2 Episode results for "Sean Larkham"

Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano

Cautionary Tales

33:25 min | 9 months ago

Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano

"There's another podcast. We think you'll enjoy. Ted Talks daily every weekday. You'll hear new ideas on every topic imaginable. Recent talks include entrepreneur and security expert Bright Simons on the innovative solutions Africans using to deal with counterfeit goods off ooh writer and historian Edward Tenor on. How our obsession with efficiency can actually make us less efficient plus a lot more including adding water to talks subscribed to Ted talks daily? Where have you listened as the night draws in and the fire blazes on behalf? We warn the children by telling them stories. June patry teaches them. I don't know what it's just horrendous. Don't Google it but my stories for the education of the GROWNUPS and my stories all true Tim Halford gala close and listen to my cautionary tales late in January nineteen seventy five a German teenager named Vera brandis walked out onto the stage of the Cologne Opera House. The Auditorium was empty lit only by the dim green glow of the emergency exit sign. This was the most exciting day. Various Life Vera loved jazz and was frustrated that there just wasn't enough good jazz in Cologne so at the age of sixteen. She'd started to arrange concerts. MM sits herself tonight would be the fifth and by far the biggest vera brandis had persuaded the Cologne Opera House to host a late night concert of jazz from the American pianist. Keith Jarrett a remarkable venue for a remarkable twenty nine year old musician. Jarrett had already played with greats such as Art Blakey and Miles Davis but now he was on his own. The vast auditorium was was sold out. Fourteen hundred people were coming easily. The largest audience Jarrett's tour of improvised piano performances in just a few hours Keith. Jarrett would walk out alone on that stage. Hit sit down at the piano and without rehearsal or sheet music. Hit Begin to play but right now. Vera was introducing kief to the piano in question and it wasn't going well. Jared looked at the instruments. A A little warily played a few notes walked around. It tried a few more. His producer Manfred eicher joined in. Neither of them spoke spoke to there're instead they were huddled together. Then Manfred Eicher. Came over Tavira if you don't get another piano Keith. Chief can't play tonight. They'd been a mistake. Jared walls and is an exacting musician he likes things to be perfect absolutely absolutely the way he wants them and hid requested a specific piano a Bosendorfer imperial. The Opera House had told rebranded unders. They had just the thing but somehow the piano on stage was nothing like what had been promised as verandas remembered a found. This tiny any little bus do for that was completely out of tune the upper and the no octave was wrecked. The black nodes in the middle. Didn't lock the pedal stock. It was unplayable absolutely unplayable and quite understandably jared didn't want to play it and what it became clear. There was no way to get a replacement piano on stage when it became clear that it was the unplayable piano or nothing Keith. Jarrett's writs opted for nothing. He walked out into the rain. Leaving a bedraggled Vera brand is trailing behind him begging him not to cancel when fourteen hundred people showed up for the late night. Constant vary brandis was going to find herself facing a riot. You're listening to enough cautionary tale. Don't it's about the same time as Keith Jarrett's encounter with the unplayable piano on the other side of Germany a very different musician with scrambling over his own musical obstacle. Course David Bowie the unearthly Ashley Ambi Sexual Rock icon had moved to Berlin Bowie had had a grim alienating period living in Los Angeles he was beset by legal troubles couples. His marriage alternated between difference in contempt. And he was taking far too many hard drugs. It was a dangerous period only by we reflected acted but bowie had a very different attitude to his music than Jarrett. While Jarrett was a purist Bowie actually enjoyed self imposed stops to Kohl's but we believed that accidents were to be treasured even plan aimed rather than avoided. That's why he asked Brian Eno to join him and his producer. Tony Conti in Berlin that meet regularly enhancer studio to the big hole by the wall as Berry called it it was a beautiful parquet floor concert hall popular for Recording Chamber Music. And if you hundred feet away from the shadow of the Berlin Wall all took to showing up at the Hansa Studio with a soft black box containing a selection of curious cards. He called Oblique Strategies that quite simple these cards small black text on a white background curved corners. There are about the size of playing cards although there are more than one hundred rid of them making a thick deck to be shuffled consulted each odd has a different instruction. And you never know which one you're going to get you. You know once told me you have to pick one if you don't like it tough whenever the studio sessions were running aground E-e-e-e-no we know would draw a card at random and rela- it's strange orders. Be the first not to do what has never not been done before. Look at the order order in which you do. Things emphasize the floors change instrument rose schorr enough during the recording of David. Did Bowie's lodger album colors Halama. One of the world's greatest guitarists was told to play the drums. Instead another guitarist Adrian belew you was asked to improvise a solo in response to a recording. That would eventually become the single boys. Keep swinging walkies. Then don't worry about the key just play blue described. The experience was like like a freight train coming through my mind. It's it's an amazing Solo though astonishing Wailing Guitar at the beginning being of heroes. That's Robert Frith. Frith was just playing around with guitar feedback back but when visconti patched together the random noises the effect was beautiful. The Poet Simon Armitage describes the cards. As if you're asking the look in your brain to flow in another direction. That doesn't sound fun yet. The strange chaotic working looking process produced some of the