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Lessons Learned from 30 Urban Outdoor Sessions

Urban Outdoor Sessions is a series of 30 improvisations played on double bass on 30 consecutive days at 30 different locations in Munich. Every day I uploaded a video of the music created that morning. I desigend it as a 30 day challenge to boost my creativity and to kick the day to day routine of my life in the butt, facilitate change, learn new things and maybe change the course of my life just ever so slightly towards new horizons.

Here’s what I learned:

Start with what you have

Session #1 sucked so bad I didn’t even publish it. The session I published as #1 is actually the second video I shot. What happened? I started this project with the equipment I had at the time. Since I didn’t have a USB powered audio interface I planned on using my Zoom H4 recorder. It can be used as an audio interface. After figuring out how to set it up, I went the next morning to record the first session.

The audio quality of the Zoom was so bad that I had to dump it. Couldn’t use it at all. So I bought a USB powered audio interface by Presonus. I would have gotten a cheaper one if there had been more time. But since I wanted to record the next session the following day, I went with this one. This is the only investment (other than my time) I did on this project. It cost 199 Euros.

Every project (everything in life) is like a riddle. Riddles want to be solved.

Start (which is the most important part) with what you have and without knowing how it’s going to unfold. After the first step ajdust and correct the things that didn’t turn out the way you like. Then continue with the next step, adjust, correct, continue and so forth.

Let Shit Happen

The goal is never to try to get it perfect or to be perfect but to constantly grow and improve. What sounds good today will sound bad looking back tomorrow. Tomorrow will sound better but looking back the day after tomorrow it will again have its flaws. Just accept what you do today and let it happen the way it does. It is perfectly ok if it’s not perfect yet.

Some things will have to be better. They will be better because I will continue to improve.

Don’t Plan, Do

I planned exactly half a page of my notebook making a list of the equipment I thought I needed and another list of locations I thought would be cool to play. I ended up modifying the equipment just one bit (the audio interface) and made up the locations as I went along (plus playing some locations my followers suggested), thus not really sticking to the plan, except for the general idea to publish 30 videos on 30 consecutive days.
Don’t plan more than nescessary. Don’t stick to the plan if you don’t have to to succeed. It’s ok to make stuff up as you go along. Always keep your focus on the initial idea, the big picture, as a general plan.

Master the Game

With every project it’s the same. When we start we’re novices, apprentices. Things go wrong and take way longer than we anticipate. By the end of a project, though, we’ve become masters. We’ve mastered the workflow, there’s routine, there’s knowledge. We’ve grown, learned new things and that’s one of the main reasons to do anything in life.

The first week of the project, I got up, frantically getting the equipment together, packing the bike, worrying I forgot something. Thigs did go wrong. The SD card of my gopro didn’t work (I didn’t know how to format it correctly), so I recorded sessions with my iphone. I learned about light, which I never thought about before, but which is essential to any film making. I was nervous playing public spaces (what would people think?). The first week it took me about 1hour to film/record, and a whole day to mix and edit the music and video.

The last week of the project it took me about 2-3 hours to record, mix, edit, and publish the videos every day. I had established a workflow and a new mindset.

Enjoy and Appreciate

In the beginning it seems scary to go into a project without knowing what the reaction of the community will be. Inviting comments, listening and talking to people online and in the street is easy, as it turns out, when you smile and portrait a yes attitude (playing an instrument helps as well). People generally smile when they see someone creating art.

Enjoy the smiles and the drunks who throw coins at you at 5am. Invite them in. Creating a welcoming hospitable atmosphere is easy and not scary at all!

Momentum is Adrenaline

The adrenailne came first. Setting up the second session in the tunnel on the sidewalk was the first time I would play an open space in the city at 6am in the morning. It can feel akward to play while people are passing by. In the beginning I felt most uncomfortable taking a bow at the end of each session. People must think this guy is crazy.
The only way to deal with bursts of insecurity and vulnerability is to embrace them and do it anyway. Focus on the joy of doing it. That embrace pumps so much good energy and adrenaline into the system, you want to do more of it. It’s a drug that can be taken anytime with no negative side effects and it’s always available because we carry it in us everywhere we go.

