To be clear, this blog is first and foremost about technology, not a home on the web for the musically accomplished but socially inept. According to the world’s greatest dictionary, a geek is defined somewhat circuitously as:
A slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an [or] enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”. Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to connote “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake.
I draw primarily upon the latter portion, as being a geek in the technology world is not only a source of pride, but typically a requirement to thrive at a company like Microsoft. I do take issue with “for its own sake.” That doesn’t fly in the professional world, geekery usually must serve a useful purpose. Geeks with a purpose, lets start a movement!
In the English language, the suffix “-ical” is very useful for transforming words into adjectives. The adjective “musical” therefore imbues the noun “geek” with musical overtones (nice double meaning huh?) that unspecified, could be either literal musical ability or simply that ethereal quality that transcends words. The great turn of the century composer Gustav Mahler once said in a letter, “if a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music.”
I actually look at being a musical geek as a combination of both, with a third facet added for good measure. First, I am actually a classically trained pianist and musicologist. So for me, it is literal. Second, I am a geek that aspires to wield his tools of the trade to craft or influence products that are artistic in their own right. In other words, I aspire to greatness, but often settle for the highly useful. This is the practical aspect of being a technologist. Nearly all solutions involve some degree of sub-optimal trade-off. OCD, or CDO as its known in my family, must be controlled.
Finally, music can, in many ways, represent a philosophical approach to life with very real implications. Albert Einstein said of music:
If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. … I get most joy in life out of music.
I could not agree more with his sentiment and implicit philosophy in this regard. As someone who believes in continuous learning, musical pursuits can be highly practical. It is a well accepted fact that playing the piano can facilitate improvements to neuroplasticity within the brain. This is quite literally what allows us to “think outside the box.” I have always felt, as do others, that exercising the musical part of my brain, while useful on its own, serves to stimulate my brain into forming new pathways that can enhance my overall creativity.
I hope this post helps to explain why I think of myself as “the musical geek.” Tune in for my next entry which I promise will be on a geeky topic.
In the great tradition of fellow geek Sheldon Cooper, I offer this fun fact for those of you who may have noticed I double space after periods while typing. This started while working on my master’s thesis as mandated by the prescribed manual of style, or perhaps my thesis adviser. I don’t recall at this point. When you type that much in a short period, double spacing after commas evolved into a force of habit which has stuck with me. This article, clearly states I have forfeited my right to exist due to said double spacing, but I hope there’s room for us double spacers in the world, as I find it difficult to change. Grammar Girl, one of my personal heroes, repeating conventional wisdom that while no longer necessary for readability with the introduction of proportional fonts, she goes on to say, its is NOT wrong to double space after a period. She then links to perhaps the greatest manifesto on the topic found here, which garnered an amazing 76 comments to date on this arcane topic. This article links back to the existential post from Slate I referenced earlier. Now that I have written a fully recursive fun fact, I will bid you adieu.