Archive for the 'music' Category

Two weeks too late, but…

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I’ve graduated! Two years of projects, classes, clients, tiredness, fun, and general smartness have resulted in another giant piece of paper:

I’ll be working a little bit this summer with UPMC doing some entrepreneurial design. But so far all I’ve been doing is relaxing, relaxing, and… more relaxing (and submitting a paper to Design and Emotion). I can’t really complain. This new vacation period has been pretty awesome.

Now, off to relax a bit more. ;)

Faking it

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I went to a chamber music performance last night (first one since the summer, sadly). The first piece they played was a Beethoven trio. Throughout the piece I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t feeling very Beethoven to me. Even though stylistically they were playing it mostly Beethoven-ly. I’m not sure what it was that made me feel like it was a bit off. Perhaps the over exaggerated body gestures in odd places, or maybe the overall sound of the trio. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it until now, as I began to refine my thesis paper (which, if you need to be reminded, is on the possibilities of service design learning from the field of classical music).

I reread a section of my paper, where I talk about one of the roles of a performer in classical music as being able to reproduce the composer’s intentions with conviction, and paralleling this to service design, where one of the frontline employee’s job is to follow the original intents of the service provider. Any deviations from the intended service actions could lead to break in core service aspects (branding, etc). Imagine Disney theme park staff greeting you with monotone, gloomy welcomes. Just this simple deviation in behaviour could take away from Disney’s image of being the “happiest place on earth”.

Of course, staff can be trained so that they embody the service provider’s core values. But as I thought back to the performance last night, it makes me wonder: if you’re not really into the composer’s music, or if you don’t really believe in the service provider that you’re working for, is it possible to be trained so that you appear to be well versed in a composer’s style or a company’s values? In other words, is it possible to fake beliefs?

I ask myself this question because I realize now that it applied to my past as a classical musician. I was always a great Baroque and Romantic era performer. I love Baroque and Romantic era music. I listened to a lot of it growing up, I studied it extensively, and as a result I almost naturally gained a touch for that type of music. On the other hand, I could not for the life of me gain the same touch with Classical era music. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I listened to Mozart of Beethoven, my piano teachers would never tell me that my renditions of Classical era music were as good as my Baroque or Romantic ones. I know this had to do with the fact that I never liked Classical era music. And perhaps as a result, this showed in my performances in that I could never truly replicate the feel of a Classical composer, even though I tried “faking” it.

So bringing this back to services: can frontline employees be trained enough to appear like they embody everything that the company has to offer, or do you really need to have employees believe in what they’re doing to make a service truly successful? And most importantly, where is the border in which customers of a service begin to tell that there are disconnects between the employees and the company’s projected values which will affect their satisfaction with the company?

School update (or rather, wrap-up)

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

As I only had two days of classes this term, the entire term zipped by almost without me knowing. By the last day of the term, I somehow managed to finish my thesis paper (though you can be sure I will be using all next term to refine it), create the other two deliverables for my 5 Minute Break project (see previous post), create a bunch of research activities for my thesis project, spend $100 to print out my thesis project poster, redesign my portfolio website (have yet to complete it though), and relax the rest of the time.

Next term, I will be completing my thesis paper and project, and will be taking four classes: Dick Buchanan’s Design, Management, and Organizational Change, Kristin Hughes and Mark Mentzer’s Color and Communication, Shelley Evenson’s Conceptual Models, and I will once again be taking Repertoire Orchestra. Very excited about this lineup; I think it’s a really great mix of different types of design, and I think all will be useful with whatever I decide to do later on.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the update on the rest of the term since my last post:

Thesis project
After an oh-so-exciting four months of waiting, all my IRB problems were resolved, and I am finally allowed to go talk to families at Children’s Hospital. Too bad this came a week before school ended, which means I can’t actually go in until after the break, but at least I can go. Within these four months, I talked to the staff at Children’s and have a pretty good idea of what they believe to be the problem with information overload for the parents of patients. It will be interesting to compare the staff’s perceived problems with the families’ problems once I get to talk to them.

Thesis Project PosterAs Masters students we are all required to create a thesis project poster for a poster session that we hold at the end of the term. Mine mainly consisted of the models I created from talking to the staff, but it also includes the four research activities that I devised to get insight into families’ experiences at the hospital. For now I am mainly interested in comparing different emotional states throughout families’ journeys at the hospital with the information they receive at these points.

Thesis paper
After a crazy Thanksgiving weekend writing session, I mostly finished my thesis paper, then really finished in the couple of weeks after. It still needs lots of revision, mostly for writing style and argument coherency, but it’s mostly there (I think, and hope). The thesis paper has been one of the hardest “assignments” (if you can call it that) for me; I’ve never been comfortable with my writing style. But it’s progressing and I hope to have a solid Masters Thesis Paper by the time I graduate, even if the only two people who will read it are me, and my advisor ;)

Grad Type
I finished my 5 Minute Break assignment with mostly a bang. Created some mockups of a proposed website, and for my third piece I decided to make small and playful keychain tags, each tag containing an idea for something you could do on a 5 minute break. It was a fun project, and really useful too. I learned a lot about creating systems, and what mediums are good for what purposes. I learned how to treat visualizations differently depending on your medium. I learned more about hierarchy (you can never learn enough about hierarchy). Most importantly, I learned that I can create things I would have never thought of doing… thinking outside the box in terms of visual design, and not being afraid to do it is I think the one big lesson of this class for me. I feel like I can approach different projects without being confined to what I know and am comfortable with, and still create something visually appealing.

