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You vs. The World

Feeling up for the fight?

altered image of earth

We are unsuited for the battle this world presents.

When it comes down to it, it’s us, each of us, the individuals, versus the world.

Mostly unwittingly, we pit our own knowledge, logic, and wisdom, against the collective knowledge, logic, and wisdom of the entire rest of the world. When any one of us does anything or makes a statement, we open ourselves to be potentially judged by the entire world.

When we post a tweet or Facebook status update that contains something ignorant, foolish, unvetted, or decidedly individualistic and singular, we cast our vote to the roughly seven billion other people living on the planet (and those yet to come). Then they get to decide what to do with us.

The odds are astronomical.

The chances of any one of us having it all put together into a package that’s approvable by all the other humans is next to impossible. It’s more probable that I’ll win the lottery than be a person who has all of my thoughts inline with the zeitgeist of this age (or any age, really).

The truth is this: none of us has it together.

Most of us are fortunate enough not to have the eye of public scrutiny upon us because we are essentially not “persons of interest.” Some of us are wealthy enough to hide the parts of us that we know won’t pass The Test™. But even those among us that are fortunate enough to be able to hire PR reps, editors, or life coaches can rarely pass either.

The unfortunate ones among us are those that get our laundry aired for all to see. You know the ones – they’re in the court cases we read about, in the tabloid pictures we see, and news broadcasts we watch at 6pm and 11pm every night. They’re made infamous in YouTube videos and lynched on Twitter.

We relish these Darwin Award moments, because “Haha, who would be that stupid?!”

Answer: regular folks like you and me.

We all have laundry. And it’s dirty.

It’s sad how much dirt I personally have on the people around me. God knows, many people have dirt on me.

We could divulge so much about the people we know. Luckily, most of them are not famous enough, nor “valuable” enough for society-at-large to have reason to tear us all down. If you’re reading this, it’s likely (both statistically and by association with me) that you are not worth destroying either. You’re probably not a powerful politician, CEO, nor Kardashian with an empire to lose.

Lucky you.

And lucky me.

Because you’re not “valuable,” you’re entire life will be spared the microscopic, fine-tooth comb of large-scale public examination.

But just because you’re not a congressperson, fat cat, or reality TV star doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty. You probably think you aren’t, act like you aren’t, and judge others like you aren’t, but guess what… you’re guilty of something and you wouldn’t survive the gauntlet.

If your life and history were scoured by journalists, if your friends and family were interviewed to get the dirt on you, if everything you posted on the internet made its way onto the evening news, the verdict would come swift and sure: “You have failed.”

Perhaps even: “You are a failure.”

I don’t care how sure you think you are in your own belief and reasoning, if you ever come to find yourself in the spotlight and the World (that beastly, collective entity of humanity) gets to do it’s thing, you can be sure that “they” will find the fault in you. They will spare no judgement, penalty, nor harsh word to put you in your place.

It doesn’t matter what good deeds you’ve done. We only need one false step, one moment of humanity, a split second of personal expression to tie the boat anchor to your neck and sink you.

We’ll love watching you drown. We feed on the gossip, believing we’re innocent. We’re humans. This is our sickness.

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THE SNOWDEN ULTIMATUM

Where does Bourne end and Snowden begin? Where’s the line between truth and fiction? What’s the difference between copyright infringement and fair use parody for the sake of satire?

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After thinking about the scandalous NSA manhunt for Edward Snowden, I realized there are a lot of similarities between the news right now and the Bourne trilogy movies. I tweeted this a couple of days ago.

https://twitter.com/scotttroyer/status/348805858991423491

The next day I thought it might be fun to photoshop Snowden’s face onto a Bourne movie poster. The Bourne Ultimatum promotional image seemed like the best for trying to match up with the photos I could find of our dear whistleblower. (Shout out to the original artists of The Bourne Ultimatum image! See update below.)

The gun in Matt Damon’s hand didn’t really fit the Snowden plot line, so I replaced it with my own hand holding a USB drive (actually an iLok 2). It was a fun little project that only took a few
minutes.

