Everyday Alchemy (video collection, continued)

I’m still deep into making daily alchemy with the Networked Narratives daily prompts (known as the Daily Arganee), but I suspect with the university courses nearing the end of the semester, the dailies will begin to fade off. Which is fine. (NetNarr is a combination of two university courses taught by Alan Levine and Mia Zamora, and anyone else on the open web who wanders in.)

Until the daily prompts end, I’ll continue to try to arrive at something poetic at a slant (meaning, I try not to address the prompt straight on but rather, use the prompt for something different — tilt your head to see, that sort of thing) … and I will continue to gather and curate my small pieces into short video collections. Right now, my biggest hurdle is trying to name these curated videos.

🙂

I am also still gathering every prompt response I have done, and need some sort of inspiration for the dozens of small videos that I have made. Something will come to me, I am sure …

Peace (alchemized),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Books for Living

There’s a moment towards the end of Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living where he recounts how a book he read — A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre in 1829 — reminded him the power of observation, and how we can make sense of our lives if we just slow down, observe the small details and write with passion.

This call to reflect reminds me a lot of some the writing I have been trying to do in Mastodon, of noticing small moments and writing small poems, of invocations of the world and of the wonders of the world, writ small. Unlike de Maistre, I am not confined to my bedroom by the legal system (as he was, for a stretch of time, and therefore, he had little more to write about when he decided he would write about his room as if it were an entire world).

Throughout Schwalbe’s Books for Living, as he uses each chapter to focus on book(s) connected to something he has learned about living his life, I was reminded of the power of reflection, and agree with his observation that reading is a certain kind of magic that connects us with our past histories, our current stories, and lays the groundwork for where we might be going.

Here, Schwalbe connects with such books as Stuart Little, Giovanni’s Room, The Odyssey, Song of Solomon, Bird by Bird, and many more. His writing style is inviting, and his honesty shines through in his observations of his life through the lens of stories. This is a book for book lovers, and even encountering books I didn’t know– such as A Journey Around My Room — you can feel the pull to investigate, as Schwalbe provides as suitable guide into the internal landscape.

Peace (books),
Kevin

 

Video: Ethics of Immersive Digital Storytelling

(image via Andrea Phillips)

A conversation recently unfolded on Twitter about Transmedia Storytelling, in which author and transmedia storyteller Andrea Phillips joined in, adding an interesting wrinkle to the discussion.

She voiced concern over the ethics and responsibility of digital storytellers, particularly those who use media to trick/entertain viewers to enter into the story from different angles. (Transmedia is the idea of a story unfolded over different media, technology and platforms — the pieces joined together to tell a story, although each piece could stand on its own.)

(image via Pinterest)

Andrea then shared this Ted-style talk she did on this topic, and I think it is worth viewing, if only to remind ourselves that there is a fine line between reality and story, and between responsibility and creativity.

Meanwhile, I got Andrea Phillip’s book — A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling — out of the library and dove in last weekend, reading as she shared her experiences as creating Transmedia experiences and interviews with others. She brings a lot of great insights into the mix.

I enjoyed the inside look, although I came away with the notion that Transmedia pieces are mostly geared towards selling a product — a movie tie-on or a commercial aspect or marketing campaign.

Perhaps this is because that is her job — and if companies are the ones paying your fees, you make what they want you to make — but it struck me as unsettling, that my naive idea of “story for the sake of story” might be out of sync with the world.

Peace (sharing it responsibly),
Kevin

Book Review: The Creativity Project

Can I admit, the comics and graphic stories here were my favorites?

The Creativity Project is a book that teacher/book lover Colby Sharpe put together under the auspices of a brilliant idea: What if he asked published children book creators to come up with writing prompts and then what if he shuffled the prompts, and sent them back out to the writers/illustrators and asked them to write the story from the prompt?

He did. They did. It’s wonderful.

The book itself is a collection of the 44 creative writing prompts — some serious, some pure whimsey — and the resulting 44 stories — some serious, some whimsical. Did I mention that I loved the graphic story responses the best? They just pulled me right in, as I thought about the prompt that sparked the story.

A loose floorboard in an old aunt’s house. An eavesdropping story. An anagram challenge. The guy next door. Object animation. A poem about words. Dog translation app.

