And now for something completely different…

John Maeda, the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design, has said his wants his job to be “something delivered live as a kind of open conversation with the RISD community and the world.” At our own joint site lydonmaeda.com, we are embarking on our own digressive ramble around whatever topics pop up — a few of them referenced in the visuals here. You are cordially invited to join the conversation with a comment, or with suggestions as to where we go from here.

Click to listen to the conversation with

John Maeda and Chris Lydon (49 minutes, 22 mb mp3)

maeda page

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  • ghostofdali

    Nice talk!

    I’m looking forward to lydonmaeda.com taking us in more new directions. John sounds like a really interesting guy, almost makes me want to sign up for some RISD classes too. I enjoyed the discussion surrounding iconography, particularly the exaggerated cartoon windup before running, etc. I was also glad that John talked about how difficult it is to read long texts on some of our new technological gadgets. The iPhone is something that’s way out of my budget, so I don’t expect to encounter the exact scenario any time soon but I have had a longstanding dilemma with reading digital texts. They’re great in the sense that I can perform searches through limitless pdf files or other documents, but I’m completely unable to READ anything of substance off a screen so it’s all sort of a useless novelty to me most of the time.

    re: the Albers of sound – I have another answer (no more right than any other, mind you). Check out Alvin Lucier. Not quite as “musical” as Basie, but from a broader, more general “sound world” perspective, he’s got my vote.

  • Not completely different, there’s a continuity with Lydon’s recent work and certainly with Maeda’s approach. Going in an interesting direction. Some Ecumenical Fun Ethic under the veneer of New Englander puritanical passion for suffering.

  • Erik Filkorn

    I initially skipped over this week’s podcast because I have a chip on my shoulder about art directors due to a recent work experience. But I went back to it today as I was doing some chores around the house on a rainy day.

    What a wonderful thing. I wanted to knock on the door with a bottle of wine and join in.

    I really like the idea of free-form conversation that isn’t so much about what book somebody’s pushing or what war we’re trying to get into or out of, but more the exploration of a macro and micro world view bringing the individual intellect and all its possibilities and not just the expertise.

    Of course I was listening on my iPod touch which is essentially an iPhone without the phone since you can’t get ’em up here in VT. It means that one thinks of life in terms of where the WiFi is and I think in some ways is a more connected experience. Much more shuttlecraft and you’re very happy when you manage to link back to the Enterprise.

    A couple of other things came to me in the course of your conversation:

    On sound and dots: Sir George Martin might be an interesting person to fold into that conversation as he was both capturing and building the picture. I do, myself, despise the dots and the space between in digital recording and crave the brush stroke of analog.

    On food: My mother died about ten years ago. About three years ago, I pulled our some of her recipes and started cooking and it was like she was back in the room. And it operated on a tactile level as well as taste and smell. The pots were hers. The process evoked her. There is so much that can be expressed through food and culture. I remember the mother of a girlfriend who was indian feeding me out of her hand at a family dinner as a sign of acceptance. I remember my girlfriend not allowing me in the kitchen when she was administering the spices because it was a family secret.

    I like the idea of creating multimedia accompanying a narrative that fills in the back story. How much do we talk about what people eat in Iraq or El Salvador and what it means to their culture. Sometimes I think you ingest understanding through authentic cuisine. Just think about all the different kinds of bread in the world and our limited Western understanding of it.

    And as a PR person, I think about the ability to communicate across disciplines–being able to hear and understand why a programmer is excited about code and translating into something that makes sense to lay people and I think music is so much a part of that. You hear it, you sing it, but it’s all based in mathematical fundamentals–the BBC’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg did a brilliant show where they talked with four mathematicians who were also musicians.

    I guess the overall point is that I like this mixing it up and I hope it continues.

    And I hope you actually attempt some of the things you guys were dreaming up.

    Keep fighting the good fight,

    Erik

  • I am kicking myself that I didn’t have a better response when John asked me: who’s the audio equivalent of Josef Albers? I have been thinking afterward that I should have said: Thelonius Monk, for uncluttering the ear-space of jazz; but I’ve also been thinking of Miles Davis and most especially the modal piece (evidently co-authored with Bill Evans) “Blue in Green.” Does not this tune (and the whole Kind of Blue album) mark an Albers-esque clarification by simplification? They would all have been blossoming (Albers, Monk, Miles) in the post-war exploratory Fifties, such an underrated decade, no?

