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 7, 2008
This is a standard, formulaic blog entry which I think has specifically aberrant intentions.
I'm certain that you don't actually think the song is genius. I do think, however, that by introducing the blog with an allegorical reference to a legitimate phenomenon, you open the door for it's application, but with a twist of cognitive dissonance because it makes for a better experiment.
Again, I'm certain you don't think the song is genius. I think you chose this song to call genius to see how many people you could get to like it because of your recommendation, imagery and story. I think you chose this song because it's specifically a wretched spectacle of talentless, cacophonous hackery that only the most unrefined ears could find tolerable, let alone enjoyable.
Your readers, I included, trust you and your opinion. You are an intelligent and well-reasoned individual who takes time to think through ideas and even more time to associate those thoughts with seemingly unrelated tangents. I think that's the basis for your experiment here to see how receptive your flock would be to a recommendation from a trusted source that would otherwise be dismissed as a the mindless ramblings of a manufactured celebrity. I suspect you want readers to, essentially, convince themselves it's a good song because you said so, even though they would have absolutely no reason to believe it on their own.

Please tell me this is the case. Obviously, I'm reasonable enough to not go off on a "how dare you disappoint me in this fashion - I shall never read your comic again!" rant, but I'd be hesitant to trust your musical tastes in the future. That is all.

Take care,

Nov 7, 2008
I really tried.

Boring. I couldn't force myself to listen to the end. Dull repetitive and depressing.

I read the lyrics and found them not particularly interesting.

Poor little millionaire misses girlfriend. Oh my god, what a tragedy.

This mild rant is from someone who has never owned a personal walk around music system and can't figure out why you would voluntarily block out your thinking process with noise/music.
I like my mind, I play with it a lot.
Nov 7, 2008
I think the phenomenon you're describing in the first half of the post is a condition called synesthesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia). I'm not aware that it's correlated with intelligence in any systematic way. 60 Minutes had a very good segment on it !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$
Nov 7, 2008
The music is bloody awful, it vibrates in my belly and makes me feel like throwing up; still, I see what you mean about the words flowing in a certain way, and the vocals.

I'm not listening to it again, though.
Nov 7, 2008
That song sucks.
Nov 7, 2008
I think you may actually be over-thinking it.

It's improper to think of music just as a logical system, or some kind of magical power; it's more akin to a language. Pieces of music are less of a logical exercise and more a form of self expression (including the music aspect, not just the lyrics). Just like with other languages, some people are better at expressing themselves with it than others, and some people are better able to perceive what is being said. Just as some people can express themselves clearly and articulately, some musicians are able to very easily betray certain feelings to certain people non-verbally. But, lets be honest, sometimes people just say stupid things. Music is no exception.

And, just like other languages, there are dialects. When someone who was weaned on country music hears a piece like John Zorns' "Astronome," the only sentiments that get across are shattered and chaotic. Whereas for someone who has a background in (or 'speaks') avant-garde, it sounds like an absolute masterpiece.

Of course there are savants in the world, but I think they're unique outliers. The only thing that separates "gifted" musicians from the average shlub, other than technical ability, is a learned ability to listen and express themselves; to approach a piece of music with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. As a musician myself, I can testify that if the average person would just pick up and instrument and seriously commit to lessons, even a slight increase in their musical vocabulary would have beneficial effects in their life. At least it would make the Top 40 charts more bearable.
Nov 7, 2008
Speaking of geniuses, I ran across this wiki entry about "America's smartest man."
Fascinating story, he seems to be outside the typical "genius" mold (if true, he could bench more than most pro football players). And has some interesting views on God and evolution and souls.


Nov 7, 2008
I see nothing deep
it's putting me to sleep
Scott seems to want to keep
Using hypnosis

Nov 7, 2008
hm. I'm not hearing genius in any of it; performance, music, production, voice, or lyrics. Perhaps I am missing something?

Or, perhaps...

Dance. Monkey. Dance.
Nov 7, 2008
Boy, were you right. Lots of howls and noses turned up at this one, but I think you nailed it. I had heard the song in passing but never actually listened to it and after doing so, then reading the lyrics, I was impressed. Thank you for sharing--it just so happened that it really applied to something going on with me right now and struck a chord.
Nov 7, 2008
I am in agreement with Scott about this Kanye song. It lives in a rare echelon of musical achievement that few will ever hope to achieve. Here's a link to another song that shares a special place in my heart, right next to the magnificent achievement of music excellence by Kanye West. Here's the link:


Listen to it and hate yourself for not understanding art in its highest form.
Nov 7, 2008
Nice song in a retro '80s sort of way. Don't get the genius part though. You must be having personal problems. Most pop songs deal with a specific situation, and this one is no different. For much less trivial music - and, in particular, less trivial lyrics describing a different situation, check John Lennon's "In my life":

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever, not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places had their moments,
With lovers and friends I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life I've loved them all.
But of all these friends and lovers,
There is no one compared with you,
And these mem'ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.
In my life I love you more.

Now, when you want to talk about genius and lyrical flow, try Hank Williams ...

