Tag Archives: psychology

Reading List

In one week of meeting with senior music majors about their thesis papers, I’ve recommended all of the following books:

The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

I wish I had the budget to just buy a dozen copies of every book that’s ever changed my life, and give them away to students who walk into my office.

the nightlies

You should go to sleep

I know.

Why don’t you go to sleep? You need to be up early in the morning.

I know, I’m trying.

If you don’t fall asleep soon, you’re going to be too tired to play well at your gig tomorrow.

Then why don’t you shut up so I can go to sleep?

I’m just saying, better hurry up and sleep. Like right now!

I can’t sleep until you stop talking.

[5 minutes]



Remember when you were 19, and you said that really smart-ass thing to your professor in front of some friends? You were too immature at the time to be embarrassed, but now you’re old enough to know better. Maybe now would be a good time to feel embarrassed about it.

WHY WOULD YOU BRING THAT UP! I was almost asleep!

I bet he’s still thinking about it.

He is not.

What if you run into him at a conference someday … what will you say?

I have no idea.

Well, why don’t you take some time right now to plan it out.

I just want to go to sleep.

“Sir, I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m the kid who …” I bet you don’t even get that far before he punches you in the face.

It won’t ever happen.

But what if it does? You should spent some time being worried about that.

[10 minutes]

You know, you really embarrassed yourself at that gig today.

Hey, that’s not fair. I’m still worried about the imaginary conversation with my former professor … you can’t add a second thing on top of that.

I’m just saying …

Don’t just say!

You will probably never get called by those guys again. You didn’t impress them much. Didn’t you used to be able to read music? What happened?

I haven’t been practicing like I should be. I haven’t been practicing at all, really.

I know, it showed.

Shut. Up.

The bass player from tonight is pretty well connected in town. I wonder if he’s talked to anybody else about how badly you played.

It’s only been 2 hours since the gig!

2 hours is enough time to send 120 text messages.

Thank you, Mr. Math.

I wonder if you’ll ever get called for another gig.


Well, why would they call you? You sure sucked it up tonight! There are hundreds, thousands of keyboardists in town who can do what you do, and they’re all better than you, and they practice more, and they’re younger, much younger, and they can work for cheaper than you can.


I’m just saying. Maybe tonight was your last professional gig ever.

I just want to sleep, man. Can you let me go to sleep.

Ok, sure. Sorry. Better hurry. Morning is coming soon, and the minutes are just ticking by. Even if you fall asleep right now, you’ll only get 5 hours of sleep.


[10 minutes]

OK, I have a question for you, jack-hole. How is it that you’re inside my brain, but I have no control over you.

I dunno.

I mean, shouldn’t I be able to shut you off?


Why do you get to keep taking over my brain and forcing me to think of things that I don’t want to think about when I’m trying to go to sleep?

I have no idea.

It makes you wonder how much of rational thought is the product of free-will, and how much of it is us constructing a justification framework around impulses that are much less reasonable than we imagine. Maybe intelligence is just a justification scheme for decisions already made for us by lower level impulses.

Could be.

So, does that mean that rational justification for actions is a personal myth, nothing more? The very thing that gives meaning to our narrative is a sham!

Sounds likely.

So life, and rational thought more specifically, is just a continual state of Apophenia, functioning after the fact of the action or thought, instead of prior to it. It’s us trying to find patterns and meaning in assembled sets of decisions and actions, rather than us directing those actions.

Wasn’t there a study a while back that suggested this very thing? It showed the chemical reactions of certain brain processes relating to choices starting prior to any brain wave activity that would indicate that same choice being cognitive?

Yeah, I think so.

You think so?

Yeah, I think I read that, but I don’t really remember.

Well, don’t you think you should go look it up?

Yeah, probably, I think it was on … HEY, I’m trying to SLEEP! QUIT IT!

I didn’t start this one.


[20 minutes]

Only 4 weeks until classes start. Have you finished planning out your lectures yet?


This is the year.

The year?

The year that everyone finds out you’re a fraud.

I’m not a fraud.

Of course you are. You’re not qualified to teach any of those subjects.

My peers seem to think I am.

That’s because you’ve fooled them. But it can’t last forever. This is the year they discover that you’re just a fumbling, non-practicing, barely coherent, lazy fool. Goodbye, Academia. Goodbye cushy job, goodbye office, goodbye medical benefits, goodbye professional reputation.

I’m not going to get fired.

No, probably not. Worse, they’ll keep you around, but they’ll only let you teach Music Fundamentals. You’ll have to wander the halls of that place for another 30 years, never able to look anyone in the eye, because they know what you really are.

That’s a horrible thing to say.


You’re not sorry.

Of course not. I’m you, and you’re never sorry for anything you’ve ever done.

That’s not true!

Think about it. Think about all the awful things you’ve done that you’re not sorry about.

I don’t want to! I want to sleep!

So do I, but I can’t until you’ve thought about every embarrassing moment, every stupid thing, every failure, every wasted opportunity you’ve ever had, until you’ve thought about every obligation you can’t fulfill, every person you’ll let down, every responsibility you have to organize over the next 4 weeks, until you’ve processed every possible rabbit trail of thought in your silly little fraudulent head.

I will kill you.

Ha! How?


Yeah, that might work. How many more nights of this, you think, before you become an alcoholic?