I fly out of Phoenix on a red eye late tonight, which will put me back home again in Indiana early tomorrow morning.
I've been thinking a lot about my blog from the other day on how I learned how to teach. People will often tell me after my presentations, "You're such a natural teacher." And while I'm pleased that I can give such an impression, that observation is entirely inaccurate - there's nothing natural at all about my teaching skills. Rather, they are entirely the product of lots of experience, hard work, and the tenacity to bounce back after miserable failings.
That being said, the other skill fundamental to my career (the ability to analyze music) IS largely a natural talent. Unlike my teaching skills, I really don't have to work terribly hard at it - somehow my brain just does the work on its own with little conscious effort from me. It's a "gift", as such abilities are often described.
Brad Roberts, lead singer of The Crash Test Dummies, described this phenomenon in the song "How Does a Duck Know?", when he sang, "All my organs doing their jobs, no help from me."
Of course, learning analytic techniques in the first place took time and practice to perfect (nobody is born with that kind of gift). And I do have to spend a great deal of time and effort conducting the analysis in the first place. But once that raw data enters my mind, my brain somehow sifts and sorts it all, intuitively finding connections and drawing conclusions.
Paul McCartney articulated the act of songwriting in similar terms: "It comes through your own layers of personality, your own mindset and your musical background," he said. "My brain will filter out all that I don't like.” (Pritchard and Lysaght, The Beatles: An Oral History, p. 193) Paul is describing the creative process (putting things together) whereas in my case it's the same phenomenon but analytic (breaking things down). But the concept is the same: Let our brains do their thing.
The only comparison I can make is that it's quite similar to using a calculator - you punch in the figures and operations, then it spits out the data without any further effort from the user. If a user doesn't know how to accurately enter the numbers or the proper order of operations, then any subsequent calculations will be inaccurate and worthless. But once a user learns how to properly use the instrument, the calculator itself does all the hard work while the user merely presses buttons.
Just as the balance between analysis and explanation is integral my success as a Beatles scholar, so too the balance between intuition and cultivation is equally important.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.