The day after I posted the image to Twitter, Andy Greenberg, a tech reporter for Forbes, saw it and asked if he could use it for an article he was working on. I was a bit surprised. Here’s the great article he wrote: Take a Break From the Snowden Drama For a Reminder of What He’s Revealed So Far

I wish Forbes wouldn’t have cropped the image, because I think the USB stick really makes the image. But oh well. It’s entertaining to see something I made get spread around a little. And hopefully the image gets people thinking about why nearly everyone considers the fictional Bourne identity a hero, but so many view the very real Snowden otherwise.

Let me know if you see the image out there in the wild. 😉

Update 2013-06-26 11:44am: As you can see in the comments section below, a guy named Jasin Boland, who appears to be the photographer of the original image, has contacted me. I’ve emailed him with some questions. Whether he is the sole owner of the copyright or not is still unclear. Perhaps it belongs to Universal Pictures or other digital artists have claims on it as well? Regardless of original ownership, my manipulations of the image for the sake of satire are considered “fair use” under copyright law. Furthermore, I claim no ownership or copyright of my manipulated image and have received no compensation for its usage anywhere.

Update 2013-06-26 12:35pm: I contacted Andy Greenberg at Forbes about the situation. This is his reply:

…I checked with our editorial lawyer, who says that it’s “quintessential parody use. There is no actionable claim for infringement.”

She says she’s even planning to use it as an example in a law school class she’s teaching next semester.

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Future Music Debate: Beyond Analog vs. Digital

A response to the question “After Analog vs. Digital, what will we fight about in the future?”

As part of their “#DJChat,” German audio equipment manufacturer Behringer asked this question on Twitter:

…Analog vs. Digital is a debate that will always continue. But in the future, what technology will we move on to AFTER digital? 😀 #DJChat

It’s an interesting concept. The wars between analog and digital rage on because they are systems separated by technologies that both have pros and cons. As technology progresses, what new pros and cons will we have to debate against older systems? Initially I answered with the following:

@BEHRINGER future: Cerebral vs. Digital. Was it made entirely “in the box (aka your head)” or did you collab with other humans and devices?

Realizing there’s much more to this debate than just a tweet, I thought I’d talk more about it here.

We Need Better Words to Describe How We’ll Make Music in the Future

In my original tweet, I used the phrase “Cerebral vs. Digital” to describe the future debate I imagine will happen. Maybe my choice of opposites wasn’t perfect. Better words can probably be found. This concept of diametrics I have in mind could be expressed in a variety of ways.

  1. Cerebral vs. Physical
  2. Solitary vs. Collaborative
  3. Internal vs. External

Each of those word combinations is describing the same contrast of ideas. But how to best describe it?

Composite image of music flowing from a girls mind.

The New System of Mind Music

In the (maybe not so distant) future, musicians will have the ability to directly output music from their heads. Technology will be developed that will allow artists to simply think/imagine/hear the music in his/her head and output this as audio and/or notation. This cerebrally generated “audio feed” could be routed (maybe even wirelessly) to a recording device to be documented, distributed, and sold. Theoretically, this process could happen as a live performance. The signal could be routed to a sound system for a concert, to an internet connection for worldwide streaming, or even directly injected (almost telepathically) into the head of a “listener” outfitted with the proper “receiver” device.

The possibilities are fantastic. Composers could direct an entire imaginary orchestra as they hear it in their minds. Dancers could dance to their own music in real time. Musicians could play exactly what they intend to play. Singers could sing in whatever voices they can imagine. Handicapped artists suddenly would be unrestricted by their handicaps.

This is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. If we already can control toy helicopters with our thoughts, then it’s only a matter of time before we can output music directly from our minds. UPDATE (2011-09-23): This just in… UC Berkeley neuroscientist Professor Jack Gallant announced today that it’s possible to recreate the video from brain activity.

This technological breakthrough in music will follow a path familiar to video games. With the Wii, Nintendo brought wireless motion-sensing accelerometer action to everyday people. The developers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band banked a lot of cash by making it really easy to “play” popular music without having to learn an instrument. Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox removed the need for a controller, allowing the person to become the controller. I don’t know who will create the first mind-controlled music technology, but somebody’s going to do it.

