The Bobby Rock Newsletter #21 (8-18-2021) - Da Vinci Journal Syndrome
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #21 (8-18-2021) - Da Vinci Journal Syndrome
From da Vinci to Thoreau to one of my favorite percussionists, we have an eclectic combo of items in this week’s Newsletter. And by the way, I never really plan these out. They just sort of evolve over the course of the week, with a few ideas swirling over the weekend prior, and then a bit of a mad dash to the finish line in the 24+ hours leading up to hitting the send button. I should probably be more organized and “calendar” this process better but, as you’ll read in a moment, this I cannot do!
Again, thanks for taking this ride with me.
In this issue:
- Into as of Late: My preoccupation with one killer drummer from Iran continues. I play his records in a loop at my desk, create intricate odd-meter practice pad routines to his solos, and even meditate to his music on occasion. Read on…
- Book Excerpt: A da VInci-inspired piece from my book, Zentauria.
- On Doing the Work: Musings on a famous Thoreau quote that is probably more relative today than it was 180 years ago when he wrote it.
Into as of Late...
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi is an Iranian percussionist, globally renowned as a master hand drummer. He specializes in the tombak—a goblet-shaped drum central to Persian music—and the daf: a 3000-year-old frame drum. Each instrument is distinct in vibe and tone, but also relatively primitive in scope… until Mortazavi gets his hands (and fingers) on them. I have a number of his records on my regular rotation—especially here lately for some reason—and let me tell you, his playing is otherworldly.
Mortazavi’s music and soloing is based around these highly-intricate, yet very musical, “polyrhythmic landscapes” that tend to create an almost trance-like effect. BUT, because most of us in the West aren’t familiar with these instruments, you really must SEE this guy play. Only then can you get a sense of the unprecedented skill and musicianship involved… as well as the magician-like effortlessness by which he manipulates a panoply of sounds, textures, and even melodies out of these instruments.
Each of his records have their own vibe, but I think my fave is Geradeaus, or maybe Green Hands, although I also dig Yek and Yek 2 for different reasons. BUT, here again, take a peek at some vid if you have a few minutes.
There are tons of videos out there, but this Berlin concert (from 2010?) is a great representation. He switches back and forth between the tombak and the daf, and at the very end, he plays a bit of Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" on a mini-tombak! Friends, this is a bad motherfucker.
PS. One other East/West cultural observation: My BFF, who is of Iranian decent, has always encouraged me to do more solo drumming shows like I used to do in the old days. But I tell her that the logistics of such shows are nearly impossible… that “no one really cares to hear solo drumming as a standalone art form.”
“What are you talking about?” she would always say.
THIS is what she was talking about.
Da Vinci Journal Syndrome
Here’s an excerpt from my book, Zentauria: My Season in the Warrior Utopia. The book is essentially an 11-week documentation of life with a secretive utopian community, on a small island off the east coast of Africa. I wrote it journal-style, with a conversational narrative, but I believe the themes, experiences, and insights covered throughout might be useful and inspiring to others.
Roots – Part Two: Da Vinci Journal Syndrome
Day 25 – 1:32 AM (Guest Quarters)
Been spending a lot of time at the ZIH lately, poring over the mountain of info there. I’ve been trying to document more of the crazy details of the early days… even leading up to when the “King” first met the “Monk.” Surprisingly, the historical recollections from the first decade or two were impressively detailed. But today, I had to fast-forward my studies a bit and delve into the da Vinci era. I suppose it makes sense that my da Vinci fascination continues over here, especially upon confirming that he had a brief stay on the island.
So I started rummaging through old scans… or docs… or maybe pictures of docs, not sure. But whatever they are, they are bad-ass. Started scoping all of Leonardo’s meticulously detailed notebooks, circa late 15th century. Mindblowing! We’re talking cool illustration-based content dealing with painting, architecture and human anatomy, like you might expect. But then there’s all of this crazy mechanical shit; a helicopter, a tank, a machine gun, a fucking submarine even… all way, way, way ahead of its time. A scary-advanced mind, for sure.