  • GeorgeMathew

    I had a few lights go off when you mentioned Josef Albers and not all uniformly relating to “uncluttering” into simplicity but relating yes. A few of the chambers of my gut reaction to the notion of the audio-equivalent or even an audio or musical projection of Josef and Anni Albers might look like the following —

    a. Morton Feldman

    b. Glenn Gould and the idea of Contrapuntal Radio. I’m sure you know about The IDEA OF NORTH.You must have a look at this. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Snt35m2fzBw This relates to John Maeda’s description of the musicality of your speaking. You may have to listen to this a few times to get into the primary contrapuntal content. This is if anything, a view of intensifying content-space relations and densities rather than the possibly opposite notion of “uncluttering”. More here — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s4TKOaUZ7c&feature=related

    c. Our old friend Aaron Copland who very much played on the notions of uncluttering as a Yankee value and indeed a Yankee virtue. Behold Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid or the Piano Variations. Martha Graham certainly responded to it as such.

    d. Your new friend David Amram, who must show up in any conversation about music, jazz, uncluttering the soul as it hears, as well as design in the relationship of forms and behaviour. I am reminded of an old conversation on THE CONNECTION when a listener called in to Yo-yo Ma that the stock market might start behaving differently if Yo-yo would start sliding and using more portamento in his playing in public.

    Can’t wait to see where you go next with MaedaLydon.com

    George

  • I find it fascinating that you are working with John Maeda who has been sort of bright light in the dark for Srishti where I work and is a close friend of my director Geetha Narayanan. We have used his book “Design by Numbers” sometime and more recently I have become familiar with his Laws of Simplicity ever since his famous lecture on it at Ars Electronica 2006. Srishti had the privilege of being the first-ever Indian art and design college to put up its work at Ars Electronica in 2005. As soon as I return from Singapore, I will mail you a copy of our performance Anahat Naad (Unstruck Sound) in Linz plaza at Ars Electronica.

    I listened to the conversation with John Maeda on RadioOpenSource yesterday (George had sent me the link but thank you too!) and will comment on it in my next email.

    The audio equivalent of Josef Albers? I would be thinking of the likes of the great Indian classical singer Kumar Gandharv. Why is it that Josef Albers brings ups connections with music that are purely Western? Proximity is a curse sometimes. Why is it Josef Albers does not bring up the strains of Chinese or African or other Asian, tribal or sub-cultural strains of musical equivalents? This is precisely a philosophical and perhaps neurological or mnemonic problem that worries me. The resonances that rise up first in our mind are those that are most familiar to us and we force-fit or associate things directly with that which is familiar to us. In doing so, we forget that we create something dominant – a dominant association, a dominant point of view, a dominant ideology! How does one work against such a dominant consciousness that is so “me”-oriented and me-based? One way is to increasingly share various points of view with one another and then seek to enter the other point of view somehow experientially and intellectually. Does that sound like too much complexity knocking at one’s door? It excites me, this possibility. And this possibility also stems from an echo from that master philosopher J. Krishnamurti, who once said “It is not the unknown that we fear, it is the leaving behind of the known that we fear.”

  • citizenkoine

    MaedaLydon; LydonMaeda; When I first linked over I had read ‘LydonMedia’. Appropriately maybe as the podcast so far (I’ve paused midway to comment here) involves syn(a)esthesia, and dyslexia seems to develop out of a synesthetic predisposition; I’m recalling a thread (in the ‘Graveyard’? Isn’t that a little bit severe? Unless you are willing to make the associations between graves and archives… ROS as a sort of open-faced digital cenotaph, eulogizing our collective cultural moments, elegiac?) suggested by an ROS entrant, ‘Scarequotes’, involving neologisms and protologisms – having just skimmed the blogline and not listened to the podcast, I’m projecting my own associations onto the (dead, apparently) conversation. But so far, in the collection of free-form audio-visual artifacts with the emotional associations to food, what I can discern in-common is ‘ceremony’. Ceremony (containing food, ‘cereal’, from Ceres in kernel form) memorializes some past (or simply ‘other’, alternative consciousness or awareness) through enaction, embodiment in some present. Each rehearsal of ceremony has the potential to renew whatever the ceremony is designed to remember. Ceremony is a container for emotional content; it can be an empty container, outmoded, useless; and new ceremony is constantly being generated, enacted, created as cultural artifact; the word can refer to both, empty ritual (merely ceremonial), as well as denoting great care and attention (when something is done with great ceremony).

    I enjoyed hearing the comment that the ear doesn’t blink. While I think that the synesthetic possibilities certainly do and will open up with portable media (iPhone, et al.), what really grabs me is the emergent sense of ‘locative media’. ‘Augmented reality’ is on the horizon, in which virtual reality may be interacted with/experienced in-tandem/overlay with ‘primary’, ‘local’, ‘tangible’ reality. That is a synesthesia I am eagerly anticipating and would like to know more about – that is, between virtual and tangible worlds. It reminds me of John’s comment about the reformulation of content, or the iconicity of media being recycled through the narrowing and broadening of bandwidth, whereby new limitations might be leveraged into creative constraints…

    So, consider this a preliminary plea; Christopher, John: won’t you please take up the topic of locative media as it bears on the dawning of augmented reality, please? I’ll cross-post this as seems appropriate. And thank you, for persisting in such a way that I’m encouraged to contribute; long-time audient/visient, first-time reply.