Some of the prompts are mere images to be deciphered. Some are one-liners. Others are story starters. They run the gamut, which makes reading The Creativity Project so much fun because you find yourself connecting the prompt with the story and this causes the reader to think on the gap between the two — how did the writer end up there?

And then … here’s the beautiful part … the writers also contributed even more prompts, with no stories, with a call to us — the readers — to write our own pieces from new prompts at the end of the book. I love that part of the book — the invitation to write.

And so … I take the plunge … I found this prompt by Margarita Engle …

hummingbird frenzy,
each whir of wings helps me feel
earthbound and dazzled

— a poem prompt by Margarita Engle (p. 231)

My response (I went from hummingbird to butterfly):

I am forever
long for this world,
my wings barren of dust

I forgive the boy,
who in his quest for science
thought I might fly from his hand

Now I watch and wonder
at the change in the winds,
my mind flying when my wings won’t

I forgive the boy,
who cried when he discovered
my magic dust over his fingers

for now, I am forever
of this world, flightless, earth-bound,
my wings translucent

and temporary.

— Kevin Hodgson, 2018

The Creativity Book will get you writing. What more could you want?

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Bag o’ Work Left at School

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This is the first Spring vacation week in memory where I didn’t have an overflowing bag of student writing (either literally, or figuratively, now that I use Google Classroom for much of our writing) to read and assess and comment upon. My carrying bag, the one that is often filled with student work, is still in my classroom. I didn’t need it.

Either through planning (there was some of that, to be sure) or sheer luck of where our unit is right now (there is some of that), I’ve been able to mostly keep it relaxed so far this week.

So, why does that make me feel guilty? Sheesh.

I’m so used to spending time outside of school with student writing, and thinking of lesson plans and activity flow, that when things slow down, I feel as if something should be happening. Helping students make progress with their learning — with their writing — that’s what teachers do.

Ok, but … still … relax.

Enjoy your books. Enjoy your family. Enjoy Spring (even with snow and sleet still on the ground from yesterday’s storm that gave us permission to stay inside most of the day). Think about the days ahead when we get back, but not too much.

The dog needs a walk. Go on and do it.

Peace (on the horizon),
Kevin

Poems with Bud: An Image Inspiration for Every Day Writing


Pencil Sculpture flickr photo by listingslab shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I hope you have places to write poems. For me, this month, it has been over at Bud Hunt’s blog. Years ago, he and I used to riff off images he left there, pictures to inspire poems.  He’s doing it again this year, and even as it seems as if he and I are the only ones writing at his site some mornings, still I write. He does, too. The image above was what greeted me this morning. Neat, right?

Bud and I know each other from our work in the National Writing Project. Thank you, Bud.

Here are the poems I have been writing so far this April, as a way to curate the first half of Poetry Month. You’ll have to follow links to his blog to see the images that inspired the poems, and then, as long as you there, you might as well write, too, right?

.. even I don’t remember
where I put
those letters, those poems
from November,
when the snow did linger
and my frozen fingers
refused to write;
words now lost
forever.

— via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/16/npm2018-prompt-16/

 

–You told me
you sent me
a message on
the wires —
a telegraphed
story that tells me
you’re tired —
but all I can see here
is the moon
on an angle,
a light in the night
as the evening
expires.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/15/npm2018-prompt-15/

 

Some words,
just disappear:
whispers of cloud
designed to become
invisible after reading;
each writer, needing
only a single lover
as audience, and
blue sky beckoning.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/14/npm2018-prompt-14/

 

Blink,
and you’ll miss
it;
the bug on
the brain like
the words on the
tongue of that poem
I began when
I was writing a song
about you.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-13/

 

When the everything
around us descends
into a strange, feverish dream,
the best we can do is take cover,
drink liquids,
and wait it out,
for the world
to break.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-12/

 

Each second
I forget
to love you
is an eternity
of time that can’t be
returned.
Still,
I try.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/11/npm2018-prompt-11/

 

… later, when we
returned, you
put your fingers
on the spaces
where my toes
would go, and
traced the movement
of my feet
in the sand,
and when I gave you
that look, the one I give,
you shook your head
and told me:
I would never understand.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/10/npm2018-prompt-10/

 

The writer’s morning
begins
not with food
but with words,
stories on the grill
and poems, poured out
on the plate.
We drink from experience,
nourished
with the knowledge
that our next piece of text —
elusive as anything , yet
lingering on the tip
of the tongue —
may be in the batter,
on the grill,
about to get flipped
onto our plate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/09/npm2018-prompt-9/

