Right Notes. Right order. But Different.


There is a legendary clip from the 1971 ‘Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1971’, where the frustrated conductor, André Previn, tells Eric that he’s playing “all the wrong notes.” Morecambe’s response remains one of the top punchlines in comedy.

"I'm playing all the right notes—but not necessarily in the right order."


But this audio clip below, has all the right notes… in the right order… but different.

I first came across the composer and artist Isaac Schankler through a talk about music perception (how listeners can hear and experience different things with the same piece of music). His reworking of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata blows my imagination.

Enjoy listening to this famous piece of music, with the bass a bar late and the melody a bar early.

The smallest adjustment can change everything.

Andy Smithyman
Sketches Tour: Update

It’s been a busy few weeks with The Paradox Sketches Tour. Not that it’s a toil. I get to enjoy food. Drink wine. And meet new friends. Makes up for this introvert having to take centre stage!

The thing about being an introvert is that when I do venture into the public realm, the world seems full of questions. Did I come across ok? Was my content strong enough? Did people enjoy it? But here’s the funny thing about stepping out of my comfort zone. This adventure has been one of the most affirming things I have ever done.

 

“...Yesterday I was lucky enough to be a part of Andy Smithyman's  Paradox Sketches Tour - I hosted a book club with a group of friends. Andy gave us an insightful presentation followed by a captivating reading. We discussed the book around the dinner table, over wine and food. What better way to spend a Sunday evening?

I would highly recommend anyone to take part and host a book club - it is a special experience and enables layers of interesting conversation around important topics.

My two main takeaways from the discussion are:

The idea of provocation; popping our own bubble of ignorance and the importance of continually working on this. This deeply resonated with everyone around the table, leaving us all considering our ignorance and hypocrisies.

The other is the idea of seeing and observing. We see, but do we really observe?  We talked about this considering the world (and its injustices) around us...

The evening led me to thinking about this idea in relation to books. With an insight into the mind and thoughts of the author, I feel I have a deeper understanding of the intricate and multi-layered nature of Paradox. It's left me wanting to pay extra attention to the words and hidden messages. Which has me wondering, how many books have I read where I've seen the words, but I haven't really observed what's beneath them?

Thanks Andy for a special and thought-provoking evening.”

It’s one thing writing a book. Another, talking about it with a gap between stage and audience. But when this gap is removed... it’s an adventure I wouldn’t want any other way.

 

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The Paradox Of Creativity

“The things you get fired for when you're young are the exact same things you win lifetime achievement awards for when you're old. Which is to say the things that run against the grain, that are not common, are not logical, that don't fit in to the standard approach… if you do survive and get that across--remember that the things that get you in trouble are the same things that are later remembered as being exceptional."

I love this quote from Francis Ford Coppola in his 2011 interview with HBR. A wonderful reminder for us all to trust that inner voice of creativity.

Andy Smithymanquotes
Sketches Tour: A Lesson

I faced a new challenge heading towards my second event.

How do I transport my books via train and tube during rush hour?

For some reason during my tour planning stage, I always had the picture of Paradox safely packaged away in the boot of my car. ‘Safely packaged’ being the key phrase.

The Iris Cloth front cover was chosen to amplify the sense of touch for the reader, complimenting the storyline of Paradox. It was my attempt at producing a fictional tale in the style of a coffee-table keepsake. And I think it worked, but this also brought with it a complication.

As with all cloth covers, the material can get damaged during transportation.

Since the launch of Paradox, I’ve navigated through this challenge in many ways; from placement of stock and postage, to wrapping an individual book in a tea-towel if I needed to show someone a copy. But transporting a stack of books, alone, on public transport? That’s a whole new dimension.

One idea was to individually package them up, just like how they are posted out. But how would I personalise the message inside if I didn’t know who would be purchasing the book? I tried using a suitcase, but even a bedsheet around the edges didn’t stop the books from moving around. The compromise was cardboard and bubble wrap - in a weekend bag. And needless to say, my attempt didn’t entirely succeed. 20% damaged bag stock.