Create your own Comfort Zone

Everyone talks about it to an extent where I think it’s BS, too hyped. Lying in my bed at 4:30am my comfort zone is so big, not even a magician with a crystal ball can imagine it’s vastness. To make myself get up in the morning I anounced the project on all my social channels and to my friends. I didn’t want to face anyone I know having to tell them that for some reason the project didn’t happen. Social pressure works.

The second week I got up because I wanted to improve the sessions, play locations that were farther away from my house and to catch the early morning light.
Starting the third week I got up because it was 4:30 am and I woke up every day without an alarm clock. I had created a habit. Wooohoooo!

Even during the days I felt it was hard to get up and that I didn’t want to leave my warm bed, I only had to step out of my comfort zone for a little while because every time I stood somewhere in the city I took my bass in my hands a calm serenity washed over me, transporting me in a blink of a second into a blissful endless calm parallel universe, the place where I could be free and creative with no restriction. No better comfort zone than the one we create for ourselves.

People Love Surprises

Everyone, literally everyone, smiled when they saw me and realized what I was doing. I can’t imagine what they were thinking but they all showed the same reaction. They smiled, some greeted me, some (drunk and just out of the nightclub) danced and threw money at me. I like the fact that I put a smile on their faces, even if just for a short time, but I like to believe that they spent moments of their days a bit happier remembering the crazy bassist.

Always Want More

The adrenaline was pupming every morning. I wanted more. Not consciously, but I just started to do more naturally. I started to blog again, writing articles about Neuroscience of Music, a subject I’ve been interested for quite a while. I went running again more frequently, and just overall spent more time doing.

Creating momentum is key. Everything else comes naturally. Just let it happen in and with you!

Action inspires

People notice the difference. Maybe I composed myself differently. Even if they don’t like the music, and I know a lot of people don’t like my music, I’ve gotten so much positive feedback just about the fact that I get up every morning and see the project through. The doing, it seems, was recieved more positively than the music or videos. So it’s either action that sparks positive feelings or it’s the music, or the fact that someone is creating something. Whatever it is, the important aspect here is that it inspired people one way or another. That is the most important point here! Inspiration.

Outdoors is the new Home

For some outdoor people this is a given, the outdoors is home. For someone like me, a city person who spends most of their life indoors, it’s different. We use the outdoors only as a way to balance out the stresses of everyday life. And that no longer makes sense.

With this project, the outdoors became a new home, my workplace. Watching the sun rise every day prompted more positive feelings than almost anything else. We can literally see planets move in the universe, what an epic concept to start your day.

Bottom Line

I loved doing the project and I’m grateful for every moment of it. If it put a smile on only one single person (and I know it did) it was a total success and I can’t be happier with it’s outcome.

I created 30 pieces of music that want to be developed further and I’m looking forward to doing more.

But the one ultimate lesson learned from it is that life is all about doing. It was a great experience to do it, to get up at 4:30am, to bike through the city, see the sun rise, meet people, create art and present it to you. It’s the experience that counts. Make it count.

Collect Experiences, not things. Share as much of yourself as you can with others.

If you have a project in mind, no matter how big or small, think of it as an experience that wants to be felt, done, given, collected, lived. Do it. Do it now. The world wants you to do it. We want you to do it.


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Maskenball der Klänge

Überall im Alltag werden Klänge in unserer Umgebung mal willentlich, mal auf natürliche Weise gefördert oder übertönt, maskiert. Dabei werden Sounds von anderen Sounds übertönt oder ausgelöscht.

Z.B. übertönen laute Töne leise Töne und tiefe Töne übertönen hohe Töne. Sehr vereinfacht dargestellt müssen nämlich Tiefe Töne die gesamte Höhrschnecke (die mit kleinsten Haarsinneszellen gefüllt ist) im Innenohr entlang wandern, um an deren Ende diese Haarsinneszellen zu treffen und anzuregen. Hohe Töne treffen schon am Anfang der Schnecke auf ihre entsprechenden Haarsinneszellen. Die Haarsinneszellen geben dann den Impuls weiter an die Hörnerven. Kommt also ein tiefer Ton einem hohen in die Quere, steigt im Ohr die Hörschwelle für diesen hohen Ton, d.h. wir können ihn nicht mehr gut wahrnehmen, sondern nehmen dafür verstärkt den tiefen Ton wahr.