decade's most critically acclaimed albums low. Heroes and lodger. You can't argue with the results. I sought out Brian Eno to discuss this. Strange approach of deliberately adding obstacles. e-e-e-e-no is to me one of the most interesting musicians addition alive. He began his musical career in the nineteen seventies with Roxy Music. Wade create strange sound effects play synthesizer with a giant plastic thick knife and fork. He created music. Airports a simple beautiful landmark in ambient music my life in the Bush of ghosts an influential sample rich collaboration with David Byrne and another green world. The record that Prince wants named as his biggest inspiration e-e-e-e-no has collaborated with talking heads. U2 Twyla Tharp coldplay. Laurie Anderson Gavin bryers. Paul Simon and the cult director David Lynch. When the Music Zine pitchfork listed its top one hundred albums of the nineteen seventies? Brian Eno had a hand in more than a quarter of them and of course as his remarkable collaboration with David Bowie. But I wanted to talk to Brian. Not just because he's produced beautiful music with remarkable. Oh people using very strange methods but also because Brian Eno is like me a nerd he thinks hard about why obstacles obstacles a so often helpful. Listen on and I'll tell you what I learned. Hey listen I want to remind remind you. That time is running out and simplisafe's huge holiday offer. 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That's T. A. L. E. S. skill share dot com slash tarheels. You know that feeling of being a tourist in totally totally foreign land. How rich all the tiny details are how densely layered the memories? You can look back on a day and marvel at just how much humanitas pack in whereas a day of your normal routines can be hard to remember tool one of the things that Brian Eno is trying to achieve with his strange cards his that same sense of attention of being alert. The enemy of creative work is boredom. Actually and the friend is alertness. Now I think what makes you heard is to be faced with a situation that is beyond your control so you have to be watching it very carefully to see how it unfolds to be able to stay on top of it. That kind of alertness is exciting. There's nothing like an unfamiliar problem to make you start focusing if things feel out of your control maybe even a little dangerous that gets the adrenaline flowing. In the right circumstances the creative excuses to this attention grabbing affect applies whether we're talking about trying to play a strange instrument navigate a strange place or work together with a strange person. Amman it sounds dramatic it can work its magic to subliminal level. It can be something as subtle as whether the words were reading on a page look. Familiar ord consider a study by the psychologists Connor Diamond Yaman. Daniel Oppenheim Ma and Eric von. They teamed up with high school teachers getting them to reformat the teaching handouts they used half that classes chosen at random got got the original materials in standard fonts such as times new Roman the other half got the same documents reformatted into one of three challenging encompass. The text of Hadden's filer. The cursive flourishes of monotype Cordova or zesty bounce of Comic Sans at Taleh sized raised. These funds are let's be honest distracting and hard to read but the ugly fonts didn't hamper. The students at all students who'd been taught using them ended up scoring higher on their exams. We don't know exactly why but it seems that the strange fonts prompted them to pay attention to slow slow down and to think about what they were reading. If such obstacles make us focus and think harder they may end up not being obstacles tool ooh but secret weapons. There's is a second reason that the oblique strategies may have helped David Bowie. They pushed him to try something. Fresh Brian Eno described to me the tendency Z.. Of highly skilled musicians to end up exploring a narrow territory. Because it's the only place they feel completely comfortable. You get more and more competent at dealing with that place and you'll cliches becoming increasingly cliche. But when you're forced to start from somewhere new the cliches can be replaced with moments of magic. This effect is well understood. Far outside the realm of music computer scientists use algorithms to look for solutions to complex problems and those algorithms often use the tactic of stepping back and adding some randomness partway through search on sort of complex problems. Do I have in mind plenty. Planning efficient routes for fleet of parcel delivery trucks figuring hang out the best layout for a silicon chip. Such problems have so many possible solutions that it's impossible even for a computer to check the ball so computer futa scientists have developed algorithms that try to find a solution that may not be. Perfect is good enough. You'd be surprised. At how many of these algorithms at random shocks and remixes those shocks there to prevent the algorithm getting stuck on a bad solution in the jargon that's called a local optimum but you're I would simply call it a dead end. The random shocks offer a way of backing out of the dead end and trying something else. This might seem a long way from our everyday concerns we musical geniuses. We're not computer algorithms but the same logic is is it play in the most humdrum circumstances such as our daily commute for example in my own longstanding commute across the London Underground. I know exactly where on the platform I should stand when I get on the first tube train to ensure that after riding nine stops including a change of lines in the perfect position to be first on the escalator out of London Bridge Station and thus the front of the line for coffee the monmouth coffeehouse near the tube exit find differences in where I stand on a train platform on one side of the city. Determine how quickly I get my coffee half an hour later on the other side gas. I promised myself ought never become. That person happened anyway. And however you commute you likely have your own little shortcuts and time saving habits. Assuming wingnut is those habits really do save you time because according to the logic. I've been outlining if you commute being forced to change your plans minds they actually