Thursday, July 5, 2007

Atlanta: Creativity and Pork

Boy, has it been hot. I spent July 4th submerged in the Russian River to escape the heat. Today feels like its going to be more of the same, so I'd better write this before I melt into a puddle.

After the Great Amercian Music Hall show on June 23rd I had to leave for Atlanta the next day to get to the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). It was interesting to be musical entertainment at an event that in the past I might actually have attended in an information architect capacity (Jeff too, for that matter, he worked for 10 years in educational technology at UC Berkeley). Maybe my multiple lives could actually merge? What would that look like?!! My job at NECC was to play before a panel discussion on the small topic of creativity.

It was a huge hall aat the Georgia World Congress Center, 4000 capacity I think. I was amazed anyone, including myself, could be compus mentus at 8 in the morning, but sure enough, the room started to fill up as I started playing. Jeff ran the projections from backstage.

I'm hoping there is some more video out there because the screen behind me was an incredible 20 feet tall and I'd like to see what it looked like. The performance went well, at least I hope so. My role was to get everyone in an expansive and "creative" kind of mindspace, so hopefully it worked.

After playing Jeff and I ran out into the audience, eager to hear Zolli and the panelists discuss what to us was a most interesting topic. I guess when I think of creativity, which is never, I think of it as something natural and innate, like air. I don't think it has ever occurred to me to figure out how to get more of it!

I can actually remember when I first heard the word "creativity". It was after we'd moved to the states. Some woman was commenting to my mother (who until then I had thought of as perfectly normal mother... you know...artist, potter, opinionated free-thinker and maker of the best pastry in the known universe) "Oh, you're just so cree-AY-tive". It was something about the way she emphasized the word while gesturing with her hands, and the way my Mum responded with her smile-that-is-not-really-a-smile. On one level the lady was making a compliment but she was also saying there are people who are cree-AY-tive and people who are not, and being cree-AY-tive means being different and that was not necessarily a compliment. (Now that I think of it, this lady might also have been the one who introduced me to the concept of making things from "scratch", exclaiming "Oh, I can't believe you made these from SCRATCH". I wondered what SCRATCH was. Flour maybe?)

Anyway, back to the panel. The moderator Andrew Zolli is known for explaining complex trends and events to people and institutions so they can act. Really, the kind of person the world desperately needs more of. Coincidentally, I vaguely knew Andrew already because a couple months ago he asked me to perform at Pop!Tech this year but neither of us had any idea the other would be at NECC and involved in the same event to boot.

As for the panelists, they were people I wish I could have over every evening for animated dinner parties: Elizabeth Streb (a choreographer and MacArthur genius who applies scientific principles to movement-based asethetics), Michael McCauley (a creative director and VP of a communications company), Mary Cullnane (the technology architect of the School of the Future) and Dr. Francesco Pedro (analyst of the Paris-baes Center for Educational Research and Innovation, his specialty in "millennial research"). I wished the panel discussion could have lasted all day, or days even, as you could dedicate an entire conference to the topic. Unfortunately their session, through no fault of their own, was unnaturally short.

People more intelligent than I have summed up what was said. Plus, I doubt you're reading some wacky musician's blog for a review of a panel on creativity in education! But here's my incredibly brilliant synopsis...humans are naturally creative and institutions just need to get out of the freaking way.

After wandering about the conference for a bit, Jeff and I enjoyed being fabulous in the red-themed decor of the Glenn Hotel.

Then, since we wanted to make the most of our trip to Georgia, over the next few days we got down to the serious business of 1) peaches, 2) catfish, 3) BBQ Pork (ok, that would be me, Jeff is innocent, he's a real vegetarian) and 4) spontaneous musical improvisation. I understand peaches are not so good or plentiful this year due to bad weather, but we found some all the same and I happily ruined my best outfit with peach juice. Success! As for the pork, across from the Eyedrum Gallery, where I performed on Friday with Paul Mercer, was a BBQ joint that got no less than 4 recommendations from the folks on my email list (thank you!). Pork was had, and it was good.

As for #4...check! Paul Mercer and I spent Thursday holed up in the studio of his friend Bruce, playing the beejesus out of our instruments and rolling the tape. I haven't listened to it yet, but I think there was some good stuff in there. We seemed particularly inspired after taking a mandatory break to power down as a big thunderstorm hit. Crash! Bang! You don't get storms like that out here in California. Earl Newton from Stranger Things drove up from Florida to videotape our show on Friday. Hopefully he got some good footage too. Thanks for driving all that way Earl and thank you Paul for arranging the recording session and our show together, and thank you Donella Evoniuk for inviting Jeff and I to NECC.