 

I hid my camera
from your eyes,
from your stare
from the glare you gave me
when I took the shot,
from the way you made me
hesitate, I’m not sure now
how it is you made me feel
as if this public space
were no longer mine,
but only yours,
and yours alone.
I took the shot,
and walked away
but your eyes, your eyes,
your piercing angry eyes,
they still settle down
into my bones.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/08/npm2018-prompt-8/

 

You wonder
how it is
that the world
has to be seen
on an incline,
how you have
to bend your head
to bend your eyes
and quint to find
the reality of any
given moment.
Down here,
it’s all perspective
and nothing looks
quite the same.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/07/npm2018-prompt-7/

 

No one had to tell you
the world’s a stage;
you just knew.

We watched you move
from stagehand to actress,
all guised up in the cloak
of another.

I pulled the strings
to open the curtains
and claimed my seat
in the very front row

Eyes on the surprise
that someone from me
could become
someone like you

and then, there was
the applause,
my hands still ringing
with wonder.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/06/npm2018-prompt-6/

 

You are the side
that sticks
with me, all day
long. You unwrap
me from my emotions,
yanking me from
some deep sleep
wandering, and remind me
to stay put, right here,
until my weathered edges
disintegrate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/05/npm2018-prompt-5/

 

On this side
of the lens,
the world
remains golden,
a hue of
other days,
fading away.
Nostalgia tumbles
from the sky,
the truck’s plow
clearing a path
for today.
We live
in metaphor.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/04/npm2018-prompt-4/

 

I’m waiting
for the poem to
arrive; Godot is
late again.

Out here
in the open,
I just can’t hide,
I’m waiting
in the rain

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/03/npm-2018-prompt-3/

 

Someone
hid the button
on me,
words disguised
as instructions.
No, I won’t
hit to play —
not tomorrow
not today.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/02/npm2018-prompt-2/

 

I’m so tired
of frayed
wires .. static
clinging to
my ears.
Can’t you
hear?

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/01/npm-2018-prompt-1/

 

So, that’s half a month (or more) of poems, every day. Thanks for reading. I hope you write poetry this month and beyond.

Peace (beyond stanzas),
Kevin

A Whale’s Lantern: The Oral History of a Musical Collaboration (part two)

This is the second of two parts of a post about an online musical collaboration project known as A Whale’s Lantern that has been taking place on the Mastodon social networking space (part one is here). Musicians are randomly paired up, and asked to create and record original music and songs. Those songs are then pulled together for an album on Bandcamp.

This oral history project took place in a shared document after the first iteration was completed. A second round, with many more musicians, is now underway, with a new album scheduled to be out before the end of April.

Yesterday, the reflections centered on participants first reactions to the call for collaborations and how they made and nurtured connections with their collaborators. Today, we focus more on the making of music, with both the challenges of online connections (where musicians are not in the same physical space) and the possibilities of this kind of creativity.

You can listen to the first album at Bandcamp. Buying a track will support the artists and the federated and open Mastodon network.

Collaborations

Veronica: I linked my old demos to Robert and he liked them, so it was kinda naturally decided to work on one of them.

Matheus: I am usually compose alone, so yeah, I was very afraid of making mistakes and letting my partner down.

Wendy: I had direction of ‘animals from another planet’. C minor and dark. The first track I produced was sounds from my clarinet rather than a song.

Laura: Kevin had the kernel of the song, but it changed and I heard more than he put in that first outline. I wasn’t sure how he would react to having all new lines in the chorus and bridge sections.

Robert: As soon as the stems arrived  … I was with the art.

Laura: What you write can be deeply personal, and collaborating, especially at a distance, requires trust. I am glad Kevin trusted me to sing. That meant more than he could know.

Matheus: I believe I was the youngest of all of the musicians who were involved in the project, so I was worried I would not be able to reach their level of knowledge or skill.

Veronica: For this particular album, it is fair to say that mainly he (Robert) did all the work, giving a slightly different shape to a song that I simply wrote some time ago.

Mascha (collaborating with Matheus): After exchanging a few emails, I sent him a chord progression and some other guitar recordings with effects on them and then, over the course of the project, we both added tracks and parts etc.

