Notes & Thoughts

The science of winning at making art

I recently stumbled on the following quote from this book by the American journalist Derek Thompson. It is quite the mouthful, to say the least – naturally I was intrigued:

[The arts and entertainment sector is]… a complex, adaptive, semi-chaotic industry with Bose-Einstein distribution dynamics and Pareto power law characteristics with dual-sided uncertainty. 

A what now?

  • Complex: since everybody is constantly influencing everybody else, predicting the distant-future box office of a movie is like predicting the weather next year.
  • Adaptive: when something hits, others in the genre will copy it, which gives birth to new styles and trends, ie “adaptations.”
  • Semi-chaotic industry with Bose-Einstein distribution dynamics: apparently culture fans are weirdly similar to gas molecules in a jar – they spontaneously cluster (in our case, around artists and trends) in intricately varied ways that are impossible to predict ahead of time.
  • Pareto power law characteristics: success follows a power law distribution, with a lucky few achieving massively more success than everyone else.
  • Dual-sided uncertainty: creators don’t know what fans will want in two years, and fans don’t know what is coming out in two years, let alone what they will want to see at that time.

In short, the quest for recognition is a complex and brutal form of gambling.

Not exactly the stuff of candy-colored dreams, to be sure – but then again we’ve long known that show business is something other than lollipops and rainbows most of the time.

Notes & Thoughts

Bright and hot from beginning to end

The secret of James Patterson’s success:

Patterson’s breakout thriller, “Along Came a Spider” (1993), began as a full-length outline of the plot, and then essentially stayed that way. “When I went back to start the novel itself,” Patterson recounts, “I realized that I had already written it.”

The short chapters and one-sentence paragraphs that became his signature style, and that are often the object of critics’ scorn, struck him as the ideal way to keep the novel “bright and hot from beginning to end.”



Thread: Diaphany

I have been on and off of Twitter over the years but for whatever reason it’s never felt quite like a fit for me. Having recently killed my account yet again, I wanted to keep a copy of this thread that I thought had sort of come together…

Guitar Stylings

Latin: Malagueña

Malagueña, by Ernesto Lecuona, arrangement by Ben Woods

The guitar stylings project continues. This outing features Latin noodlings in a flamenco-inspired vein by the Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona. ¡Olé!, bitches.

Guitar Stylings

Slap bass: Phunkdified

Phunkdified, by Justin King

Welcome to my silly new project to record guitar pieces in as many different styles as possible. This first effort features “slap bass” played on the acoustic guitar. Take that, Seinfeld.


The Talent Code

I have been reading up on skill, learning and coaching lately and finding the exercise useful. As a little experiment, I’m posting the notes from my first read here. The book is interesting and I think its lessons summarize well. -N.

Guitar Stylings

Alexander Variations

Alexander Variations, by Nick Dinka

The simple theme this piece is based around came to me while I was sitting on the couch with my infant son Alexander, noodling on the guitar as I am wont to do.

It was inspired by his presence, somehow capturing the feeling he gave me in those early days. A little while later I cooked up the rest of the piece, which consists of nine brief sections, one for each of the months he spent growing in my wife Tina’s belly.

Each section is also inspired by some phase in my own musical development over the years, with references to Eddie Van Halen, Neil Young and the violinist Niccolo Paganini, among others. Hope you enjoy!