Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Integrate diverse ideas

For Sibelius and Elgar, the creation and linking of diverse ideas was the very foundation of their compositional style. Listening to a Sibelius symphony is like listening to a jigsaw in sound. Musical fragments are introduced, developed and then gradually combined, so that by the end of the symphony ideas that were diverse and unconnected have become joined up and unified, part of a greater whole.

When listening to an Elgar symphony this process of fragmenting and then unifying is not so obviously apparent, but a description of his compositional process is very insightful. One of Elgar’s friends describes entering a music room and being greeted by the sight of musical fragments scattered all around: pinned to walls, placed on chairs, covering the floor. Amongst all this was Elgar, looking from one fragment to another, identifying links, making connections and creating novel ways to develop and combine his ideas. This short anecdote illustrates very clearly that creating a stimulating, unified whole from diverse, independent and fragmentary ideas was central to Elgar’s compositional style.

We can apply the above approach to problem solving in general. Firstly, we need to generate lots of diverse ideas for solving the problem. Then we need to explore how each idea could be combined with the others in order to create new, even better ideas.

Ultimately, we need to explore whether or not one holistic, joined up solution can be found that successfully incorporates the majority of ideas generated.

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