Still, it could be said that, for all of his genius, Leo was something of an underachiever in terms of completed content… which I take great relief in reporting, for obvious reasons. And while I am in no way trying to draw comparisons between my plight and the towering brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci, I do have to mention a broader parallel… a universal syndrome that Leo seemed to deal with that I believe many creative folks from all levels of development can relate to: the articulation, discussion and/or envisioning of creative ideas that are ultimately never made manifest.
Isn’t this something that we all deal with from time to time? Granted, my journals, docs, proposals, treatments, manifestos and incomplete manuscripts aren’t nearly as cool as the da Vinci journal collection I’ve been eye-balling. But today, I had to seriously consider a rather poignant question along these lines:
Is there something about the detailed documentation of a creative idea that diminishes the creator’s desire to actually see the idea to its completion?
I’ve heard fiction authors advise writers not to discuss key plot points with people when working on a novel for this very reason. They argue that once you articulate the thrust of the story to someone, that might be it; you’ve articulated your story, and maybe even gotten a reaction. Story told; story happily received. Why bother going through all the work to finish and publish something that you’ve already expressed on some level. Why not move on to another story now?
Sure, one could counter that you, the writer, might want to reach larger numbers of readers, and that would compel you to get that book done and published. I can see that. But it’s also foreseeable that, in some cases, for some people, it’s somehow enough for you to have expressed your story—or your brilliant idea—in a thorough enough way that this somehow satiates you.
Or maybe, just by merely documenting your creation and deeply contemplating the vision of its completion, it creates enough satisfaction that your idea has been birthed into the world on some level and, again, there is a sense of manifestation there. These are the things I was considering as I saw all of that raw, dense, ass-kicking intellectual property in da Vinci’s journals, and then flash-backed to all of my unrealized shit.
Why did I have so much unpublished and/or unmanifested material hanging around? I mean, no doubt, it’s easy to jump on the mega-productivity bandwagon here in Zentauria, see everyone doing great work, and then feel inspired to do the same. That’s the good news. But that doesn’t tell me why I’ve been such a fucking slacker in so many ways. Is it the popular fear of success or fear of failure theories, as has been suggested to me a time or two? I don’t buy it. I’ve created a ton of stuff—some succeeded, some didn’t—but the result has never much mattered to me (although my preference is always that my work finds a welcome home with many).
No… clearly, for awhile now, I’ve been engaged in only one side of the process for a lot of my work: immersed in the harvesting and development of all of this material, but somehow devoid of that natural urgency to complete and project it out to the heavens.
Shall we call this Da Vinci Journal Syndrome, or DJ Syndrome for short? (Catchy, right?) If so, what is the work-around?
“The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work but will saunter to his tasks surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time and does not exaggerate the value of the husk."
Henry David Thoreau
I recently ran across this gem in one of my journals. His kernel/husk metaphor is basically emphasizing the point that how we do our work is ultimately more important than what we hope to gain from its reception in the world. And the how, according to Thoreau, should be with a relaxed mindfulness, as opposed to the frantic, tightly-scheduled "work quota" vibe so common these days.
This approach has always resonated with me. Sure, I like to work as much and as hard as the next person. BUT… I prefer it to be at a more relaxed pace and on a more elastic schedule, particularly where start and end-times are concerned. This is why I seldom ever calendar anything… including appointments and (especially!) “meetings.“ Full calendars wig me out.
The exception? Touring. Everything is fucking scheduled out there, given all of the moving parts involved with every show, so I’m well acclimated to the structure of that world. But at home… 20-hour work days? No prob. So long as I can grind at my own pace… especially between various activities.
I know not everyone has the luxury of working within these loose parameters. But I’ve really gone out of my way through the years to design my life around this particular ethos… hence my ongoing attraction to this quote!
How do you thrive in your work? Structured? Unstructured? Some combination thereof?
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