How the Obits...  by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus by nautilusmag

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How the Obits... by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print

How the Obits...  by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print
How the Obits...  by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print
How the Obits...  by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print
How the Obits...  by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print

How the Obits... by Daniel Greenfeld for Nautilus Art Print

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About this artwork

How the Obits...: The unusual lives of a physicist and an aviator, in verse and song. By Jascha Hoffman

Illustration by Daniel Greenfeld

A few years ago, I began to write songs inspired by the obituary pages.

While writing my third album of pop songs, I got stuck. The songs on my previous albums had mostly come painstakingly, unscientifically, one-by-one, on their own schedule. Now they weren’t coming at all, and I was sick of waiting for inspiration to strike. My inner critic had become strong, the creative force was weak. So I resolved to generate a batch of wordless melodies each morning, just to save them up.

It worked. For the first time in my life, I was swimming in music. But lyrics were harder to find. I wanted real characters and stories, but nothing was providing them—not luck nor experience nor imagination. Certain songwriters I admired—Tom Waits, Paul Simon, John Prine—seemed to spin off whole novels in a few casual lines. I tried drawing from poems, stories, screenplays, Wikipedia entries of forgotten scientists. It all felt a little forced.

Then, in a moment of desperation, I looked down at my own desk. That year I had written a handful of obituaries for The New York Times, mostly of scientists, doctors, and engineers—the figures I knew best as a science writer. We tend to think of scientists as rational agents who choose problems and then work hard on them, breaking through by willful persistence. And there is some truth to this. But taken together, the scientific lives that I had memorialized seemed to argue for a different reality.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1cO29ty

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