Creative Strategies From Ben Franklin

Posted in Creative with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative

I’m always curious about the process of creating new forms of art, as process is transferrable to any medium.  As someone who has worked in a lot of disciplines (music, film, design, etc) I find my best ideas always come from crossing over from other disciplines.

An approach that works for painting can be used in music.  A technique used in writing can be used in graphic design.

I came across this post from ETR about Benjamin Franklin’s writing system.  In a nutshell, to learn from the masters,

1) Study the structure.

2) Make an exact copy- by hand.

3) Make a summary outline of the ideas, structure etc.

4) Add improvements of your own.

Art students were often told to copy the master’s paintings. But it applies to all arts.  I have done this with some Beethoven string quartets.  By copying by hand every single note – just copying – the mere physical act of writing down the master’s notes – there is some kind of insight and transferrence of knowledge.  I had read somewhere that composer Roy Harris had done the same thing instead of going to his lessons with Nadia Boulanger.  Berlioz did the same spending hours and hours in the Paris Conservatoire library copying out parts from Gluck’s operas.  Filmmakers have done homages to their favorites even having music videos that are basically recreations of specific scenes in a movie. The “Flashdance” quote in JLo’s video a few years ago comes to mind.

To stand on the shoulders of giants, you need to climb up there.  This is one way of doing it.

Try it with your next film.  Study a scene from your favorite film.  Create the storyboard from it.  Write the screenplay that would have accompanied it.  Film it if you can.

Or how about with an animation?  Recreate a 30 second sequence from a Disney classic – frame by frame.

As an aside, this reminds me of the hysterical magical realist  story by Jorge Luis Borges “Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote,” in which  Pierre Menard was intending to “coincide – word for word and line for line – with those Miguel de Cervantes.”  Not by copying but by reliving a life as Cervantes would have to recreate oneself as a Cervantes. I love Borges for his ideas and his very dense incredibly compact language.

And here’s the exact section from Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator.  It was the third.  I had never before seen any of them.  I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it.  I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it.  With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand.  Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.  But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again.  I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper.  This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts.  By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious.


Night Haunts – The London Night December 4, 2008 event at Studio X, Columbia University

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 2, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative


The famed London night: “There was a time, well over a century ago now, when it was considered one the finest Victorian inventions.” Gas lighting opened up the night–rendering the darkness visible, and introducing new spaces of lawlessness and depravity. But have CCTV cameras and British Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) neutralized the night? Writer SUKHDEV SANDHU and composer ANDREW INGKAVET present a visual and sonic journey through an unfamiliar nocturnal London, encountering urban fox hunters, exorcists, cleaning crews, mini-cab drivers, sleep technicians and the Nuns of Tyburn, as they pray for the souls of Londoners.

SANDHU is a professor of English Literature at New York University, Chief Film Critic of the “Daily Telegraph,” and author of “London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City.” INGKAVET is a composer, filmmaker and designer. He began scoring films while working in Hong Kong as one of MTV-Asia’s first VJs. 

Free and open to the public

Getting to Carnegie Hall via YouTube

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative

This is way cool!

from the NY TImes December 1, 2008:

Traditionally, auditioning for an orchestra means appearing alone onstage in a nerve-jangling performance before grizzled veteran musicians. In the Google way, it means posting on the company’s video-sharing site, YouTube, for online judging by the professionals and then, ultimately, the YouTube universe.

Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

That second option is the main feature of a new marketing project by Google to bolster the organized presence of classical music on YouTube and promote the idea of online communities. And orchestras and professional musicians, poking around in the murky but fecund possibilities of the Internet, have jumped on board as a way to further their own educational and musical missions.

The project, called the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (, was announced on Monday in London and New York.

Boiled down, it has two essential parts. The composer Tan Dun has written a four-minute piece for orchestra. YouTube users are invited to download the individual parts for their instruments from the score, record themselves performing the music, then upload their renditions. After the entrants are judged, a mash-up of all the winning parts will be created for a final YouTube version of the piece.

Read original article.

Should the EU Rethink Copyright Law For The Digital Age?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative

from IP…

About eight million tracks by musicians from a wide variety of genres can now be listened to via the internet, a figure that is projected to rise to 12 million by 2012. With the entertainment industry estimating that 90 percent of music downloads are illegal and sales of CDs having declined sharply over the past few years, some technology firms are urging that the whole basis of copyright law needs to be rethought.

Kurt Einzinger, president of the Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA), believes that attitudes to music have changed so fundamentally that the “established copyright regime is not fit for the internet.”

Read full story at IP Watch.

The Problem We All Live With

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative
Normal Rockwell 1964

Normal Rockwell 1964

It’s startling to look back and see the juxtaposition of then and now.

The next President of the United States

The next President of the United States

Growing up as the only Asian kid in my Long Island community, I never expected to see the day when we had Chinese basketball stars, Japanese pitchers in-demand, and black Presidents of the USA.


Wanna Be Creative? Go Back to Kindergarten!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative
What should be in every Creatives office

What should be in every Creative's office

As the father of a young son, I’ve been amazed at how wonderfully inventive young children are.  They synthesize concepts quickly and effortlessly without all the emotional baggage or shame or fear of embarassment adults have.  The number one creativity rule for kids is – “what else could this be?”

At the 2008 Serious Play conference, Tim Brown, co-founder of design firm IDEO, discusses ways in which his agency promotes creativity through creativity rules, having materials on hand and rapid prototyping aiming for quantity not quality thereby circumventing the dreaded “self-editor.”

It’s the same way I work in music.  I usually will create multiple quick sketches of musical ideas whether they are melodic, harmonic, textural, or just strange instrument juxtapositions (what I call a palette.)  Some of these forced palettes have created wonderfully inventive film and theater scores.  By working within my self-imposed creation rules, I am forced to seek greater results.

For the film Noelle, I utilized a palette of celesta, acoustic guitar, harp, jar drum and strings to evoke the wondrous magic of Christmas without the muzak-ness.  Just having these instruments put together suggested certain melodies and harmonies – it practically wrote itself.  You can view an old work clip of the opening for Noelle here. ( It’s the first in the gallery)  Note, the clip is an outdated edit of the film, but you get the idea.

Music is like wine…delicious, indescribable and causes trance-like states

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2008 by Wide Angle Creative
Vino para mi

Vino para mi

“Talking about wine is like talking about music, if I could tell you in words, then there wouldn’t be any point in playing it. A great piece of music, and a great wine, holds your attention and has more than you can say in words.” – David Chan, concertmaster for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

My first experiences with wine were terrible as was my first job – dishwasher for Beefsteak Charlies in Huntington Station, Long Island, NY at the age of 16.  I don’t know why I took this job – perhaps to prove that life can only get better from here. Anyway, I stole a gallon bottle of some horrible rosé wine and took it to my high school jazz ensemble beach party.  Needless to say, I had an indelible experience where I could not stand the smell of wine for over 12 years!

So what changed?  Whilst living abroad in Hong Kong, where I was a VJ for MTV (and completely drug and alcohol free contrary to rumors) I was handed a glass of some Bordeaux.  I had a sip and….fantastic.  What is this?

So when I saw Eric Asimov’s interview with David Chan in yesterday’s Dining section of the NY Times, it really resonated.  Music and wine.  Yes there is a connection.  I think I must have been a Cabernet Sauvignon in a past life!  How about a wine, music and film festival?  All wrapped together and held in Napa Valley?  Or in the mountain vineyards of Chile?