus keeps him on his toes. Hopkins does not describe himself as an obsessively creative person; he paints, acts, and composes merely for the enjoyment that he receives from it. In this sense, he is an intrinsically motivated person. Sir Anthony Hopkins will surely continue to captivate audiences all across the world for as long he graces the screen.


Oh the Things You Can Think...When you think about Seuss

Theodore Giesel, or as many of you know him, Doctor Seuss is a renowned children's book author.  His stories bring back pleasant memories of childhood and recitations of his rhymes without hesitation.  Whether you remember having Cat in the Hat read to you as a child or received a copy of Oh, The places You'll Go as a grad present or even this year as you may watch the classic Christmas tale of The Grinch who Stole Christmas (the live action one obviously), you have almost certainly encountered and enjoyed Dr. Seuss' simple rhymes with deep meanings. 

Oddly enough, the first crack at a children's book for Seuss came from a bet and resulted in one of his most popular books, Green Eggs and Ham. He was to write this book in 50 words or less and have it be an engaging and entertaining and with only $50 on the line, Seuss changed an entire culture of children's books.

This creative process would continue onto his later books.  While writing Cat in the Hat Seuss used only words from a first grade vocabulary list.  Not only did this book sell one million copies within its first three years in print, it was transformed into a full length film and The Cat in the Hat has become a cultural icon.

As previously mentioned in lectures, building constraints for yourself is actually quite good for producing creative work.  It forces you to think outside of the box and keeps you from, well, doing this when you can't come up with anything good.

Some consider Seuss one of the greatest American poets.  Even writing that makes me wince but in terms of what he has contributed and cultural/paradigm shifting, Seuss takes the cake.  Critics are quick to turn up their noses due to the fact that his work is meant for children.  However, think about The Lorax.  That book is absolutely about environmental issues and preserving nature.  Many other books have been analyzed and determined to have greater depth than first glance. 

Unfortunately some of the meanings are taken out of context. In Horton Hears a Who, the line " A person's a person no matter how small" has been used as propaganda for Pro-life groups.  While he was alive, Seuss threatened to sue a specific pro-life group unless they removed this quote from their letterhead.

Seuss remains a source of contention still today with parents claiming his work is nothing but jumbled nonsense that is making it harder for their children to read.  However, this intentional breaking rules of language and cognition being exposed to such young children may help them retain some of their childhood curiosity that will eventually bloom into adulthood creativity. In a way these books describing new alphabets and creating nonsensical words are teaching children to be divergent thinkers, which we know from Smith & Ward leads to creative thought.  

Not only did Seuss teach divergent thinking, he actively pursued nonsensical and illogical premises (e.g. An elephant sitting on a bird's egg to keep it warm).  In the words of Seuss,  "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.  Which is what I do and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." 

Regardless, Seuss is here to stay.  Even 25 years after his death, his books remain on the top of the leaderboards.  He has sold over 66 million copies and has had 16 books in the top 100, not to mention numerous movies and even a successful broadway musical...which has been stuck in my head for the past week.  Please enjoy this early 2000s video from the opening of Seussical on Broadway.  I was shocked and amazed at the political and social commentary in the show when I watched a video of it last week.  

I promise you there is more than meets the eye to Seuss and when you really think about Seuss, oh the thinks you can think...

I 🐳 Creativity

Shep and Ian Murray, natives of Greenwich, Connecticut, went from brothers who simply enjoyed spending their summers at Martha’s Vineyard to fearless entrepreneurs who embraced their lifestyle and turned it into an iconic clothing brand known as Vineyard Vines. Many people will recognize the smiling pink whale adorned on many brightly colored hats, polos, quarter zips, and t-shirts – the mascot of a brand embodying the preppy, classy, fun, and easy-going lifestyle. Their slogan, “Every day should feel this good”, arises from the brothers’ ultimate philosophy of “living the good life”.
                  Spending every summer of their lives on Martha’s Vineayrd, Shep and Ian developed a love for the total aesthetic of the island – the sun, fishing, boats, people, and beaches. They loved to escape out onto the water and enjoy the beaches from boats they were barely able to afford using their combined earnings. In the late nineties, the brothers found themselves working mundane office jobs in New York City, and realized they were not living the “good life” they had always envisioned for themselves. In a bold moment of passion and ambition, the duo quit their jobs at nearly the same time and set out to develop a clothing brand that embodied their vision of the “good life”, and Vineyard Vines was officially founded.
                  The brand started out tiny – just 800 individual ties, sold right out of the brothers’ backpacks at Martha’s Vineyard. But to their surprise, this risk ended up paying off, and they sold out in the first weekend. Having barely had enough money after quitting their jobs and opening up credit cards to buy silk, this sudden success quickly motivated them to immediately order more materials and move into a bigger office. Vineyard Vines eventually expanded to include not only ties, but most other articles of clothing for both men and women, and a plethora of other accessories.
The popularity of the brand bloomed across the nation, particularly down the east cost, and now has even collaborated and created unique clothing with other large businesses such as the NFL, MLB, and colleges across the United States. Ian and Shep serve as excellent examples of how creativity can stem from an intrinsic passion, and how that passion can then be turned into something that reaches the lives of people around the world. They also exemplify the importance of collaboration – without each other’s  support, how difficult might it have been for them to take that initial leap of faith and quit their jobs to follow their dreams? Together, Ian and Shep are “living out their version of the American Dream”, as they have described it, and created a unique brand that embodies not only a certain style, but an aesthetic and a life experience that they each hold dear to their hearts.

People always say that if you do what you love, you'll be successful. There's no doubt that we're doing what we love and loving what we do: we're having fun, working hard and meeting great people.” – Ian & Shep