But this is nothing to feel down about. It’s all part of the adventure. I love trying to figure all this out. What matters is that the second event went well. I met wonderful people. The host did amazing with their greeting and ‘spread of snacks.’ And most of all, I came away believing in the possibilities for this approach.

I now have a week off from the Paradox Sketches — another challenge, mixing childcare with touring.


Sketches Tour: The First

 

First lines fascinate me. They embrace the present and at the same time, capture the uncertainty of the future.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (George Orwell, 1984)

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” (Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle)

“Marley was dead: to begin with.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

These opening lines, amongst others, inspired my own offering with Paradox. “My name is Samuel Abrahams, and this is my confession.” This week, I’ve begun to write another first line.

“Harpenden was the first, a doorway into...”

…?

The Paradox Sketches Tour started last weekend. I was nervous. It was the ‘opening night.’ And for the previous twelve hours, I had been making sure my presentation was concise; not to forget the double/triple checking that my folder was full with inserts and handwritten cards. The regular check of a traffic app provided assurance for my travel plans.

In a living-room, with old and new friends, we shared tea, cake, and chatted about my book. Everything was going to plan. My opening line was coming along nicely - “Harpenden was the first.”

Until.

A surprising discovery.

“A doorway into...”

I realised that the first line of this tour was not going to be completed by my hand alone. It's the people in the room, regardless of where I am, who shape the journey of Paradox. And that's both an exciting and nervous prospect for a writer who likes to craft his own lines.

Harpenden, thank you. This adventure just took on a life of its own.

 

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The Paradox Sketches Tour


I’m about to start another part of this adventure.

It’s called ‘The Paradox Sketches Tour.’

But it’s not a typical book tour. I plan to travel with Paradox in a way which reflects the story and values behind its production. Not an easy task.

My idea adapts how Dickens sometimes toured with his writings. Imagine a house-concert but in literary form. The ‘host’ invites guests around their home or outside venue. We share food, drink, and I give a brief presentation about Paradox followed by a dramatic reading. We end with a Q&A and dialogue about the topics raised.

The size of the group doesn’t matter. One of the values I’ve always tried to hold onto with my writing is the importance of the individual, and that hasn’t changed with Paradox.

There are plenty of challenges with this approach, but that’s the exciting thing about something new. I will document this adventure as a bit of a travel log, taking you with me on this journey and where it leads.

If you are interested in hosting this type of event, please let me know. I would love to make this journey with you.

And in the words of Dickens, it’s now time for me to ‘pound the streets.’

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Andy SmithymanParadox, tour, sketches
The Spirit Of Billy Shears

In 1967, The Beetles presented to the world a fictional character called Billy Shears. This drummer with limited vocal range stood up to the microphone and humbly declared that he got by ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’.

It was a simple tune with obvious shortcomings but surprisingly became a fan favourite. Shears and his shaky voice defied the odds stacked towards slick perfection, singing a different tune into the airwaves - Vulnerability. We need each other.

And now this is my moment to step up to that same microphone and say that “I need your help.”

How can we review books differently? ...How could my book be reviewed differently?

Since the launch of Paradox, I’ve kept away from asking for reviews. There’s a reason for that. The review game is just that — a game. The typical approach is to encourage snappy comments before and during the launch. These will then get funnelled through a well-known online store. If the author does their job right, it will present a robust and successful image for their product. Foster enough 5 Star reviews early on and it should encourage others to follow suit. Finally, the strategic code hidden within the purchase link should help that ranking system kick in.

This game has a few apparent champions. Occasionally a wobbly voice defies the odds. But it’s hard.

Every part of the Paradox Hardback, from design, production and promotion, is my attempt at trying to do something different within the publishing world. The same goes for reviews. Over the last few months, the conversations I’ve had about the book, and the emails received, have been rich. Special. Which strengthens my resolve that I want to engage with reviews where honesty, authenticity and conversation take place. Away from the game of manipulation.