help you in the long run. It's the obstacle in your path that forces you to find a better But in what circumstances might the London Underground possibly be disrupted. I hear you ask well. In February. Twenty fourteen to trade unions representing in work on the subway launched a forty eight hour strike which closed well over half the stations on the system. The first day of the strike was wet as well as being cold and dark which will have discouraged people from simply walking or getting on a bike. The trains and buses that day were rammed full of grumpy commuters. Trying to figure out how to get around but disruption after the strike. The economists Ferdinand Roche. Sean Larkham and Tim Williams looked at data Ktar from London's electronic fare card system. Those fare cards work on the subway the buses and the overground trains to row and his colleagues identified people. Well had to change from their regular route during the strike most changed back again when the strike was over. Of course many did not. They realized there's been getting their own commute wrong. All land lives and all it took to prompt them into finding about away with two days of disruption so there are two reasons why obstacle might actually help us solve a problem. I the ugly font effect affect the strange unfamiliar region threatening situation grabs your attention and holds it. Not Checking your phone. You don't daydreaming. You can't can't afford to miss a second. And then there's the tube strike affect the way random disruption forces. You try something. Totally new. Whether by forcing us is to pay attention or by putting us to try something different these obstacles can actually help us find better solutions to the problems we face but this is still still look cautionary tale. Because it's a story of danger. The danger is that we shunned these obstacles. Avoid difficulties flee from problems When in fact we might flourish from facing them head on Keith? Jarrett after all didn't celebrate the appearance of a bad piano on stage his largest ever concert rubbing his hands in glee at the opportunity to have his creativity supercharge. Try The challenge. Of course he didn't he walked away. They wouldn't when faced with the unplayable piano we resist. We resist all sorts of obstacles but the most obvious example of this resistance comes when the obstacle is a strange or unfamiliar person. There's a large body of research that suggests that diverse group of people I mean people of Different Ages Genders Nationalities Professions and political views that that diverse group of people is more likely to find solutions or make better judgments than a group full of lookalikes. Everyone echoing everyone else. When pulling together a team our instinct is to go for quality the best people we can find perhaps instead we should be going for variety one analogy is is that different perspectives skills and experiences like different tools in the toolbox? A well-stocked toolbox is more useful than a case full of hammers even if they're really good hammers but while we should be looking for a diverse group we tend to gravitate to the familiar friends rather than strangers people who look and sound like us who reflect our own views. Make US feel comfortable. We're hammers looking to get cozy with other hammers and we review wrenches and screwdrivers and saws as awkward misfits. There's an elegant experiment that underlines this point conducted by the psychologists psychologists Katherine Philips Katie Lillian. Quist and Margaret Neil. They gave murder mystery problems to students. These problems consisted of dossiers of information summation with alibis and evidence witness statements and a choice of three possible suspects so who committed the crime. The research researchers divided the groups into two sets at random. In one set. The murder mystery would be solved by four people who knew each other for friends in the other. The dossiers would be given to three friends and warm stranger for maximum awkwardness. You can see where I'm going with this. Obviously I'm going to say that the groups with a stranger solve the problem more effectively which they did but the scale of the improvement may surprise you. The groups of friends did better than random condom gas between the three options but the groups with a stranger did much better yet. The success rate of seventy five percent in fact the groups with a stranger were as far ahead of the groups of friends. As the groups of friends were ahead of pure random guesswork. But what's really interesting is not just that the groups with the stranger made smarter decisions but how they felt about it when the scientists interviewed the groups of four friends have nice time and they also thought that done a good job. They were complacent when they spoke to the three friends and the stranger. They hadn't enjoyed themselves and they were full of doubts about whether they're chosen the guilty man. I think that really exemplifies the challenge. Here's what seems like an obstacle list or could stranger sitting in the group and spoiling. Everyone's fun but the obstacle is actually a secret weapon. The Stranger dramatically improves the performance of the group yet. The people in the group don't realize it. The same thing happened with Brian. Eno and his curious cards. The musicians hated them that concept in a surprise to me no well not earlier. Inner album that prince loved so much another green world. e-e-e-e-no asked Phil Collins the superstar drummer from Genesis to play instructions from the cards so infuriated Collins. He was reduced to hurling beer cans across the studio and frustration faced with one piece of card inspired foolishness guitarist. Carlos Alomar told. This experiment is stupid. The violinist Simon. I'm in house commented. The sessions often sounded terrible. Carlos did have a problem simply because he's very gifted professional. He can't bring himself to play stuff. That sounds sounds like crap. How do we persuade ourselves to engage with broken rules? Impossible deadlines were awkward people when really all we want folks do is held big back in dark rainy Cologne in nineteen seventy five. Dr Yang Vera Brandis was in big trouble an opera house full of paying customers an unplayable piano and an understandably standardly reluctant