I know a woman who "feels" words. To her, some words are ugly to the point of discomfort. Others are beautiful. Not coincidentally, she is verbally gifted. It made me wonder if genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience.

For example, most people feel something when they listen to music. But I suspect gifted musicians feel it in an entirely different way than I do. I could never memorize all the notes in a song because for me it would be an exercise in rote memorization. For someone gifted in music, memorizing a song is easier because such a person would remember how each part felt. Feelings create memories more easily than intellectual experiences. The stronger the feeling, the easier the memory.

Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. Think about the field in which you excel the most, then ask yourself if you operate by feel more in that area than in others.

I was thinking of this the other day when I heard a new song by Kanye West, called Love Lockdown. I have never been a big fan of his music. I thought he was a bit of a manufactured celebrity. That changed when I heard this song, after I confirmed that he wrote it. The performance itself is brilliant in about five different ways. I especially like the heartbeat-beat. Perhaps he had help with the music and performance parts of the song. But the words: Genius.

Now I realize I am going to get lots of howls about this post. If you don't like this genre of music, fine. But try to suspend that for a minute to listen to the song then look at the lyrics, in that order. (Links below.)

The genius of the lyrics is how they feel as words themselves, second as a flow, and third for their meaning. In my opinion, this is the work of genius.





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Nov 9, 2008
GENIUS- I had to actually log in for the first time to mock your concept genius. You need to branch out, if you are looking for lyrical genius try Tom Waits, Ani Difranco, David Byrne....

Here is my mockery- THIS is genius. It might be comic genius but it is in the form of music.

Weird Al
White & Nerdy Lyrics

They see me mowin' my front lawn
I know they're all thinkin' I'm so
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Can't you see I'm white and nerdy
Look at me I'm white and nerdy

I wanna roll with the gangstas
But so far they all think I'm too
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
I'm just too white and nerdy
Really, really white and nerdy

First in my class here at MIT
Got skills, I'm a champion at D&D
M.C. Escher, that's my favorite M.C.
Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea
My rims never spin, to the contrary
You'll find that they're quite stationary
All of my action figures are Cherry
Stephen Hawking's in my library

My MySpace page is all totally pimped out
Got people beggin' for my top eight spaces
Yo, I know pi to a thousand places
Ain't got no grills but I still wear braces
I order all of my sandwiches with mayonnaise
I'm a wiz at Minesweeper, I could play for days
Once you've see my sweet moves, you're gonna stay amazed
My fingers movin' so fast I'll set the place ablaze

There's no killer app I haven't run (run)
At Pascal, well I'm number one (one)
Do vector calculus just for fun
I ain't got a gat, but I got a soddering gun (what?)
Happy Days is my favorite theme song
I could sure kick your butt in a game of ping pong
I'll ace any trivia quiz you bring on
I'm fluent in JavaScript as well as Klingon

Here's the part I sing on...

You see me roll on my segway I know in my heart they think I'm
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Can't you see I'm white and nerdy
Look at me I'm white and nerdy

I'd like to roll with the gangstas
Although it's apparent I'm too
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
I'm just too white and nerdy
How'd I get so white and nerdy

I been browsin', inspectin' X-Men comics
You know I collect 'em
The pens in my pocket, I must protect them
My ergonomic keyboard never leaves me bored
Shoppin' online for deals on some writable media
I edit Wikipedia
I memorized Holy Grail really well
I can recite it right now and have you R-O-T-F-L-O-L

I got a business doing websites (websites)
When my friends need some code, who do they call?
I do HTML for 'em all
Even made a homepage for my dog, yo
I got myself a fanny pack
They were havin' a sale down at The Gap
Spend my nights with a roll of bubble wrap
Pop, pop - hope no one sees me gettin' freaky

I'm nerdy in the extreme
whiter than sour cream
I was in AV club and glee club
And even the chess team
Only question I ever thought was hard
Was "Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?"
Spend every weekend at the Renaissance Fair
Got my name on my underwear

They see me strollin', they're laughin'
And rollin' their eyes cause I'm so
White and nerdy

Just because I'm white and nerdy
Just because I'm white and nerdy
All because I'm white and nerdy
Holy cow, I'm white and nerdy

I wanna bowl with the gangstas
But oh well, it's obvious I'm
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
I'm just too white and nerdy
Look at me I'm white and nerdy
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 9, 2008
If you like that, you would love this. Some of the Def Poets are amazing. I really can't praise them enough.

If you want to discuss literary prowess and lyrical ability, these are some of the most talented people I've ever seen. I have to agree with you about the definition of genius within a specific field. However, I have something to add. I've found that feeling isn't enough. It has to be made personal. It has to be one's own. It has to be original. Originality isn't only what is new, but can be that which is old done in a new way. You've posted upon this before. Here is one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite Def Poets, Mayda Del Valle.

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Nov 9, 2008
Scott, you owe me 4 minutes 31 seconds.

Pink Floyd, Mozart, Pavarotti, The beatles, i would associate the word genious with.

Kanye West.........I've heard more meaningful ring tones.

( I assure you my next reply will be a positive one, I hope)
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 9, 2008
Scott, something the comments reveal is that there are not only "multiple intelligences" but also "multiple criteria for intelligence". Even the folks who take a musical approach to telling you why Kanye is not a genius do not recognize the parts that are genius. Instead, they put him in a different context where their criticisms would work better (ie. 17th century Western Europe).

If people are searching for his genius in this song, they should look at the fusion of blues, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues. Take special note to the variations in the drums and the use of a vocoder over a decidedly rustic, southern melody.

