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Synectics in Music: Individuality

The Odd One Out

By Paul John Rudoi

I find humor in things that don’t make any sense. No, I’m not talking about some dark corner of the human psyche, I just mean I regularly laugh when others don’t. While I used to think this was a problem, I don’t anymore because I’ve more or less figured out what types of humor crack me up and, more importantly, why.

If you’re like me, you’re curious about the broader view of things. So one day, after watching a combination of Victor Borge YouTubes, Steve Martin’s Tiny Desk Concert, and a bit of a new Demetri Martin Netflix special (welcome to my Sunday afternoons), I looked up the wikipedia article on comedic genres to get my bearings. Some are definitely not my style (I try, Ricky Gervais, I really do...), but I immediately connected with Surreal Humor. While some examples of this are less effective than others (see Exhibit A, “The Elephant Joke” and its permutations), it is amazing how far one can go if all you really need to do is connect two things that...


Synectics in Music: Visuals

Seeing is Sound

By Paul John Rudoi

The term “graphic scores” can be a loaded one–Xenakis is a good (and fantastically awesome) example of why–and many composers shy away for various historical, socio-economic, or personal reasons. Today’s post will not convince you to use graphic scores, at least in the traditional sense. The goal is to see how visual and aural explorations can jumpstart our creativity.

So take the connotations from the term out of it and consider graphics less to do with performance but rather as a way to clarify compositional intent. For example, Arvo Pärt sometimes uses graphical scores to sketch out his melodic contours, most famously with his “Melodical Drawing.” Here is a composer who, similar to Copland, Stravinsky, and many others, went through various stages–neo-classical, serialist, and more–to get to his current minimalist style and rockstar status as an important spiritual force. But just because many people listen to his music while falling asleep doesn’t mean...


I Believe In Kids

By Paul John Rudoi

While I don’t have or want kids anytime soon, I do find them fascinating. The show “Kids say the darndest things” was a hit for a reason; adults, regardless of their personal view on having offspring, found children’s responses on almost everything to be unique. Regardless of the psychology or brain science behind it, I love how they fly about, obsessing over seemingly disparate elements as connected in some otherworldly way, only to find societal norms and considerations bringing them back to a reality they never knew. No wonder, then, that I ended up an artist when my mom never told me to leave “my own little world” as my elementary teachers put it. They wanted me to conform to silence, and my mom wanted my voice to be heard, if that’s what I wanted. So I let the voice form its own opinion of itself, and here I stand, subservient to its whims and obsessions.

Where has that led me? I believe that art speaks to the humanity in all of us. I believe that music...


Synectics in Music: Looking Deeper

Look At Your Fish

By Paul John Rudoi

Above all, there were two things I learned from Dr. Sharon Paul while pursuing my master’s at the University of Oregon: don’t beat yourself up, and have a good anecdote or, better yet, scientific study to back up your thoughts. The “Look at Your Fish!” story was one of our favorites. Samuel H. Scudder (1837-1911), an American entomologist who studied under zoologist Jean Louis Rodophe Agassiz (1807-1873), wrote a wonderful account of how he learned the value of a thorough investigative process. You can read the original here, but I want to focus on the fact that we don’t spend enough time obsessing over details.

One thing Dr. Paul and I always happily disagreed on was whether or not someone can be taught to compose, or in an even broader scope, whether each and every one of us is innately a composer. Per my earlier post, I was a kid who found fun in connecting the dots between seemingly disparate things. But that grew over time, leading me to believe that everyone has...


Networking for Composers

By Paul John Rudoi

Growing up in a family that moved around alot, I got used to meeting new people. My mom, like my Grandpa and many other members of my family, can coax a meaningful conversation out of a brick wall, and I’ve found a little bit of that in myself over the years. It certainly came in handy as a member of Cantus given that the touring schedule, sometimes surpassing three weeks a month on the road, meant we were constantly meeting new contacts in the choral and music education fields. Now coming from the gigging lifestyle over the past few years as a composer, professional vocalist, clinician, educator, and entrepreneur, the ability not only to initiate but to cultivate these relationships is crucial.

Most of the blog posts I see differentiate between personal relationships and business networking. Post after post after post about business networking offer lists of actions to consider when building contacts. Yet when taken out of the lists’ contexts, the majority of these suggestions...


Synectics in Music: Inspiration

Everything is Potential Inspiration

By Paul John Rudoi

As I approach my roughly 10-year anniversary as a composer, I thought I’d post a few things that might help other budding composers as they search for their voice, process, and inspiration. My own journey of compositional self discovery is, first and foremost, still happening, but a few crucial throughlines have made getting to this point possible. The most important of these is the ability to connect everything to, well, everything.

It started out as a game. When I was in the car as a kid, after reading billboards and digesting their meaning, I would disassemble the words into amounts of letters and try to find equal proportions between them (e.g. “Get a chocolate shake” has nine letters in chocolate and nine letters in the other three words). Later, I started to consider how a billboard’s message related to the previous one, even if they didn’t immediately have anything in common (e.g. an ad about an auto shop followed by an ad about a downtown club made me think...