Keith Jarrett. So she did the only thing she could she ran after Jarrett found waiting in his car. Flung Open the door and and begged him not to cancel. And Keith Jarrett looking out at this rain-drenched teenage girl took pity on her. Never Forget Geoffrey Yu Keith. Jarrett would play after all while a tuna worked to straighten out some of the kinks. In the unplayable. Pinault Vera Brandis took Jarrett and Manfred eicher to an Italian restaurant to get some food before the show. Jarrett Valley had time to bolt down a few mouthfuls of pastor before rushing back to the Opera House to face the piano the instrument now in tune but still had some silent keys. Malfunctioning sustain pain. Pedal was harsh antennae in the upper register. That of course not being a full-sized concert grand it was simply too quiet. If played in the conventional style style it would never fill the vast auditorium with music but it was too late to back out now utterly alone in front of fourteen hundred people Jarrett walked back out onto the stage of the Opera House. He sat down at the unplayable piano and began The minute he played the first night everybody near this was something. And never forget I town. And everybody was totally mesmerized Jarrett was avoiding those tinny upper registers he was sticking to the middle tones of the keyboard which gave the pieces soothing ambient quality in his left hand produced rumbling repetitive live Bass riffs as a way of covering up. The Piano's lack of resonance. The music had a trance-like quality as a result but Jarrett couldn't than simply relax into that easy listening zone because the tiny piano simply wasn't loud enough he stood up twisting pounding down on the keys. Desperately expertly trying to create enough volume to reach the people in the back row. Jared really had to play that piano very hard to get enough volume him to get to the balconies see was rarely pajau pushing the nuts down standing up sitting down moaning writhing Jarrett. Didn't hold back. In any way. As he pummelled the unplayable piano to produce something unique. That night became legendary Henry. The performance that made Keith Jarrett's reputation. It wasn't the music that he ever imagined playing but handed an impossible mess. Jared soared I never before or after saw anybody so immersed in his music. You could see it. He was absolutely there. That was how one member of the audience remembers it. It's just as Brian Eno said. What makes you alert is to be faced with a situation that is beyond beyond your control? Jarrett was having to play the piano in a different style from a different storms remembering to avoid certain faulty keys please and all in front of the largest audience hit ever faced. You can bet that he was alert and you can bet also that he was trying something new new like a commuter dealing with transport strike who suddenly discovers a fresh way to the office Keith. Jarrett could have played the music. He played at Cologne on on any piano but it was only when he was forced to deal with the limitations of a bad piano. It occurred to him to try. Usually we don't try unless something forces us to. Maybe it's a subway strike. Maybe it's the turn of an oblique strategies card or maybe maybe it's a guilt trip from German teenager. The you might wonder why Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher even all those to record the concert when they expected it to be an embarrassment. It's a fat question. Jarrett had told to send the recording engineers home. What was the point but Ikea argued that since they were there they might as well press record on the tape machine? Jarrett's later admitted the logic. We know what we went through. We've paid for the sound guys to come here. So why don't we just let him record it and we'll have a tape of it that way. At least I would have documentary. Evidence of what a musical catastrophe sounds like but he didn't get a catastrophe he he got a masterpiece. The recording was released as the cone concert. It's the best selling piano album in history and the best selling solo jazz album to. There's something very special about it. My wife asked me to put the music on while she was in labor. Not once but twice and it's so oh good that even after that rather painful association we both still love listening yet. It so nearly never happened if very brandis hadn't begged if Jarrett hadn't felt pity for that the dragon teenage go. He certainly would never have chosen to play on a piano like that. Farrow Brandon wasn't credited on that blockbuster album she never got a penny of royalties. And in a way that's fair enough concert promoters aren't artists and yet I have no doubt that the Colin Consett would never have been such a special piece of music without Vera Brandis and her unplayable piano all of us from time to time. have to deal with our own unplayable pianos when that happens. Yes we need to sit down and try to play. You've been listening to cautionary tales and if you like this particular episode. I wrote a book about these ideas. It's called messy. You might like it. Cautionary Tales is written and presented by me. Tim Hoffman our producers are Ryan Deli and Marilyn rust the sound designer and mixer was passer wise who also composed the amazing music. This season stars. Alan Cumming Archie Archie. Pange rb Toby Stevens and Russell Toby with end. So till Lenghty Ed Garsten Melanie Gutteridge Messiah Monroe Rufus Right and introducing juicing Malcolm Bragwell. Thanks to a team at Pushkin Industries. Julia Barton has fame meal. Lebel Colleen Yori Jacob Jacob Weisberg and of course the mighty Malcolm Dodwell. Thanks to my colleagues the Financial Times

Keith Jarrett Brian Eno Dr Yang Vera Brandis Geoffrey Yu Keith David Bowie Manfred Eicher Cologne Jared walls Opera House Cologne Opera House producer Jarrett Valley Tavira Paul Simon Ted Talks T. A. L. E. S. Google Simon Armitage Adrian belew David Byrne
Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano

Broken Record

31:40 min | 9 months ago

Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano

"Hey this is just enrichment of broken record. We're going on a short hiatus for the holidays but we back January twenty eighth and guess what we're going weekly in twenty twenty super excited and trust me when I say we have great shows coming up for you guys but while you're waiting we wanted to give you a chance to check out another great show from Pushkin Industries. It's cautionary tales. It's hosted by Tim Harford. who-ho some great shows for the BBC and episode? You're about to hear. Tim Explores a pivotal performance by one of the Great Jazz improvisers of all time pianist. Miss Keep Jerry. His soul live shows are known to be among the best concert performances. Ever none of them are ever the same. His shows her so special that I remember spending an entire tired paycheck when I was only sixteen to catch him in downtown. La and it was worth every last cent but in order for him to walk out on stage improvise he needs conditions to be perfect perfect. He's an editorial control freak. Who demands complete quiet from his audiences? No talking coffee walking tour from the bathroom just complete attention to the music. Meanwhile Jarrett's most famous according to my show where nothing was right. So why was this concert. That should have been terrible. One of the best of his career. That's Tim starting-point turning point but it's quest for an answer leads us today in producer Brian. Eno you'll want to hear this episode. Believe me here's Tim Harford As the night draws in and the fire blazes on behalf we warn the children by telling them stories and Juniper tree teaches them. I don't know what it's just horrendous. Don't Google it but my stories for the education and the grownups and my stories are all true on Tim. Harford Galvin close. And listen to my cautionary Russian retails Late in January nineteen seventy five German teenager. Chair named Vera Brandis walked out onto the stage of the Cologne Opera House. The Auditorium was empty lit only by the dim green glow of the emergency exit sign. This was the most exciting day of various life. Vera loved jazz and was frustrated frustrated. That there just wasn't enough good jazz in Cologne so at the age of sixteen should started to arrange concerts herself. Tonight would be the fifth and by far the biggest favor brandis had persuaded the Cologne Opera House to host a late night concert of jazz from the American pianist. Keith Jarrett a remarkable venue for a remarkable twenty nine year old musician. Jarrett had already already played with greats such as Art Blakey and Miles Davis but now he was on his own. The vast auditorium was sold out fourteen. Eighteen hundred people were coming easily. The largest audience for Jarrett's tour of improvised piano performances. In just a few hours Keith Jarrett would would walk out alone on that stage. Hit sit down at the piano and without rehearsal or sheet music. Hit Begin to play but right now now. Vera was introducing kief to the piano in question and it wasn't going well. Jarrett looked at the instruments. A little warily Played a few notes walked around. It tried a few more. His producer Manfred eicher joined in. Neither of them spoke to Vera instead. They were huddled together. Then Manfred Eicher came over to Vera if you don't get another piano Keith. Can't play tonight took there'd been a mistake. Jarrett was and is and exacting musician. He likes things to be perfect absolutely the way he wants them him and he'd requested specific piano. A bosendorfer imperial. The Opera House had told Verandas they had just the thing but somehow the piano on stage was nothing like what had been promised as Vera brandis remembered a found. This tiny little bus do for that was completely out of tune the upper and the no octave was wrecked. Black nodes in the middle. Didn't lock pedal stock. It was unplayable playable absolutely unplayable and quite understandably jared didn't want to play it and when it became clear there was no no way to get a replacement piano on stage when it became clear that it was the unplayable piano or nothing Keith. Jarrett opted for nothing nothing. He walked out into the rain. Leaving a bedraggled vera brandon trailing behind him begging him not to cancel when fourteen hundred people showed up for their late night. Concert Vera Brandis was going to find herself facing a riot. You're listening to another cautionary tale in school About the same time as Keith Jarrett's encounter with the unplayable piano on the other side of Germany. A very different musician with scrambling over his own musical. Obstacle Course David Bowie the unearthly Ambi sexual actual rock icon had moved to Berlin Bowie had had a grim alienating period in Los Angeles he was beset by legal troubles. His marriage alternated alternated between indifference and contempt and he was taking far too many hard drugs. It was a dangerous period. Only by we reflected but Bowie had a very different attitude to his music than Jarrett. While Jarrett was a purist Bowie actually enjoyed self imposed obstacles but we believed that accidents to be treasured even planned rather than avoided. That's why he asked Brian Eno to join him and his producer USA. Tony Visconti in Berlin that meet regularly enhancer studio to the big hole by the wall as Berry called it it was is a beautiful parquet floored concert hall popular for Recording Chamber Music and a few hundred feet away from the shadow of the Berlin Wall. e-e-e-e-no Oh took to showing up at the Hansa Studio with a soft black box containing a selection of curious cards. He called Oblique Strategies. That quite simple. Pull these cards small black text on a white background curved corners. They're about the size of playing cards. Although there are more than one hundred of them making a thick back to be shuffled and consulted each card has a different instruction. And you never know which one you're going to get. You know once told me you. You have to pick one if you don't like it tough. Whenever the studio sessions were running aground? e-e-e-e-no would draw a card not at random and relay. It's strange orders. Be the first not to do what has never not been done before. Look at the order in which you do. Things things emphasized the floors change instrument. Rose sure enough during the recording of David Bowie's lodger album album Carlos. alomar one of the world's greatest guitarists was told to play drums. Instead another guitarist Adrian belew was asked to improvise devise a solo in response to a recording. That would eventually become the single boys. Keep