Because of the way the class was set up, I only got to play twice this term. Nevertheless, both times were great. With most things, I always forget how fun it is until I actually do it again. But with music, I never forget, which makes a lack of music in my life a problem. My first year of grad school was the first year in my life that I wasn’t pursuing anything musical; up until my first year of undergrad I was talking piano lessons, I played in my highschool’s jazz band, concert band, and pit orchestra, I started my own chamber quintet (that was later invited to play for Canada’s Governor General), I continued competing as a pianist in my hometown’s Kiwanis music competition… in undergrad I continued taking piano lessons (at the expense of some of my academics), sang in one of University of Toronto’s 1oo-member choirs, and played piano for one of my college’s cabaret productions. Then came my first year at CMU, when I did absolutely nothing. I couldn’t even find a piano on campus that I could play on. So, playing in orchestra this year was pretty refreshing. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I never pursued music as a career. But then I look at what I’m doing in school now, and am always reminded that maybe music is better served as a hobby ;)

I think that’s enough school updates for now. Over the break I plan on finishing my portfolio, looking for places that I’d like to work at, and refining my thesis paper. Fun!

A Change in Plans

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

I’m done a little bit more than a quarter of my final year in grad school. What’s the smartest move to make now? Changing both my thesis paper and project focuses, of course! Duh.

That’s what happens when you’re supposed to make decisions on your thesis topics at the end of your first year in grad school, without doing an enormous amount of research to figure out if it’s really what you want to do. So, now that I’ve done some more thorough research, and have spent some time mulling about in various topics, I’ve finally chosen something I think I’m comfortable pursuing.

New and improved thesis project focus

I’m still looking at the Intermediary Care Unit at the Pittsburgh Children’s hospital. But instead of focusing on patient experience, I’ll be focusing more on family education. Imagine this: your five year old child has just gotten an emergency heart operation, is recovering in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where the patient to staff ratio is 1:1—each child has their own bedside nurse. A couple days later your child is transferred to the Intermediary Care Unit, where the patient to staff ratio is now 1:3. Being a parent who isn’t in the medical field, you wonder if the sudden decrease of care and focus for your child is adequate. Of course, you know that your child should be okay, otherwise they would’ve have put him in the unit. But in the back of your mind, you’re constantly worrying, because you’re not 100% sure about what’s going on. You’re trying to keep up with everything everyone has told you, but at times it’s just information overload. Your child is discharged a week later, and you then wonder whether that was enough time to recuperate in the hospital. More importantly, you wonder whether you’ll be knowledgeable enough to be able to give your child the best care possible at home.

It’s a hard problem to tackle. Where should you begin educating the families about the condition and care of their child? What sorts of information should you be giving them and when? Organizing the information is a challenge… you can imagine all the different types of new information that a parent can acquire: dietary info, physical therapy info, respiratory therapy info, general care info, etc. In what mediums should the information be delivered? Should there be multiple channels of information delivery?

So that’s what I’ll be doing. Trying to develop some sort of service that will allow families to feel more empowered about caring for their children. Allowing them to feel more comfortable about the entire process, and allowing a more seamless transition between information transfer and gathering.

New and improved thesis paper focus

Before, I had plans of looking at musical notation systems to develop a new service notation framework. But to do this would require an explanation of why one should even look to music in the first place. Why look to music for parallels for notation systems?

Here’s the rough (very basic) outline of my paper [the real outline is at three pages right now]. Apologies in advance for the weird wordpress formatting of lists:

  1. Service background
    • introducing service design as a new discipline
  2. Paralleling Music to Service
    • looking at music lifecycles
    • looking at music as a system
    • looking at musical style
    • first impressions
  3. Paralleling Music Roles to Service Roles
    • Introducing the notion of the following parallels:
      • composer = service designer
      • performer = service provider/frontline people
      • listener = customer
    • The Role of the Composer [or service designer]
      • master of elements
      • giving shape to ideas
      • keeping an organic relationship to his work
      • designing the unexpected
    • The Role of the Performer [or service provider]
      • reproduce composer’s intentions with conviction
      • supplying energy and movement to a piece of music
      • master of elements before taking the performance further
      • need to execute and interpret
      • need to be aware of performance conditions
      • establishing trust
    • The Role of the Listener [or customer]
      • role as an advocate/educator
      • four stages of listening:
      • hearing, enjoying, understanding, and discriminating
      • in the end, the listener wants an experience
      • role as a discriminator
      • Notation Systems
  4. Notation Systems
    • Introduction: notation is necessary to tie and ground all the roles together
    • How the composer, performer, and listener relate to the music score
    • How this parallels to service
      • need for fidelity and conviction to notation system
      • limitations of notation system
  5. Future direction
    • developing system notation systems by looking at music notation systems
  6. Conclusion

Phew. Long post. I will be impressed if someone actually got to this point of the post ;)

Orchestra demystified

Monday, September 17th, 2007

The orchestra roster is separated so that we’re only playing a certain number of songs each. No wonder we’re going to get through so much.

It’s all a bit confusing, but it looks like I’ve been assigned to play first flute on Handel’s Watermusic as my first piece.