Matheus: I let Mascha come up with some of her ideas before I suggested anything. I think that was a wise decision since the first melodies she released were very original and shaped pretty much everything I came up with later on.

Robert: Veronica’s song that most resonated with me was Blueness. My priority was blending supplemental instrumentation in with the initial folk feel of Veronica’s vocals and melodies, to reflect and expand in the mood.

Mascha (with Matheus): We really started from nothing and co-composed the entire song via email and whatsapp, which was a very interesting experience.

Laura: Timing wasn’t really a problem at all. I think for Kevin, not knowing exactly what I’d do with the guitar foundation, it was the waiting, until I returned the next stage of the song.

Mascha (collaborating with Michael):  Michael sent me a few of his song sketches and I chose one to work with. The acoustic guitar part in the song is still from that first sketch. The idea for the lyrics evolved from me reading a  Wikipedia article on the distant future of the universe.

Michael: Mascha had some lines she invited me to add to. I tried to keep as close to the original as possible, but also try to help it to fit the melody and rhythmic pattern of the song that was developing.

Considerations

Kevin: Every interaction we had was positive, and constructive, and I never felt as if her musicianship overpowered my ideas for the song.

Mascha: Working with Matheus was very pleasant. He’s really good at giving feedback and evolving ideas.

Matheus: Even though she (Mascha) was very busy, she took the time to answer to all my looong e-mails and messages, giving all the feedback I needed. She deserves a medal for having that much patience with me.

Veronica: Robert tried very hard to keep my vision of the song.

Robert: The easiest part was enjoying the process! Veronica’s capturing of moods is refreshing!

Mascha: Since we (Michael and Mascha) started from a lyric-less song that he had already written, the “come up with a song”-part of the collaboration was quite quick.

Michael: Early on, I decided that finishing the song was way more important than pushing any  particular vision of how I thought it should be. I would suggest ideas if asked, but was willing to let Mascha decide what and how she wanted to contribute, and I would make sure keep from complicating the effort .   

Mascha: I think Michael and I have quite different communication styles, so that was a bit difficult to navigate – I’m very happy that we were able to sort things out, though.

Wendy: The easiest part was jumping in and my two collaborators said, ‘sure.’

Veronica: It’s easy to get lost in the communication via text. At one point, I was realising the difficulty of remote collaboration and thinking: “Hell, that would’ve been way easier to explain in person. …Maybe.”

Wendy: The difficulty was the invisibility of my collaborators and the work of others. I had no sense of what other people were working on. Hugh took my first track and did an amazing remix.

Kevin: Articulating what we were hearing in the mixes — in different headphones and speakers, many miles away, in email conversations — is challenging. I think we were open enough and support enough of each other that it all worked out fine.

Laura: The tables would have been turned 180 degrees if I was the one who had written the underlying chords/skeleton. Then I would have felt the pangs of time and distance.

Matheus: Another thing is that I’ve never recorded anything before, so my tempo was off way too often. The last straw was the Udu (which is the main percussive instrument on the song). The problem with the Udu was that, well, I’m not a percussionist, which means I have focus really hard in order to keep the beat flowing.

Robert: The accents on Veronica’s notes are different in nuance than what people often do in my city, and it was refreshing playing the bass line to be tripped up by “wait, this part at the root feels different than what I initially heard it as,” and then staying true to the space and time of the source music.

Michael: If we had developed the foundation melody jointly, I think there would have been a musical communication that developed through the process of  improvisation and negotiation. Since we began from something I already “completed”, the communication and negotiation of a shared vision had to happen in responding to how the other person had changed the song in ways that we didn’t expect, or didn’t match what we thought was “right”.

Matheus:  It was really nice to see the song developing and in the end it became something that wouldn’t be possible if I had tried making it alone. It was a really eye-opening experience and I felt great through the whole process. I would like to thank Mascha for bringing us together and for being such a great partner. I hope to be a part of the next edition of this project! And bravo to all the other artists, who did a wonderful job with each of their songs!

Thanks for reading and for listening. Now, go make some music! Keep an eye out for the second round of songs for A Whale’s Lantern in a few weeks.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

A Whale’s Lantern: The Oral History of a Musical Collaboration (part one)

 

How best to harness a federated networked space like Mastodon for creativity? Many of us are still figuring out what it means to have our toes in an emerging platform spread out across many “instances” and homes. A Whale’s Lantern, a collaborative music-making venture that unfolded over the final months of 2017, emerged, as so many interesting ideas do, from inquisitive inquiry and open invitation.