swinging. Don't worry about the key. Just play Balu described. The experience was like like a freight train coming through my mind. It's an amazing Solo. Five and that astonishing Wailing Guitar at the beginning of heroes. That's Robert Friendship. Trip was just playing around with guitar feedback but when visconti patched together the random noises the effect was beautiful. The Poet Simon Armitage describes the cards. As if you're asking the blood in your brain gene to flow in another direction. That doesn't sound fun yet. The strange chaotic working process produced. Just some of the decade's most critically acclaimed albums low. Heroes and lodger. You can't argue with the results. I sought sought out Brian Eno to discuss this strange approach of deliberately adding obstacles. No is to me. One of the most interesting musicians ally. He began his musical career in the nineteen seventies with Roxy Music where he created strange sound effects and play synthesizer with a giant plastic knife and fork. He created music. Airports a simple beautiful landmark in ambient music my life in the Bush of ghosts an influential sample rich collaboration with David Byrne and another green world. The record the prince wants named as his biggest inspiration. e-e-e-e-no has collaborated rated with talking. Heads you to Twyla Tharp. coldplay Laurie. Anderson Gavin Bryers Paul Simon and the cult director. David Lynch when the Music Magazine pitchfork listed. Its top one hundred albums of the nineteen seventies. Brian Eno had a hand in more than a quarter of them and of course that's best his remarkable collaboration with David Bowie. But I wanted to talk to Brian. Not just because he's produced beautiful music with remarkable people using very restraint methods. But also because Brian Eno is like me a nerd he thinks hard about why obstacles are so often unhelpful. Listen on and I'll tell you what I learned. Aw you know that feeling of being a tourist in a totally foreign land. How rich all the tiny details are how densely asleep layered the memories? You can look back on a day and marvel at just how much you managed to pack in whereas a day of normal routines can be hard to remember tool one of the things that Brian Eno is trying to achieve with his strange cards. Is that same sense of attention of being alert. The enemy of creative creative work is boredom. Actually and the friend is alertness. Now I think what makes you alert is to be faced with a situation that is beyond in your control so you have to be watching it very carefully to see how it unfolds to be able to stay on top of it. That kind of alertness is exciting. Exciting there is nothing like an unfamiliar problem to make you start focusing if things feel out of your control maybe even a little dangerous that gets the adrenaline flowing. In the right circumstances the creative juices to this attention grabbing affect applies whether we're talking about I'm trying to play a strange instrument navigate a strange place or work together with a strange person Ahmad. It sounds dramatic it can work its magic to subliminal subliminal level. It can be something as subtle as whether the words were reading on a page look. Familiar ord consider acidic study by the psychologists connor diamond. Yaman Daniel Oppenheimer an Erica Vaughn. They teamed up with high school teachers getting them to reformat format teaching handouts. They used half that classes chosen at random. Got The original materials in standard fonts such as times new Roman the other half got the same documents reformatted into one of three challenging fonts. The dense text of hadn't sh- filer. The cursive flourishes of monotype Cordova or zesty bounce of Comic Sans Talent is these funds are. Let's be honest distracting and hard to read but the ugly fonts didn't hamper. The students at all students who'd been taught using them ended up scoring higher on their exams. We don't know exactly why but it seems that the strange chance prompted them to pay attention to slow down and to think about what they were reading. If such obstacles make Carr's focus and think harder they may end up not being obstacles at all but secret weapons now. There's a second reason that the oblique strategies may have helped David Bowie. They pushed pushed him to try something. Fresh Brian Eno described to me the tendency of highly skilled musicians to end up exploring a narrow territory. Because it's the only place they feel completely comfortable. You get more and more competent at dealing with that place and you'll cliches becoming increasingly really cliche. But when you're forced to start from somewhere new the cliches can be replaced with moments of magic. This effect is well understood. Far outside the realm of music computer scientists use algorithms to look for solutions to complex problems and those algorithms often for news the tactic of stepping back and adding some randomness partway through their search on sort of complex problems. Do I have in mind. There are plenty Planning efficient routes for fleet of parcel delivery trucks figuring out the best layout for a silicon chip. Such problems have so many possible solutions that it's impossible even for a computer to check the ball so computer scientists have developed algorithms that. Try to find a solution that may not be perfect. It's good enough. You'd be surprised. At how many of these algorithms at random shocks and remixes those shocks are there to prevent the algorithm getting stuck on a bad solution in the jargon that's called a local optimum but you're I simply call it a dead end the random shocks chalks offer a way of backing out of the dead end and trying something else. This might seem a long way from our everyday concerns. We know musical musical geniuses and we're not computer algorithms but the same logic is at play in the most humdrum circumstances such as our daily commute for example in my own long standing commute across the London Underground. I know exactly where on the platform I should stand when I get on the first tube train to ensure that after riding riding nine stops including a change of lines in the perfect position to be first on the escalator out of London Bridge Station thus the front of the line for coffee the monmouth coffeehouse near the tube exit find differences in