Popularity, winning and the birthday paradox

The most popular blog so far on this site was one of the first – it dealt with winning, and made the point that win or lose, it’s important to recognise that the way you prepared was more important than the outcome. You can read it here. It’s ironic, because I don’t think it was the best blog I have written (process), but if you measure the success of your blog by the amount of people who read it (which I don’t), this particular blog is the winner (outcome). I find myself coming back to the same point in a different way today. It’s a mathematical fact that if there are 23 people in a room, the chances are higher than 50/50 that two of them will have the same birthday. It’s known as the birthday paradox – because it’s counter-intuitive, but completely true. In fact, if you fill the room even further and put 75 people in it, there

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When our eyes deceive us…

I had to look at this sign twice today. Because I did read the top line wrong. I thought the ‘if’ was before the ‘I’, as it would usually be, but it wasn’t. We think our senses never deceive us, that we see what is in front of us, but in fact what we see is partly determined by what is there, and also partly determined by our expectations and beliefs about what should be there, and our experiences of what has been there in the past. It’s the reason why two musicians, playing the same tune at the same tempo together, afterwards disagree on whether it was too fast or too slow. And why supporters of a particular politician will view his actions in a completely different way to how his opponents will. Once we realise what is shaping our view of things, and take it into account, we will start to experience them in a truer way.

The mental and physical benefits of singing..

Anecdotally, I can tell you about two musician friends to whom I spoke yesterday, both of whom have lost someone close to them recently. Both spoke of the importance of singing in their lives, and how good it feels to sing in the midst of dealing with grief and loss. I can tell you of the 250 people I saw singing together on stage last Saturday night and the obvious joy that being part of such an ensemble brought to them all (some of which is captured in this photo).   Scientifically there has been research done on this too which agrees with the above – you can read some interesting articles which will point you in the right direction¬†here, here and here. Christmas is on the way. There will be lots of opportunities to sing songs you know inside out in an informal environment. Maybe try it. See how it feels.

Reading an audience and choosing songs.

Sligo Jazz Project – August 2007. The end of week concert. I was a student on the course and was getting ready to go on stage with my ensemble. We had been working hard on our standards all week and had selected Willow Weep for Me (a ballad – to feature our vocalist) and an uptempo version of Giant Steps (to let the instrumentalists have a blow) as the two we would go with for the performance. We had decided previously that we would open with the slow number and finish with the fast one.¬†I was worried about Giant Steps however – I could play the chords but didn’t know how I was going to solo over them and it was playing on my mind. Walking up to the stage, our tutor, Mike Nielsen, asked me about the order in which we were going to play them. I told him, and he immediately said ‘Switch them’. The previous group had

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Highlights – the good and bad

Our lives are increasingly about highlights. Showing the highlights of each day/week to our followers on social media. Watching the highlights of a sporting event online instead of sitting through the whole game. Streaming the tracks you want instead of listening to the whole album. We can pick and choose what we reveal, what we watch and what we listen to to a far greater extent than ever before. If you want to truly experience something, to understand it, to live it, highlights are no good however, and despite all the changes in our world we still know this to be true. Seeing a good friend’s pictures on Instagram doesn’t compare to actually meeting and catching up. People are still willing to pay good money to attend live sporting and musical events, because they know that no matter how slickly the highlights are put together, it still can’t compare to the whole, live experience. Theme Night #22 will happen next

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What Dave did with Meadhbh…

When I released my first album in 2013, I knew very little about the world of songwriting. I wanted to do a cover of God Only Knows – originally written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher and released by The Beach Boys in 1966. I asked IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation) for advice, as I thought I had to ask the owners of the song for permission before I could cover the song. Not so said the helpful man in IMRO, you simply have to pay a royalty fee, dependent on how many albums you thought you were going to sell. And that’s the thing – once you write and release a song, you relinquish some ownership. You still own the rights to it, but it becomes part of the huge catalogue of music out there in the world, open to anyone else to interpret, imitate, praise or criticise. It’s the deal. I have often wondered what the original writers

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Rainbow Over Sligo…

Rainbows are pretty, but if you’re chasing the pot of gold rumoured to be at their base, you’re never going to be satisfied. We know this, and so we often choose to pursue things we know we can attain instead. Sometimes to the detriment of the little child inside of us who ran across the fields chasing that rainbow. Your pursuit of practical should never exclude having some magic in your life. It won’t be a sustainable pursuit if it does. There have been many songs written about rainbows – here’s one of my favourites…performed by Steve Wickham, Lisa Lambe and No Crows.

Black Friday…

…wasn’t always ‘a thing’. Especially in Ireland and Europe. But now it is. Why? Because a large amount of people, who had a large amount of money, decided they wanted it to be ‘a thing’, mainly because it would benefit their bottom line. It has been ‘a thing’ in the USA for years – it falls on the day after Thanksgiving and is traditionally the biggest shopping day in their year. American retailers with interests in other countries decided to start promoting the idea of Black Friday in these countries, and when enough investment, time and thought is put into something, it will probably come to pass. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day are other examples of making ‘a thing’ out of nothing. But it’s not just big multinational companies who can do this. If any of us decide that we want something to be ‘a thing’, and put enough time, investment and thought into it, it will probably come

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Facebook reviews and persistency

This morning I have been having a discussion with someone I know – let’s call her Pauline – about putting a review up on the Facebook page she has for her business. It would be a good, and legitimate review, as I experienced what she does recently and it was fantastic. Pauline asked me to post one a few weeks ago, and having thought about it for a while, this morning I declined, and have been trying to explain my reasons. I did say that I would be happy to recommend her service privately, but that I didn’t feel comfortable posting a public review. Pauline has been persistent in her request, and I admire her for that, because persistence is generally a good skill to have in life. If you have it, you are more likely to succeed at tasks that take some doing. I have been told by many radio DJs, reviewers and journalists that they are more likely

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The many languages of music.

“Music is a language” – You’ve heard the phrase many times. And it is. It can transcend cultural differences and verbal language barriers, can unite and divide, but if a musician, composer or songwriter is good at her job, it’s always clear to the audience what they were feeling when playing or writing the relevant piece of music. The languages that musicians use to communicate with each other are many, and can differ greatly however. I’m currently preparing for a gig in which I will MD (musically direct) the band to accompany 10 different choirs, each with a different choirmaster in charge. My job is to liaise with the choirmasters to get the particular arrangement they are using, and then to transfer that knowledge to the band so that we can get our stuff together in a short rehearsal on Saturday. Some choirmasters prefer to use sheet music, some prefer chord charts, others prefer working from their ear. Some have

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