Back to your friend, she may be a wonderful poet, but not a good journalist. It would be unfair of me to criticize her as a journalist. Different geniuses need different measuring sticks.
Nov 9, 2008
Scott, I`m a singer and musician, and I find nothing about this song that smacks of genius. The lyrics are about right for a teenager, and the music is repetitive, simplistic, and lacking in interesting harmony. I bet the artist makes a lot of money, though.

There`s a great story about George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel. When they met, Gershwin asked Ravel to give him lessons in composition. Ravel reportedly asked Gershwin how much money he made. Gershwin told him (quite a lot), and Ravel replied "It is you who should give me lessons".

Quality and popularity (which, of course, accounts for the ability of pop musicians to make money), have little to do with one another.

P.S. Even so, I like Gershwin (and Ravel). The writer of this song doesn`t come close to either of them...
Nov 9, 2008
Musical and story telling genius: http://www.drhorrible.com/mushortio.html
Nov 9, 2008
Speaking of sensing abstract data (words/numbers) consider that there is a guy from the UK who 'sees' numbers. The BrainMan guy, should be pretty easy to look up. He memorized pi to 26,000 digits. He has a lot of abilities and claims that he is able to visualize numbers.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 8, 2008
Tune okay, but can't compare to the lyrics, which transported me back in time to scribblings of my 7th-grade diary.
Nov 8, 2008
If you're serious about that synaesthesia stuff there's a book called "Musicophilia" by the a chap more interested in the neurology behind it, but it's a great collection of odd stories. I recommend it.

It pays not to forget that not only are there stories of people with "colour" sounds, "feeling" sounds, etc., but people who go completely tone deaf overnight, or lose the ability to listen to anything other than monophonic tunes (their brains can't process multiple sources of sound to combine it into the nice musicy stuff we hear) without throwing up.

I didn't click the link at all, so can't comment on the song... as soon as I read up to "most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another", I KNEW you were just trying to flatter us into something!

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 8, 2008
I'm assuming you would know what synaesthesia is Mr Adams, as that is what I thought this post was going to be about.

I think that working "by feel" is a different, although valid, phenomenon. I would hesitate to say that I am gifted, although I know I have scores that places me in the top few % for mathematics... and yes, when I am solve a maths problem, I often think of the solution, and then have to spend another 10 seconds working out *why* it is the solution. Effectively catching up with my own brain,

As for synaesthesia, I am not sure that synaesthetes are more gifted in their chosen area in general (as your first paragraph would suggest). However, there are certainly synaesthetes who are examples of genius in their fields.
Nov 8, 2008
Different strokes for different folks. I'm always amazed by people thinking that if they don't like something, someone else's liking it is somehow wrong. No matter the piece of music, somebody somewhere is not going to like it. We are born with varying hardware, and the software is affected by our early experiences (Levitin - "This Is Your Brain On Music"). So what appeals to us is going to vary from individual to individual.

Something else the Levitin book gets at is that making music lights up a lot of different parts of the brain, and many things flow from that. One is that in memorizing something, it's not just a string of words, but rhythms, pitch sequences, associated feelings, muscle memory, the harmonic progression, mental associations and on and on.

Also, Jung used the four categories of thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation in talking about the mind. We all have a different mix. So it might be, for example, "that genius intuition".
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 8, 2008
I'm not very good at remembering music. I prefer to make it up as I go along. Some of the tunes I hum are as good as anything I hear. This is not genius. Writing them down would be genius. (Jean-Paul Sartre) But I'm too lazy to learn to write music and I'm even too lazy to finish anything longer than a song. So no symphonies for you. I stop humming when people come within hearing distance. There's plenty more like me under bushels everywhere.
Nov 8, 2008
As a music critic you make a good cartoonist.
Nov 8, 2008
Clearly genius is in the eye of the beholder, and Scott's eyes are vastly different from mine. Or he's trying some of his hypnosis crap.
Nov 8, 2008
Scott, are you trying to hypnotize us into agreeing that this pile of c**p is a work of genius?
If so I applaud it as a noble experiment. Well done.
Nov 8, 2008
I don't know why some people can't appreciate this song. I've been listening to West for a while now and he definitely is a genius. This isn't my favorite of his songs, but the way it is orchestrated is really amazing.
Nov 8, 2008
Scott, this is very exciting. I hope you write more about feelings and words. It could be that you are absorbing poetry in a way you have not previously absorbed poetry. (difficult to separate poetry from music).

I would like to suggest an exercise. Find a copy of Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Read it and record your reaction.

Now, consider that the narrator is a middle-aged man ruing his situation in life and a love never consummated. Read. Record.

Consider the narrator is a gay man who cannot come out of the closet. Read. Record.

Finally, consider Eliot attempted to modernize Dante's La Vita Nuova, that the "you" of "let us go then you and I" refers to a manifestation of the Love, the Lord and prop used by Dante in La Vita Nuova. Read. Record.

I hope you try this. I would love to know the results.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 7, 2008
Kanye has some far better songs out there. I hope you get to explore them, now that you've discovered his gift!
Nov 7, 2008
Synesthesia can have some even weirder effects:

Nov 7, 2008
@ rspakega:

That is precisely why I love my mp3 player so much. I am not "blocking out my thinking process." I am enhancing it. Music inspires me, motivates me and elevates my mood.

I like my mind too. I play with it a lot too. Specifically, while I'm listening to music.

When I put a new song going, the feeling can be indescribable. I can write/view long passages and scenes when fueled by new material. After a while, the music gets "worn out" and I either remove it and forget it or perhaps come back to it a few years later, when it's "fresh" and inspiring again. But music is more to me than just something to block out the world-it's another whole world in and of itself. The key to accessing different parts of it is playing the correct music for where you want to go.
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