Brace Yourselves

Cool meant something totally different back then. Don’t judge.

As with any change, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, music will experience yet another Regrettable Period in which we have to learn how to use this new technology properly. I predict some gross and unsavory abuse of the technology, much like the ubiquity of terrible synthesizers in the 1980s or prevalence of auto-tuned vocals since Cher started believing in life after love. But some lucky artist is going to enjoy the honor of being known as the one that mastered this wonderful new system, thus becoming the “Grand Master Flash of whatever-this-thing-may-become-known-as.” Someone will figure out how to use it right, but it might take some time. In the meantime, wear earplugs.

Why We’ll Argue About This

At first, this newfangled gadgetry will be heralded as the end of “real” music and musicianship. The critics will say it’s too easy and not authentic music. Traditional composers and invested players will complain that no one has to learn how to write or play anymore. And much in the same way that digital was derided as a poor substitute for analog, purists will say that this cerebral form loses something in the process. Those arguments all might be right, but there may be a bigger issue lurking.

Trapped “In The Box”

When the process of making music becomes entirely internalized it will be really great because of it’s purity and singularity of thought, but will it simultaneously suffer from lack of external influences? When digital recording became popular, the question was often asked by one artist or engineer to another: “Was this all done ‘in the box?’” – meaning: was the audio signal created, mixed, and mastered on the same computer? Early on, music created entirely in this fashion lacked the beneficial effects that analog systems inherently imparted upon the audio signal. Today, the line has been blurred by better technology, so it’s harder to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. Only engineers with “golden ears” can hear the difference (even then I suspect shenanigans). At any rate, the question still remains: What benefits will be lost due to the signal remaining “in the box” of your head?

Potential Musical Influences

  1. People – The comradery, inspiration, ideas, criticism, differing views, and friction found when people work together often makes for better music. Being alone can lead to dead ends and boring or bad music. Collaboration can make beautiful things.
  2. Hardware – Though they are inanimate objects, the instruments and devices used to make music come with their own inspirations, challenges, rewards, frustrations to overcome, and occasional good glitches. Sometimes a piece of gear has to be conquered and relinquishes its magic upon defeat.
  3. Criticism – The critic is the archenemy of the artist, but every good story needs a villain. Without judgement, no work is ever as best as it can be. Words are often revealed for their folly only after they’ve left the head.
  4. Movement – Music and movement are very strongly related. When making music, movement is both part of the instigation of sound, but also a reaction to the sound being created. Performance and dance are like cousins. So if movement is not necessary for the creation of music, what effect will that have on the final product?

Good Things Will Happen

A lot of things can go wrong in this new system, but a lot of things can go right too. Eventually we’ll work out the kinks. We’ll figure out the typical pitfalls. We’ll master this medium like we have with all the others. One day amazing music will be generated using nothing but musicians’ brains. I’m hedging a bet it will be the direct output of some ridiculously young Mozart’s mind that will blow us all away. Perhaps this new interface will teach us something about how our brains work. Maybe it will allow us to communicate more precisely on ever deeper levels. What if it develops into a new universal language? Hmm.

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EP Giveaway Sponsored by Stevan Sheets

I have some of the greatest friends anyone could ask for. Seriously. Without telling me ahead of time, my buddy Stevan Sheets decided to offer a free copy of my album Somewhere Between Nicaragua & New York via a Twitter promotional campaign. The promo is only for the next 3 hours, so get in on […]

Screengrab of Twitter status
I have some of the greatest friends anyone could ask for. Seriously. Without telling me ahead of time, my buddy Stevan Sheets decided to offer a free copy of my album Somewhere Between Nicaragua & New York via a Twitter promotional campaign. The promo is only for the next 3 hours, so get in on the action by clicking here: http://bit.ly/scottsEP

To sweeten the deal, I’ve decided that the lucky winner of Stevan’s promotion will also receive a free signed copy of my upcoming album All Is Sideways (release info TBA), along with any other related swag that comes along with the album release. Fun times!

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