Back in May of this year, I had the honor and privilege of taking part in UX for Good in New Orleans. Here is the video documenting that experience:
UX for Good – New Orleans 2012 from UX for Good on Vimeo.
In New Orleans, music can easily be mistaken for a natural resource. It seems to emanate from every cobblestone and corner bar. But every note of every song is a product of human beings, many of whom are living in a system that is increasingly inhumane. At the second annual UX for Good event, user-experience designers from across the country convened in New Orleans, where they applied their unique brand of unrelenting empathy to the problems musicians face in their everyday lives. By the end of the event, the team of designers had devised three original ways to connect New Orleans musicians with the prosperity they deserve. Read more about what they came up with at ux4good.com.
I have been making music as a writer, composer, producer, and performer since my teenage years, so I am well aware of the power of just three chords. Songwriter Harlan Howard once said “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.” Just substitue “country” with “punk,” or a myriad of other popular music genres, and you get the point.
Colby and I visited Harvard, our alma mater, this weekend. I noticed and photographed the inscription on the music department building, which reads “to charm / to strengthen / and to teach / these are the 3 chords of might.” Although I have taken classes in the building before, I had only just noticed this inscription for the first time, perhaps because I was accustomed to entering and exiting from the opposite side of the building from the inscription. I later learned that this quote comes from a poem called “The Singers” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The quotation really struck me because I have been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of my life and work and how I synthesize and integrate the various streams of my interests and experiences as a musician, social innovator, and as an educator.
Longfellow offers a succinct and poetic framework that helps me sum up what I do:
To charm: I bring delight and inspiration to others through creativity.
To strengthen: I support the work of changemakers and social entrepreneurs, helping them articulate and communicate their ideas in a more effective and powerful way.
To teach: From my first post-college job on the JET Programme to teaching in the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at SVA next year, as well as my work at Purpose, whether I have been a “teacher” or a “consultant,” I find my greater calling to be that of fostering learning and critical inquiry, not just to “empower” others, a rather well-worn term, but to inspire in others a greater sense of the possible. Teaching also helps me to perpetually learn more.
This track is like Monteverdi meets Massive Attack. Opera meets trip hop and makes a hot atmospheric mess. This is my first foray in recording vocals in Italian.
E che volete voi che mi conforte
In così dura sorte,
In così gran martire?
Let me die,
Let me die;
And what you would think could comfort me
In such a harsh fate,
In such a great martyrdom?
Let me die.