where I stand on a train platform on one side of the city determine how quickly I get my coffee Faye half an hour later on the other side gas. I promised myself never become. That person happened anyway. However you commute you you likely have your own little shortcuts and time saving habits assuming that is those habits really do save you time because according into the logic I've been outlining if you commute being forced to change your plans they actually help you in the long run? It's the obstacle in your path. Offer that forces you to find a better path but in what circumstances might the London Underground possibly be disrupted. I hear you ask well. In February. Twenty fourteen to trade. Unions representing workers on the subway launched a forty eight hour strike which closed well over the half. The stations on the system. The first day of the strike was wet as well as being cold and dark which will have discouraged people from simply walking or getting on a bike. The trains and buses that day were rammed full of grumpy commuters trying to figure out how to get around disruption after the strike. The economists Ferdinand rouch. Sean Larkham and Tim Williams looked at data from London's electronic fare card system. Those fare cards work on the subway the buses else is and the overground trains to row and his colleagues identified. People had to change from their regular route during the strike. Most change back again when the strike was over of course many did not. They realized that there had been getting their own commute wrong. All their lives and all it took took to prompt them into finding a better way with two days of disruption so there are two reasons why an obstacle Michael might actually help us solve problem. I the ugly font effect. The strange unfamiliar reading threatening situation grabs your attention Incheon and holds it. Not Checking your phone. You don't daydreaming. You can't afford to miss a second. And then there's the tube strike affect the way a random random disruption forces you to try something totally new whether by forcing us to pay attention or by putting us to try something different. These obstacles can actually help us find better solutions to the problems we face but this is still look cautionary tale because it's a story of danger. The Danger Asia is that we shunned these obstacles. Avoid difficulties flee from problems in fact we might flourish from facing them. Head on Keith. Jared after all didn't celebrate the appearance of a bad piano on stage his largest ever concert rubbing his hands in glee at the opportunity to have his creativity supercharge. Try The challenge. Of course he didn't he walked away. Who wouldn't when faced with the unplayable piano? Uh We resist. We resist all sorts of obstacles but the most obvious example of this resistance comes when the obstacle is strange or unfamiliar person. There's a large body of research that suggests a diverse group of people. I mean people live different ages genders nationalities professions and political views. That diverse group of people is more likely to find solutions. Or make better judgments the group full of lookalikes. Everyone echoing everyone else. When pulling together a team our instinct is to go for quality the best people we can find perhaps instead we should be going for variety one analogy is different perspectives skills? Experiences like different tools in the toolbox walks a well-stocked toolbox is more useful than a case full of Hamas even if they're really good hammers but while we should be looking for a diverse group oop we tend to gravitate to the familiar friends rather than strangers people who look and sound like us who reflect our own views. make us feel Neil comfortable. We're hammers looking get cozy with other hammers and wrenches and screwdrivers and saws as awkward misfits. There's an elegant experiment that underlines this point conducted by the psychologists Katherine Philips Katie Lillian. Quist and Margaret Neil. They gave murder murder. Mystery problems to students. These problems consisted of dossiers of information with alibis and evidence witness statements and a choice of three possible suspects suspects so who committed the crime. The research is divided the group since two sets at random. In one set the murder mysteries this would be solved by four people who knew each other for friends in the other set the dossiers would be given to three friends and warm stranger for maximum. Awkwardness awkwardness. You can see where I'm going with this. Obviously I'm going to say that the groups with the stranger solve the problem more effectively which they did but the scale scale of the improvement may surprise you. The groups of friends did better than random gas between the three options but the groups with a stranger did much better yet. The success rate of seventy five percent in fact the groups with the stranger were as far ahead of the groups of friends as the groups of friends who are ahead of pure random guesswork. But what's really interesting is not just that the groups with the stranger made smarter decisions but how they felt about it when the scientists tastes interviewed the groups of four friends have nice time and they also thought that done a good job. They were complacent when they spoke to the three friends and the stranger. They hadn't hadn't enjoyed themselves and they were full of doubts about whether they're chosen the guilty man. I think that really exemplifies the challenge. Here's what seems like an obstacle is awkward stranger sitting in the group and spoiling. Everyone's phone but the obstacle is actually a secret weapon. The strange at dramatically improves the performance. The group yet the people in the group don't realize it. The same thing happened with Brian. Eno and his curious cards. The musicians dishes hated them. That concept surprise to e-e-e-e-no not earlier inner album that prince loved so much another Green World we know asked Phil Collins the superstar drama from Genesis to play instructions from the cards so infuriated Collins. He was which used curling beer cans across the studio in frustration. Faced with one piece of card inspired foolishness. The Guitarist Carlos Halama told. This experiment is stupid. The violinist Simon House commented the sessions often