Monthly Archives: November 2014


On connecting with fans, I’ve noticed, through my own mistakes, that the Twitter/Facebook effect can work against an artist. Here’s what I mean by that:
My favourite local band posts an event/show on their page, maybe I even get an invitation. I’m not sure if I’m available, so I click ‘Maybe’… THE END.

Why? Because it wasn’t a real interaction, it was entertainment. That’s what the TwitBooks do – turn your friends into your personal entertainers. In a typical real-space ad campaign, you hope for a 15:1 or maybe 10:1 turnover ratio of impressions-turned-customers. On Facebook/Twitter, I think it’s closer to 50:1.

I’ve tried the route of just using digital promotion for my albums & shows. It’s really tempting, easy, oh sooo cheap. But why won’t people buy my recordings and come to shows? I’ve got tonnes of FB likes & “impressions”, Twitter favs, re-shares, and 100 people clicked the ‘Join’ button on the FB event… what happened? Why won’t virtual people cross-over into the real world?


I’m Kevin Flynn trying to get virtual people from Tron CIty to a real show in meat-space.

“The Grateful Dead toured constantly throughout their career, playing more than 2,300 concerts. They promoted a sense of community among their fans, who became known as Deadheads, many of whom followed their tours for months or years on end. In their early career, the band also dedicated their time and talents to their community, the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, making available free food, lodging, music and health care to all comers; they were the “first among equals in giving unselfishly of themselves to hippie culture, performing ‘more free concerts than any band in the history of music’.”

(from Wikipedia;

What the artist formerly AND currently known as Samuel J Lawson needs is more Grateful Dead real-world social marketing and community building strategies. This is where my local groups to which I belong, the Indianapolis Society of the Classical Guitar, Scottish Society of Indianapolis, the Indiana Freemasons, and my local churches beat Facebook and Twitter with real-world interaction. Spotify and iTunes do not do that. I don’t think that one can use a virtual tool to make a real community like the Dead did, though the new tools can’t be ignored either. I’m hopeful for CDBaby and Amazon’s CreateSpace. They have something that iTunes and Spotify don’t have: conversion to a physical product… and not only that, but the highest per-album compensation for sales in the current industry.

I wonder if every successful career that isn’t churned out of the Sony/BMG/TW/Disney music mill depends more on finding one’s particular version of Haight-Ashbury than maintaining Twitter, Facebook, and iTunes.

Mind Like Water

“In karate, there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact. 

The power in a karate punch comes from speed, not muscle; it comes from a focused “pop” at the end of the whip. It’s why petite people can learn to break boards and bricks with their hands: it doesn’t take calluses or brute strength, just the ability to generate a focused thrust with speed. But a tense muscle is a slow one. So the high levels of training in the martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation as much as anything else. Clearing the mind and being flexible are key.

Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your email, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water.”

-David Allen, “Getting Things Done”

Whatever your discipline, whether music, martial arts, or maths, if you can reduce it – in practice – to applying the Mind Like Water principle, you have achieved part of what Zen masters talk about when they say “From one thing, know ten thousand things.”

“The Natural Classical Guitar” by Lee F. Ryan is an important piece of my music pedagogy library, as well as “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner, and “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo. None of these books are Method books, but what they teach is to put exactly the right effort at the right place for the the desired outcome. It’s within this context that I also sometimes reference Aikido in lessons, because it’s primarily focussed on the management of physical and mental, even spiritual energies. In music, too much force results in a poorly executed note, too much tension results in plodding, uneven rhythm, too much energy results in playing too fast and making sloppy mistakes, too much focus on one section of music can cause one to forget about other parts.

It is the principle of least effort.

One exercise that I use to teach this is to instruct a student to play a scale on the guitar. It can be any scale, C major, E minor pentatonic, or just a chromatic scale. Here’s the important part – I tell them to *Intentionally* Buzz every note, i.e. to press the string to the fret with just barely enough pressure to sound the note, but not enough pressure to sound it clearly. The result is a slight ‘buzz’ or fuzziness to the sound. Every student I’ve ever taught has trouble with this at first – they want to squeeze the guitar neck. But by learning to Buzz the notes, they learn to play with the least possible effort. After successfully buzzing each note in a scale, I then tell the student to play it again and add 1 oz of extra pressure to pinch the string to the fret. The result is a beautiful, clean tone, and usually much smoother playing of the scale because they don’t have to release all that excess tension when moving to the next note.This is the same principle as the Kung Fu master who hits with the exact force necessary, never wasting energy on excess force, or the mathematician who learns to balance focus on formulae with taking mental breaks to allow the mind a moment’s recess from contemplation.


There is no such thing as ‘Theology’ in practice. No-one studies God. What does exist is the study of peoples’ understanding of their gods.
It is possible to maintain a position whereby one believes one is studying God. For this to be true, the scholar must have something representative of the deity that is the subject of study. In Christian seminaries, this is the Bible. The Christian Bible is not just a book, according to a certain majority, but is the actual, living embodiment of the Word of God. The line separating scripture from the actual Godhead is very blurry: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (English Revised Version)
This is a most fascinating bit of text whose meaning remains one of the great mysteries of Christianity to this day.
The odd thing is that, in most seminaries, Biblical origins is a required subject wherein it is taught that Christian scripture has been authored by many people. The student learns that God did not write the Bible, but that its authoritativeness is born out of the assumption that the authors were inspired by God.
The implications of that word, ‘inspired’ is, in all fairness debatable. Paul, the author of sixteen letters included in the Christian New Testament, wrote one particular verse on scriptural origins that is hermeneutically problematical.
(New International Version): “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness . . .”
This is where some people make the claim that the Bible is the direct, inerrant, capital-‘W’ WORD of GOD.
But, it wasn’t always so:
King James Ver: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .”
Not so cut-and-dried, eh? This precedes the NIV by several hundred years.
It gets even better. As modern language scholars dig in to the text it becomes:
“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching . . .” American Standard Version,
It isn’t difficult to see the subtle shift in meaning possible in this translation: only scripture that is inspired of God is profitable,
from which it can apparently be understood that, not only is scripture merely inspired (not penned) by God, not all scripture is even given the distinction of having been inspired. I think this is stretching it a little further than necessary. Doubtless, these men and women who wrote the letters and histories that became holy-writ, were inspired by their devotion to God. Doubtless, they wrote what they through their experiences – sometimes direct experiences, knew about the Creator.
Here is what I am convinced of:
The Bible as we know it is invaluable as a Rule and Guide of Faith to all Christians whether they believe in scriptural infallibility or not. Yes, it is the centrepiece of my faith.
The authors were keenly aware of the immanent presence of the Supreme Architect, and many had direct, shamanistic experiences with deity.
The authors’ awareness of the divine produced an implacable desire to record their experiences and the wisdom gained thereby.
The authors were humans and therefore subject to human deficiencies.
The Word of God is never-ending and is not trapped in 66 books.
The same applies to scripture of all religions.
The Bible is not God, but it is the record of humankind’s relationship with and struggle to understand God and the cosmos, therefore:
a study of sacred text is not a study of the deity referenced within the text, but rather it is a study of the people who wrote the text and their understanding of God – i.e.: Theophilosophy.