What would happen if relative strangers in an openly networked space made music together, virtually and collaboratively, and then published the album togetheron Bandcamp?

Mascha put out that call on Mastodon in late September 2017, and the collective writers of this article responded. A few others were also involved in the early days of collaboration, but for a variety of reasons, including life itself, made deadlines difficult for some collaborators. So eight potential pairings, aiming for eight songs, ended up as four collaborations with four songs (with hopes that those who could not collaborate for this venture might join in future projects).

We are now nearing the end of the second iteration, with a new album due sometime this spring. I’ve been teamed up with an amazing musician and producer, Luka, who is finishing up our track, which he created music for and I wrote lyrics for, and did the main singing on. He may be adding other cool flourishes as well. I get a listen every now and then, and it’s so neat to hear how he is building our song.

This particular oral history, documented through a shared file (and slightly edited for length) of A Whale’s Lantern is an aim to celebrate how it all first came together in the initial gathering, and how it might be a model for other creative collaborations in the federated Mastodon network. You might even call it a jam session of reflections and memory.

In this first part, we share ideas about Invitations and Connections. Tomorrow, in part two, we share ideas about Collaboration and Considerations. Embedded songs are connected to the participants who wrote/performed on them.

Invitations

Mascha Bartsch:  I posted the toot, so I was just very excited to see whether anyone would actually sign up.

Kevin Hodgson: I’ve done plenty of collaboration projects, including music, but those always stemmed from projects where I mostly knew and interacted regularly with participants. Here, I figured it would be relative strangers, and I felt a little uneasy but excited.

Veronica: The first time I saw it in September, I thought: “Cool idea! But I’m kinda away from the music right now.” Then I thought: “Hey! I can do that! I’m not particularly skilled but I can do that!”.

Robert Vavra: I saw the potential to contribute … Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.

Michael Silverstone: I didn’t actually see it, but I heard about it from Kevin.

Wendy Taleo: I didn’t see Mascha first toot. I saw Hugh’s toot that had #musiccollab in it. I checked out that thread and saw Kevin and Laura there who I knew from my open study over the last couple of years.

Matheus Violante: Well, I was new to Mastodon and I am still very inexperienced when it comes to music, so I was like “You know what? It’s time to try something new!”.

Laura Ritchie: I thought: yes, this (Mastodon) is a nice place to be, and why not?

Matheus: I saw the post as an opportunity to integrate with the community and learn how to compose a song with a partner.

Michael:  I’m always delighted to see what happens when working with other motivated people who can do things that complement or go beyond what I can do, so naturally, I was excited to be part of a project like this.

Connections

Mascha: I think that it’s important to be aware that collaboration does not always work and that you might be paired up with someone you don’t click with or someone who is unresponsive … I had a pretty relaxed attitude towards the entire project (and my collaborations).

Kevin: I knew that Laura as an amazing musician. So I felt sort of intimidated. Not by her personally. She’s not like that. But by her chops. She’s in another league. So my worry was that I would not be able to contribute in the ways she could contribute.

Laura: I knew Kevin, but we have never met.

Wendy: No concerns really, it would either work out or not. When I looked at Hugh and Lukas profiles it was a bit daunting….they did this for a living.

Mascha: If it works out, great, if it doesn’t, not much would have been lost (except a little bit of my time, but that’s a bearable risk).

Michael: I thought it would be easy to generate ideas and hold a musical conversation. That part proved true.

Veronica: I filled the form and got terrified instantly: “I’ll be paired with a REAL musician and I might let them down.” But I submitted the form anyway and I’m really glad I did.

Robert: My only concern was finding out how to fulfill an artist’s vision that I’ve never met and hadn’t felt the mood of in person!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of the Oral History of A Whale’s Lantern project.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

At Middleweb: Mistakes Were Made


Broken Glass flickr photo by spi516 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Hmm. I guess I never posted this. Another mistake.

I had wanted to share this column I wrote for Middleweb a few weeks back, about reflecting on where things have gone wrong in my classroom. This is a necessary ballast to stories I often share of where things go right in my classrooms. Reality is messier. Kids are unpredictable. And I don’t always know what to do.

Head to Middleweb to read Mistakes Were Made

Peace (fixing it, slowly),
Kevin