sounded terrible. Carlos did have a problem. I'm simply because he's very gifted and professional. He can't bring himself to play stuff. That sounds like crap. How do we persuade ourselves to engage with broken tools Impossible deadlines awkward people when really all we do is held back in dark rainy. Cologne in nineteen seventy five. Young Vera Brandis was in big trouble. An upper house US fall of paying customers an unplayable piano and an understandably reluctant Keith Jarrett. So she did the only thing she could. She ran off to jared found waiting in his car flung open the door and begged him not to cancel and Keith. Jarrett looking out at this rain-drenched in drenched teenage girl took pity on her. Never Forget Geoffrey Yu Keith. Jarrett would play after all while a tuna worked to straighten out some of the kinks. In the unplayable. Piano Vera Brandis took Jarrett and Manfred eicher to an Italian restaurant to get some food before the show. Jarrett Valley had time to bolt down a few mouthfuls of pastor before rushing back to the upper house to face the piano the instrument who is now in tune but still had some silent keys. Malfunctioning sustain pedal was harsh antennae in the register and of course not being full-sized is a concert grand. It was simply too quiet. If played in the conventional style it would never fill the vast auditorium with music but it was too late tobacco backout now utterly alone in front of fourteen hundred people Jarrett walked back out onto the stage of the Opera House. He sat down at the unplayable piano and began the minute he played the first night. Everybody knew This was something. Never forget I town. And everybody he was totally Jarrett was avoiding those tinny upper registers he was sticking to the middle tones ends of the keyboard which gave the pieces soothing ambient quality in his left hand produced rumbling repetitive Bass riffs as a way of covering up the piano's lack of resonance the music Caltrans like quality as a result. But jared couldn't simply relax into that easy listening zone because the tiny piano simply wasn't loud enough. He stood up twisting pounding down on the keys desperately trying to create enough volume to reach the people in the back row. Jared really had to play that piano very hard to get enough volume to get to the balconies. See Very pajau pushing the nuts down standing up sitting down moaning writhing Jarrett. Didn't hold back. In any way. As he pummelled the unplayable piano to produce use something unique. That night became legendary performance. That made Keith Jarrett's reputation. It wasn't the music that he ever imagined playing but handed an impossible. Mess Jarrett soared. I never before or after so anybody. So immersed in his music you could see it. He was absolutely there. That was how one member of the audience members it. It's just as Brian Eno said. And what makes you alert is to be faced with a situation that is beyond your control. Jarrett was having to play the piano in in a different style from a different storms remembering to avoid certain faulty keys and all in front of the largest audience hit ever faced. You can bet that he was alert and you can bet also that he was trying something new like a commuter dealing with transport strike who suddenly discovers a fresh way to the office Keith. Jarrett could have played the music. He played at Cologne on any piano but it was only when he was forced to deal with the limitations of a bad piano indicate to him to try usually. We don't try unless something forces us to. Maybe it's a subway. Oh boy strike. Maybe it's the turn of Oblique Strategies Card or maybe it's a guilt trip from a German teenager. The you might wonder why Keith Jarrett and Manfred eicher even bothers is to record the concert when they expected it to be an embarrassment. It's a fact question. Jarrett had told I to send the recording engineers home. What was the point but Ikea argued that since they were there they might as well press record on the tape machine? Jarrett's later admitted the logic. We know what we went through. We've we've paid for the sound guys to come here. So why don't we just let them record it and we'll have a tape of it that way. At least I hear would have documentary. Evidence of what a musical physical catastrophe sounds like but he didn't get a catastrophe. He got a masterpiece. The recording was released as the cone. Consett uh-huh it. It's the best selling piano album in history and the best selling solo jazz album to. There's something very special about it. My wife asked me to put the music musical while she was in labor. Not once but twice and it's so good that even after that rather painful association we both still love listening yet. It so nearly never happened if very BRANDICI hadn't begged if Keith Jarrett hadn't felt pity for that the dragon teenage go so he certainly would never have chosen to play on piano like that. Pharaoh Brando's wasn't credited on that blockbuster album she never got the penny of royalties and in a way. That's fair enough concert promoters artists and yet I have no doubt that the Colin concert it would never have been such a special piece of music without verandas and her unplayable piano. All of us from time to time have have to deal with our own unplayable pianos when that happens we need to sit down and try to play. You've been listening to cautionary tales if you like this this particular episode. I wrote a book about these ideas. It's cold messy. You might like it. Cautionary Tales is written and presented by me. Tim Harford our producers are Ryan Deli in Maryland. Rust the sound designer and mixer was Pascal wise who also composed the amazing music. This season stars Alan Cumming. Archie Punjabi Toby Stevens and Russell. Toby with end so Chiletti. Ed Galkin Melanie Gutteridge. Messiah Monroe Rufus Right and introducing Malcolm Bradwell. Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries. His Julia Barton had a fain meal. Lebel Carlini Yori Jacob Weisberg and of course the mighty Malcolm Dodwell. Thanks to my colleagues the Financial Times

Keith Jarrett Brian Eno Vera Brandis Geoffrey Yu Keith Jared David Bowie Cologne Manfred Eicher producer Tim Harford Vera Eno Jarrett Valley Pushkin Industries Cologne Opera House Oblique Strategies La Google Tim Harford Galvin