Auch Rauschen oder leise unaufdringliche Musik können ein gutes Mittel sein, um ungewünschte Klänge zu maskieren. Rauschen kann in grossen Räumen eingesetzt werden, um Privatsphäre herzustellen, weil dadurch Gesprächsgeräusche von z.B. Mitarbeitern übertönt werden. In Supermärkten läuft immer Musik, so dass wir das Gefühl haben, privat und unbeobachtet zu sein, was unser Einkauferlebnis erst erträglich macht. Ohne Musik würden wir uns schnell beobachtet fühlen, was sich negativ auf unser Kaufverhalten auswirkt.

Technisch wird Sound ebenfalls maskiert. Mp3 beispielsweise filtert alle Frequenzen, die unser Ohr nicht braucht um ein Musikstück zu erkennen, aus dem Spektrum der Musik heraus. Wenn Musik in einem hochwertigen Studio mit echten Instrumenten aufgenommen wird, entsteht zunächst eine unglaublich reiches Klangspektrum. Dateien, die das gesamte Klangspektrum beinhalten, können wir nicht streamen. Zu grosse Datenmenge. Also filtert Mp3 alle Frequenzen, die das menschliche Ohr nicht braucht, aus dem Spektrum heraus und lässt nur die Frequenzen übrig, die unser Ohr zum Entschlüsseln des Klangs als Musik benötigt. Der Rest wird nicht codiert, also weggeschmissen. Dadurch entstehen kleine Dateiformate, aber auch abgespeckte Klangfülle. Vielleicht war die Vinylplatte ja tatsächlich der beste Datenträger für Sound bis Dato.


Foto von Lyza

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Warum wir die Musik mögen, die wir mögen.

In westlicher Musik kennen wir Dissonanz und Konsonanz. Manche Intervalle klingen für unser Ohr harmonischer als andere, z.B. klingt eine Quint homogener als der Tritonus, der sogar von der Kirche lange Zeit als das Intervall des Teufels bekannt und verboten war. Stellt sich die Frage, ob diese Vorliebe für konsonante Klänge in unserem Gehirn von Geburt an eingeschrieben ist oder nicht.

Jahrhunderte lang schon gibt es zwei verschiedene Meinungen zu diesem Thema. Das eine Lager geht davon aus, dass unser Gehirn angeboren auf konsonante Zusammenklänge angenehmer reagiert, während das andere Lager die Meinung vertritt, dass derartige Vorlieben kulturell bedingt und damit anerzogen sind.
Schwer zu beurteilen, welche Meinung richtig ist und auch schwer zu testen, da westliche Musik überall auf der Welt gehört wird, und damit fast alle Menschen der Welt die in westlicher Musik enthaltenen konsonanten Klänge gewohnt sind.

2010 haben der Neurowissenschaftler Josh McDermott (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) und der Anthropologe Ricardo Godoy (Brandeis University) ein Hörexperiment versucht, in welchem eine Anzahl Teilnehmer eines Amazonasvolks namens Tsimane, die nur einen sehr eingeschränkten Zugang zu westlicher Kultur und Musik haben, ihre Vorlieben für Dissonanz und Konsonanz bewerten sollten.

Der gleiche Test wurde mit einer Gruppe bolivianischer Einwohner, die nicht weit von den Tsimane leben und einer Gruppe aus Amerika, zusammengesetzt aus Musikern und Nicht-Musikern, gemacht.

Das Ergebnis war, dass das Naturvolk der Tsiname dissonante und konsonante Klänge als gleichwertig betrachtete, also keine Vorlieben hatte, und die Gruppe aus Bolivien nur geringe Präferenzen zeigte. Die amerikanischen Teilnehmer jedoch hatten deutliche Vorlieben für konsonante Klänge. Diese waren bei den Musikern zudem stärker als bei den Nicht-Musikern.

Andere ebenfalls in dem Test enthaltene nicht-musikalische Klänge wie z.B. Gelächter wurden von allen Gruppen gleich bewertet.

Laut Josh McDermott lässt sich daraus schliessen, dass die Vorliebe für konsonante Klänge gegenüber Dissonanz davon abhängt, wielviel Kontakt die Menschen mit der westlichen Kultur und Musik haben.

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