Monday, August 9, 2010

Ukulele: Play, Create, Share

(To be clear, "Play, Create, Share" is the tagline from Sony and Media Molecule's game, LittleBigPlant.)

I had finished most of the book--all the research, and all the body chapters were roughly at first draft stage. It was off at some publishers, so I decided.... needed, to take a break from it before the final push to make the intro better, tie together the loose sections at the end, and write up the conclusion. So, I decided to take up the ukulele and learn how to play it. (Ukes are cool, check out the vids in this post.)

The ukulele is a decidedly non-electronic, non-Internet beast. It is real, and tangible, in your hands, as are the calluses you might get. It has no built-in spellchecker, but you can hear when you hit a wrong note, which is curious and encouraging.

My cousin, who plays in a Uke band, made me a song book with chording tabs--these show you where your fingers go on the strings in order to play a certain chord (a combination of notes). The tabs are from the Internet. I email her, a friend, and my uncle, who was in a real band for many years, about playing stringed instruments. (I also have a few other relatives I can email about these things, but focus on the Internettedness of it all.)

There are tons of YouTube videos with people playing ukulele. They just do it. (My point is that we are driven, psychologically, to play with things like musical instruments, to create things like videos, and to share them -- all of the activities create and reinforce community, because we are driven to connect.)

Note this one of this kid, which has almost 24 million views in under a year. (1:18 ftw!)

There are also thousands of tablatures online, for a variety of instruments (although I mostly pay attention to uke and guitar tabs). People have made these, put them together, and put them up to share with others so that others can play too. (One frequent note on them is a rather weak write up defending the tab in terms of US fair use, which could be written a lot better.) Here's one with all of the songs by The Smiths (and it uses the same layout as this blog). (Hmm I had one for the Beatles which was kinda cheesy but did the job, but I don't see it now. Oh here it is, click through to a song hosted on the site and you'll see what I mean.) You can tune your uke online.

There are also groups, of course, a.k.a. online communities, like the Ukulele Underground, who host discussion boards and have instructional (and awesome) videos: ukulele lessons, ukulele minutes, and member videos. Yes, member videos, made by people and posted to the site.


It doesn't matter if it's video games and mods, it doesn't matter if it's a more physical and just as visceral object like a ukulele, it's what we do, and the Internet allows us to express this playfulness, this creativity, and allows us to share these things we love to do, since everyone loves to do them. (I'll point you to Stuart Brown's Play if you don't believe me, and you can check out the NPR/SOF show where he was interviewed.)

And, as I said before, and as Brown points out (in the book at least), these are all community creating and reinforcing behaviors. I could also talk a bit about the visceral, long-time importance of dance and how our mental structures which relate to dance are connected to the ones that relate to music, but it's been a while since I wrote that part of the book so it's a bit rusty. Perhaps later.

The thing is, we do this (connect) with possibly everything.