Sunday, March 16, 2014

The myth of or secret to multi-tasking

What is the difference between these 2.3 multitasking situations?

Situation 1:
I am conducting an opera. There is a 30 piece orchestra, all with different lines to play, different entrances, different cut-offs...there are 15 principal singers singing in solos and duets and trios and quartets, all with different lines to sing, different entrances, different cut-offs...there is a chorus of 60, with all of the distractions of being one of the crowd, who need to be kept in the ensemble with eye contact from the pit, and who all also have different lines to sing, different entrances, different cut-offs... I have, on many occasions, been able to not only keep the machine running, but prove that I can process multiple lines of attention, work many different variables at the same time, some choices about taking turns, some about shaping of time through tempo and rubato, some about prominence through volume, or staging, or eye contact, or articulation, and in other joint moments, bring the full production of nearly 100 players all together, all in the same groove, all in the same momentum, to one common goal, one common cadence. We ALL breathe together, beautiful and complete. 

Situation 2.1:
I am at church. I am to help run the sound board this week. At the same time I am running the sound board, I am also to find 3 minutes in the service to just take a head count of how many people are in attendance today. Can I do it? NO! NEVER. I ALWAYS forget. 

and Situation 2.2:
I am at school. I am about to run a rehearsal with the 80 singers of my opera chorus. They are milling about finding music and their seats and finishing the conversations with their peers. Just as I am about to go to the podium, my peer teacher asks if I will please announce that there will be a bake sale today directly after my class and that everyone should go buy a cookie. I say OK. Do I do it? NO! NEVER. Not even once in 20 years of teaching. I ALWAYS forget. 

and Situation 2.3:
When out to eat with friends, I can't continue the conversation while trying to figure out the correct amount to tip the waiter. 

My wife believes that it is all about what you care about. If I just cared more, I would remember. I think the problem is I care too much, too much about the ONE task. 

I think it has to do with what is the ONE task. If the different parts come together to make a whole, I can multi-task. If the parts are separate, then there is not multi- just TASK+TASK. The key to the "ARTFUL" experience is figuring out how to bring the different variables together to make a completed whole. To recognize the counterpoint, the ensemble, the role of the different variables or players. To figure out the balance that creates momentum, momentum that allows us to reach the goal, with all variables having contributed. 

Now THAT is ART. 

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