  • citizenkoine

    Made ya lie down; Lie-down Media – a nap-time production… or maybe ‘only’ a (lucid) dream?

    Dear ROS, the ‘Pitch us a show’-thread seems to have fallen off… at least the green-boxed, in-text replies you projected last year; and, sadly, there is nothing under the ‘Warming Up’-bar. So I find a curious mixture of ‘distracted and understaffed’ and very current multi-media engagement here – curiosity, happily, persists. I’m getting the sense that much depends on whom you can enchant, Chris, to enter into interview with you. The point, after all, is that you do this so well; I’ve thought so for years, and missed your voice specifically, when you left public radio. And so I followed you to ROS in the first incarnation, through to the pleasant surprise of the current anabiosis.

    All of which is to say that I finished the podcast, and my reply/plea stands. I’ve subscribed for the sake of my iPod, which I use on a daily basis in my capacity as an employee. My eyes and ears are ‘on’, and I have you to thank. Thank you.

  • jazzman

    Chris,

    Roy Haynes is at Sculler’s this Fri & Sat – I have tickets for the 2nd Show Sat – see you there?

    Peace,

    Jazzman

  • citizenkoine

    According to Giambattista Vico, in his ‘New Science’ (1730/1744), in which he describes his New Science through (among other devices) a series of axioms, his first two axioms are stated thus:

    (1)”Because of the indefinite nature of the human mind, wherever it is lost in ignorance man makes himself the measure of all things.”

    (2)”It is another property of the human mind that whenever men can form no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is familiar and at hand.”

    To these, the next two axioms of Vico’s New Science follow, describing the “conceit (‘boria’) of nations” and then the “conceit of scholars”:

    (3)”that it before all other nations invented the comforts of human life and that its remembered history goes back to the very beginning of the world.”

    (4)”who would have it that what they know is as old as the world.”

    -quoted from ‘Vico’s Science of Imagination’ by Donald Phillip Verene

    ‘Proximity is a curse sometimes. Why is it Josef Albers does not bring up the strains of Chinese or African or other Asian, tribal or sub-cultural strains of musical equivalents? This is precisely a philosophical and perhaps neurological or mnemonic problem that worries me. The resonances that rise up first in our mind are those that are most familiar to us and we force-fit or associate things directly with that which is familiar to us. In doing so, we forget that we create something dominant – a dominant association, a dominant point of view, a dominant ideology! How does one work against such a dominant consciousness that is so “me”-oriented and me-based? One way is to increasingly share various points of view with one another and then seek to enter the other point of view somehow experientially and intellectually. Does that sound like too much complexity knocking at one’s door?’

  • dianawarwick

    the rest of my comment, which got sent ahead by too-fast typing:

    To take nothing away from the potential inherent in technology, there is life outside of the virtual world, and art students, of all people, ought to be encouraged to engage with it. There are experiences that can’t be reduced to the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.

  • dianawarwick

    The pre-quel was:

    I was so demoralized by this conversation that I had to stop in the middle to recover and come back and listen to the rest. Here are two comments:

    1) The bit about a poem about Moby Dick on an I-Phone was where I stopped the first time. Moby Dick is a big book, reduce it at your peril and your loss. It is, in fact, a whale of a book, with all the mystery and bagginess of a whale as part of its genius. If I thought that the too-clever-by-half suggestion of a poem about it on I-Phone were some sort of second-generation augmentation of the book itself I might be able to bear it, but from the rest of the conversation I conclude that it is in fact suggested as the “newer, smaller” way to apprehend Moby Dick, like we’ve somehow evolved to the poem-by-phone instead of the novel. That’s not Moby Dick, that’s not Melville, that’s a mere minnow.

    2) Our senses of taste and smell are not as connected to memory nor as strong as those of sight and sound? Tell it to Marcel Proust, who based the greatest work of literature ever written on one moment’s experience of taste and smell and all that that moment’s experience opened up to him. Chris, I was waiting for you to bring it up!

    I love my own tiny computer and wouldn’t want to live without it, but it’s not a life in itself, and a life lived tethered to it alone risks the sensory deprivation that I felt in listening to this discussion.

  • To take nothing away from the potential inherent in technology, there is life outside of the virtual world, and art students, of all people, ought to be encouraged to engage with it.

  • Perhaps Josef Albers is the J.S. Bach of Design . Or perhaps it is the other way around . I can think of no other human being whose utterances are so utterly unclutterly uncluttered. Perhaps Bach was channelling the platonic essence of uncluttered clarity in musical sound.

    Just a thought…