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

I never seen a night so long
When time goes crawlin’ by
The moon jest went behind a cloud
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

Did you ever see a robin weep
When loved ones begin to die
That means he lost the one he loved
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

The silence of a fallin’ star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could die.

But if you want the terse, pithy work of genius, revisit t s eliot ...

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.

Me? I'm happy with this, inspired by Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha":

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside;
He to get the cold side outside
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

Nov 7, 2008
I can sometimes experience music as colorful (more often as very emotionally charged) and numbers as shapes. I heard a song on the radio the other day. It was beautiful. I'd like to find it again, but unfortunately I only remember that it was magenta with silver sparklies... Most songs feel emotional. Many describe complicated scenes, so listening to music is like watching a movie for me.

And some numbers are some cool shapes. 9 is a pyramid. 16 is a complex diamondy shape. 8 is squareish.
Nov 7, 2008
lyrics are amazing, genius...
the whole package is strictly ok i thought
Nov 7, 2008
That could be. I seem to "feel" ("taste"?) individual liberty more than most. I have attributed it to having an "instinct for liberty". It is almost unthinkable to me that some people don't understand freedom that way I do, but it is obviously true that many don't.
Nov 7, 2008
Earlier this year I would have said, "I don't know what my gifts for," but the more I thought about it the more I discovered them. I found that I am very good at writing and with language. I am not verbally gifted at all, but in writing I really seem to shine. I just have a good "sense" for what words to use in what situations. For instance, when my friends in college need their papers proof-read I like to go over them and say, "THIS word invokes a different sense than this word, try using it..." I guess my gift if knowing what language to use to invoke certain emotions in people. I love writing but I don't plan on making a career out of it - the problem with writing is along with the skill, you need an idea that's worth making into a book, which I do not have.

We all have faults as well, though. For instance, I am partially face-blind. I can recognize people when I see them, but I can't see their face in my mind when I try to remember them. I see my father every day, but I don't know what his face looks like as I'm typing this. There's some sort of disconnect between the part of my brain that stores faces and the part that retrieves them. It doesn't matter how many times I see someone, I can't remember what they look like. But when I see them I recognize them. And it's only faces. I can see everything else about them, their clothes, their hair, but where their face is is a gray, fuzzy space. There are many peopel who have it worse, where they can't recognize someone OR picture them, so all things considered I got lucky.
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Nov 7, 2008
You make interesting points there, and being a singer and musician myself I feel you hit the nail on the head, as usual.

The thing with music though -- whether percieved through emotion or intellect --- is sort of bound to be subjective. For some inexplicable reason you seem to hear poetry here, while I hear badly produced clichés accompanying a tune that I would describe as mediocre, at best.

Initially I was sure you were joking when bringing up Kanye West. Admittedly I hadn't heard this particular song, so I gave it a shot on your recommendation, thinking even fools strike gold sometimes. I both listened without trying to anaylize and read the lyrics carefully after, and I'm afraid to me it comes across as manure in absolutely all areas. It's a dime-a-dozen production, and I really don't think you'd get many musicians to agree with you that the word "genius" should be used in any proximity to Kanye West, especially this song. The video was very fascinating though, visually.
Nov 7, 2008
I am not gifted in any way. Not any way that I know of, at any rate. I'm mildly competent at most tasks (excepting those, of course, that require intense training I haven't had), but not *good* at any one thing in particular. It has made choosing a career path quite challenging and discouraging, because there's simply no obvious direction for a person like me. I'm kind of feeling doomed to mediocrity, lately.

As for your theory, sure - why not? The thing about genius is that I believe, even hope, that it will always be a little bit beyond our capacity to understand.
Nov 7, 2008
I'm a developer/analyst/all-around techie, but what I'm good at (in general) is pattern-recognition: seeing how one thing relates to others, and how they form patterns, and how those patterns form patterns, etc. A program is, basically, a pattern of steps to take an input and create an output;

People have often asked me how I do this, and I can't answer in a way that satisfies me, but it's similar to the "feeling" concept. To me, any problem/situation/challenge is "felt" in the same way you "feel" someone looking at you from across the way, or how you are aware of a large object near you in a pitch-black room. I solve them by (sort of) spinning them around and "tugging" at that feeling to know its shape (for a lack of a better term), and then I match that to other shapes I've encountered in the past for similarities/differences/etc.

I know other people - lawyers, doctors, musicians - who often go off of similar kinds of "feelings" to lead them to their solutions. I'm not talking about intuition; this has to do with how someone actually perceives a sitaution rather than how they arrive at the solution. I think it may have to do with using more of your brain to work on the issue than normal, so "senses" can get mixed up/crossed in the process (for example, neurons normally used in physical sensation may take part in a mental process, and so you get a vague sense of "feeling something even though there's no physical stimuation - just a thought, but it's possible).
Nov 7, 2008
I also thought of Synesthesia (which literally means “joined sensation”) when reading this post. I have read about people who see colors with sounds.

There are all kinds of ways to "feel" music.
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