Virtue of the Walgreens Gene

There is a great bit in the Austin Kleon interview of Creative Live’s “30 Days of Genius” where he  mentions what he calls the Walgreens Gene.

It originated from accompanying his father in law on a trip to Walgreens to pick up a few things. The father in law was in wonder at the store and its contents. Kleon in turn was in awe of his father in law’s own joy in the seemingly mundane experience of shopping at a pharmaceutical. It was as if he walked into the MOMA. Thus the Walgreens Gene for Kleon is a way of looking at the world that garners valuable insight from any and everything.

Morton Feldman once complained to John Cage about the noisiness of radios all around. Cage mentioned how at first he was slightly irritated but then decided to compose a piece for radios, twelve to be exact. How could he be annoyed afterwards when he heard radios out on the street? They were playing fragments of his music after all.

While they have wonderful original compositions, The Bad Plus is also known for their inventive covers. Rather than using jazz standards as a piano trio would, daring reconstruction is done with standards in popular music (rock, alternative, etc.). Their take on “Iron Man” is a revelation: making an old rock song refreshing.

The Walgreens Gene gives us a way to take these certain things that might be heard as mundane and find interesting content within them. With all of the sound that comes from the world, it might be best to be receptive to it all.


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