Creativity and The Machine (The Creativity Series)

NPR Studio 360: Are Computers Creative

“This week, Kurt Andersen asks: can computers make art? And if so, when?  Will it be any good?  We’ll meet a program named AARON that’s been painting for nearly 40 years, a filmmaker who replaced her editor with an algorithm, and professor who thinks what computers need is more Shakespeare.

It’s 4pm, and I’m in my car. I put on WYNC, the local NPR station, and the program Studio 360 begins. The question that starts the show is “Are Computers Creative?”, and the first thing you hear is about a computer named Brutus that is writing a novel.


Well, the creator of Brutus goes on to say that all Brutus is doing, through its algorithms and pathways and thingamajigs is a copy of what he and the other programmers have, well, programmed it to do. It’s aping the apes, so to speak.

Then there is the inventor of The Creativity Machine, Stephen L. Thaler, Ph.D. An A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) computer that he states that yes, machines CAN be original and creative, and they have the machine to prove it. They just send a jumbled signal through, and it produces music and more.

Then there is AARON above, that has been painting for almost 40 years (photo on the linked page); a machine named Darci that judges Art, and…well, the program link is above. Just click on the title and it will take you to the Studio 360 page. Well worth the listen.

So…what do you think? Welcome to the Machine?

In Love With Language

Language is wine upon the lips.
Virginia Woolf

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body. Martha Graham

Music is a great energizer. It’s a language everybody knows. Bill Hicks

It’s my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain. Lily Tomlin

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. George Carlin

What we are all trying to do is communicate, whether to enlighten or obscure, we communicate in a number of different languages. I embrace the beauty of the spoken word as a storyteller and performer, immerse myself in the language of a creative writer, physically and verbally share the language of theater through my educational workshops and residency classes…and this is just the grace of language in a professional level.

Right there: that word, “professional,” as I typed the final letter, took on a life of its own. Automatically, it gives the whole sentence weight (to me) and to some vast importance. You don’t know if I wrote it tongue-in-cheek, with reverence, or in anger. It’s a word that it’s meaning is assumed by the reader. This medium, texts, twits, IM’s and the like, has an immediate flatness that don’t often allow the whole story of language to surface.

I use language as I  talk with my hands (gesture is supposedly the first language).  Body language takes on its own life. We communicate language in all areas of art: it is a way to express our feelings and thoughts in various ways.

My language art is mainly in words: spoken or written. Dance, Fine Arts and Music explore a different value of language, reaches its audience in a number of different ways, and explores a huge range of exploration, inquiry and interpretation…when it is allowed to happen.

The above picture just exemplifies how I feel about words/language, written or otherwise. I am embraced by it as a whole. It can feel comforting, enlightening, provoking, expansive, and more. It  can also repel, used for the ugliness of intentions, when language is used as a weapon. That is done all too often, when the words are used as obfuscation of truth, of seeing the bigger picture, or to keep people “out of the club.” If you’ve read me enough, you know what I am alluding to. I wrote of these things on other blog posts.

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.
Noam Chomsky

How do you use language?

Interview w/Eleanor Kleiner of The Whispering Tree (Creativity Q&A)

Go Call The Captain (CD on Amazon)

The Whispering Tree Rocks the Rockwood: Review of live show

It has been my pleasure to know Eleanor Kleiner since 2004. We worked together at a library in Westchester, NY, and just formed an easy friendship. I grew to know her as an extremely creative and talented individual, full of life and an open mind an heart.

I knew she wrote her own songs, sang and performed, and it was during the year (or so) we worked together, I got to hear her first band down in a ratty bar (the best kind) in lower Manhattan. She was great then.

Now, forming her band The Whispering Tree in 2007 with her husband Elie Brangbour, she SHOULD be on the verge of a nice breakout. They just performed at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and got a lot of great (and well deserved) feedback and attention.

I asked the El’s (Eleanor and Elie) if they’d like to take part in an interview. I firmly believe in supporting the arts in all ways, and this is a band I’m really enjoying.

1. The Whispering Tree is your band with your husband Elie. How would you describe your music? Give us the pitch that would make me want to book you.

