Interviews - Kristen Korb
In a recent interview with Kristen Korb, we discussed the world of Web development and Jazz and began to notice a number of similarities.
Both acts require trust in yourself and in your group. It requires clear communication. We also noticed how hypertext and improvisation work much in the same way as ideas are generated in a non-linear fashion, where interest determines the path you take.Clyde Boyer: How do you get your best ideas for music?
Kristen Korb: I steal.
CB: How do you mean steal?
KK: It's just part of the process. You steal from good people, from those around you, from things you hear as you walk down the street.
CB: But, you're not talking about plagiarizing.
KK: Oh, no. Plagiarizing is about taking someone's work and calling it your own. What I'm talking about is taking someone's work and making it your own.
There are no new stories in the world. But, there are an infinite number of ways to tell those stories. You just have to discover your own voice.
CB: Can you explain the process? Plagiarizing and copyright are major issues with students who participate in ThinkQuest. A student's success depends on their original ideas and content.
KK: Listening is such an important part of creativity. Just paying attention to life around you is important. If you want to swing...listen to Jazz. If you want paint...study the world around you, study how light plays off objects, study color.
When you want to get ideas, listen to what interests you. Just start with a germ of an idea. That idea can be a certain riff you hear, or the way someone sings a note. And, then you react off that note or idea and generate ideas of your own.
But, it's important to remember this is only an exercise you go through to learn. It's part of the learning process, not the final product.
CB: This could be a valuable learning process for students who want to create their own Web project. We talked a little about taking virtual field trips, looking at other people's work for inspiration. But, how do you take that inspiration to the next level?
KK: I had a music instructor who called it "making haste slowly". Start with what you know, even if that means only three notes, and move forward. Push your ideas, push beyond what you think you can do.
In my improvisation class, I start with a short riff and then have my students go around the room and play off that original riff. Each student is supposed to pick up an idea from the preceding student.
Well, I had one student who was a great technician and he intimidated the next student in line. "How can I follow that?"
I told him to relax and take just one note he had heard. Forget about how fast it was played or how good it sounded, just take one note and make it your own. The kid came through. All he needed was a point of reference for confidence.
CB: That's good advice for student's who are just starting out with creating their own project. I know how some of them feel. You see a Web site and think "how can I follow that?" The thing is you don't have to follow that. Take what you know and build upon it.
KK: And trust your own instinct. Trust you will know where to go. Once, I was working on a passage in a song and no matter how hard I tried, I kept messing up. I told my music instructor, "I can't play this passage right.'"
He told me, "Okay, play it wrong"
So, I played it again and I couldn't play it wrong to save my life. The thing is, I had given myself permission to fail. I wasn't worried about how I sounded, I just played. That's part of trusting your own instinct.
I'm giving you mind games to play with yourself here.
CB: Trust is an important part of improvisation, isn't it?
KK: Improvisation is a conversation. "Hey, how are you doing?" "Fine, how are you?" It's a form of communication. And, like any conversation, it's important you know and trust who you're talking to.
I mean, you don't just want to go blabbing to anyone on the street. You can, but you're going to get some funny looks.
If I'm playing with other musicians, it's so important to know them on a personal level. I recently took a road trip with some musicians I didn't know that well.
On the trip, we talked about family, about growing up, about the foods we liked. By the time we got to our gig, we were enjoying each other's company so much, we just took that conversation on stage with us as we performed. All of a sudden, all of this wonderful stuff started coming out.
Most of these students in ThinkQuest have never worked together before, have they?
CB: No. Many of them have never even seen each other.
KK: Then it's even more important they get to know each other before they begin creating together. Try ice breaker questions. Things like "what's the craziest thing you've ever done?" or "you wouldn't know by looking at my picture, but...".
Groups are successful when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It's something magical. When you're on the right team, when you trust, you find that you can rise above yourself. You're really listening, you're really taking everything in. You're no longer thinking just about yourself.
CB: Any last advice for our students?
KK: Try thinking outside the box. Just because you might use other's work as a springboard for improvisation, that doesn't mean you should be confined by what others have done.
Start simply, and then keep pushing. Remember. It all starts with just one note.
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