Except I don’t know how.

And that’s why I need a little help from my friends.

Can we review Paradox in a different way? Is there a site or service (other than Amazon and Goodreads which share the same owner and stacked digital system) which taps into the heartbeat of what I’ve been talking about? If you have ideas, please email me at andy@andysmithyman.com or comment the usual ways.

Billy figured it out. And I’m confident ‘we’ will figure it out.

It’s what friends are for.

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Paradox Sketches: Change?

During the times of Charles Dickens, between 15% and 20% of the population in the UK was living at or below the expected subsistence level in food. That meant, nearly a quarter of the population were skipping meals or reducing the quality and quantity of their food. Alongside that, 10% of the population experienced severe food poverty where even charitable donations couldn’t stop those families experiencing abject hunger.

Shocking. And rightly so. It’s an example of historical poverty which fits perfectly into the image of Dickensian times. But there is also another set of statistics that I’m reflecting upon.

The UK news recently picked up on a UNICEF report, highlighting that in the UK, 19% of children under age 15 live in a family where they experience food insecurity (skipping meals or reducing the quality and quantity of food). Alongside that, 10% of children under the age of 15 live in a family experiencing severe food insecurity. Hunger. Beyond charitable donations.

Today. Right now, as I craft this post.

I wrote Paradox for many reasons; one of them is my belief that the Dickensian landscape of poverty and social injustice is still around today.

Dickensian poverty is ugly. It’s ugly because it’s blatant. In my face. And yet how often do I move on, justify inaction or give myself enough excuses to ignore what is in front of me? The harsh reality is that 'The Twins’ of Paradox are real. I walk their Paths on a regular basis.

‘Wish you were(n’t) here?’ That’s the tagline of the book. A question. Continually asked. Of myself. My answer determines what happens to The Twins. My answer determines what happens to my heart.

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The Swirl: More Than A Tour

November was a special month for me.

I travelled with a ragamuffin band of creatives to Scotland, France, Spain and England. We called it The Swirl; a tour where I had the privilege of talking about my new book, Paradox. My not-so-great acting abilities came into the spotlight as I attempted to emulate how Dickens delivered his Christmas Carol readings. The one glaring omission - I didn’t dress up in fancy clothes.

And November was a special month for me because…

I stepped outside my comfort zone into a world I’ve worked hard to avoid for many years — the public stage. I know how easy it is to believe my hype and, paradoxically, at the same time doubt my ability. This tour helped to remove some of those fears.

But November was also a special month for me because I was part of a group of dreamers who ‘made good art’

Together.

I like my own world; the Andy universe. It’s safe, covered with all the stuff I’m familiar with. But art is not designed to be controlled like that. Art dismantles the frame in which we see the world. And this was true of my experience on The Swirl.

The Swirl logo is an illustration of a campfire; a fitting image. At every event, we all brought our individual logs of creativity and placed them on the fire. As the flames danced into the night sky, something magical appeared.

The embers.

These small lights of dreams, hopes, sacrifice and questions, leapt into the sky. To follow each movement is impossible, because their individual journeys blend into a collective dance, swirling higher and higher into the unknown. Out of sight. But still floating. Their adventure, just beginning.

This is the paradox of art — life beyond sight.

We are connected.

For the better.

(Ps: a documentary is coming out next year, until then, here are a few little insights into this crazy time).

https://www.youtube.com/user/daveerasmus/videos

https://www.youtube.com/user/georgeholliday123/videos

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Andy Smithymandickens, Paradox
A Carol Type of Success

 

To all you creative dreamers out there.

Charles Dickens paid all expenses for the production of A Christmas Carol. He expected the initial profit to be about £1,000, but because he insisted on expensive bindings and illustrations, the first 6,000 copies brought him £230. The earnings for the following year - £744.

It may not have produced a triumphant monetary return, but the Carol became a story which changed the world.

Andy Smithymandickens, thoughts