Our music falls under the umbrella of folk/rock, with a focus on songwriting and vocals.  Keyboard Magazine says we “tastily combine wistful folk, mellow rock, and pinches of gypsy jazz and bluegrass into a compelling compilation of tightly written tunes” and Lucid Culture describes our music as “Plaintive, moody and often downright haunting.”

2. On your website, you told about your solo trip to South America and a ritual that led you to the name of the group. Can you tell us a little more of the journey to the name, and has your experience since added other depth/nuances to the naming?

Well, we wanted something earthy and distinctive sounding, and simply put, we both love trees.  I also feel like plants (and all living things) have consciousness.  I participated in an Ayahuasca ceremony in South America a few months before I met Elie.  Words are not adequate to describe the experience, but Ayahuasca is an ancient, shamanic brew comprised mainly of an Amazonian vine.  It’s used for healing and to gain insight into life, the universe, and basically the nature of reality.  So when the name “The Whispering Tree” popped up in our quest for a band name, it seemed really perfect to me because a.) it sounds good, b) I credit Ayahuasca for bringing Elie and I together – and c.) we love trees.

3. Where do you find your inspiration?

I guess the most obvious place is from my personal experiences, from relationships and observing others.  Then there are other times when inspiration just pops out of nowhere, those tend to be the best songs.

4. You’ve started to write about your process on your blog. Can you summarize your basic process in writing/composing?

I’d say the basic process goes something like this: inspiration hits and I’ll come up with a snippet of a song, some combination of melody/lyrics/chord progression, and then I try to build from there.

5. What is your collaboration process with Elie? With the other members of your band?

The collaboration with Elie varies.  Sometimes he’ll help develop one of my snippets, maybe I’ll be stuck on where to go for a chorus and he’ll come in and help the song go in a new direction.  Other times he’ll come up with a riff, or a chord progression and I’ll come up with the melody and lyrics to go with it.  He composes in a wide variety of different genres – from blues to prog and metal, so that versatility is really helpful.

Once a song is pretty much finished we’ll play it for the band; sometimes we’ll have a very specific idea of what drum and guitar parts we want, and other times we’ll just play around with them and see what comes up.

6. You sometimes just go out as a duo instead of a four piece. Do you have a preference?

Musically I prefer playing with the full band; there’s a fuller, stronger sound with drums and bass and it’s easier to arrange our songs for a full band.  Logistically, it’s a lot easier to just pack up a keyboard and guitar and travel as a duo, we’re also a lot more exposed as a duo, which makes for a much more intimate performance.  It’s a lot more challenging to make a song work as a duo as opposed to a full band,  and I think our writing has changed since we started performing more frequently as a duo.

7. Question for Elie: you met El in London (London, right?). What drew you to her musically? What was your musical background?

Well, I was drawn to her as a person before I was drawn to her musically! The relationship started and then we realized that we could write together so we gave it a shot. My musical background at the time was more of a rock band type bass player. I had played in a few rock/metal bands and only shortly before meeting Eleanor did I start playing with singer-songwriters. I had to explore some new musical avenues then, and I’m glad I did

8. If you could collaborate with an established artist you admire, who would it be, and what do you think the two of you could offer each other?

I would love to collaborate with Blitzen Trapper – I love their lyrics, melodies and harmonies, and arrangements.  They’re songs have great backing vocals and I think our voices and styles would complement each other.

9. You tour a lot. Can you describe a couple of experiences on the road for us? Funny, scary, touching?

(I’ve been staring at this question for awhile and I can’t come up with an answer, Sorry Stu!) *Stu Here: I can add one thing she told me after coming back from a tour: one place they played she got hit on, a lot. She said it was flattering, but…you do have to see the El’s together. Pure love in action. 

10. You could meet President Obama: one on one, he has to answer any question you have: What would you ask him?

Haha…How do you reconcile yourself with working inside such a dirty, filthy machine?

11. Anything you’d like to add about the music?

You can listen to all of our songs on our website,

I would also highly recommend signing our mailing list, starting this fall we’re going to be living full-time in an airstream trailer, travelling around the US and playing as many shows as possible…and if nothing else, it will make for an interesting newsletter!

Thanks for reading!

You can follow The Whispering Tree on:

Twitter: @whisperingtree

Facebook: The Whispering Tree Fan Page

Artist Internet Cafe

Artist Internet Cafe

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