Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dance between your ideas

'Usually, I finish a project with much more done on the next one than I thought. That's why I've developed this procedure for having a bunch of notebooks around, so that I can keep my projects straight. Once some music gets started in my head, it's usually very clear what the piece is. I'll take a break from what I'm consciously doing at the moment and write something down in the right notebook.'

John Harbison from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

We seldom think about one thing for very long. We can be distracted from even the most attractive and captivating of ideas by something new, something unexpected, or simply something different.

Throughout our lives we are encouraged to fight distraction: to concentrate upon the task at hand and expel all errant thoughts.

This makes good sense: for driving, operating machinery, passing exams, brain surgery, stuff like that. None of us want to have a car accident or serious injury, or fail an important exam. Most of us most of the time do not wish to hurt anyone!

Our creativity, however, thrives upon distraction: upon the unexpected, upon the novel and the new. Distracted by the thought of a falling man Einstein eventually formulated his General Theory of Relativity. Distracted by a contaminated petri dish Alexander Fleming eventually discovered penicillin. Distracted by the cooking of waffles Bill Bowerman, quite quickly in comparison to the previous examples, invented the waffle trainer.

Distraction, in all its forms, is the life blood of creativity and innovation, so we need to learn how to embrace and use it to our advantage. We need to learn how to dance comfortably and enjoyably between the ideas that compete for our attention.

Dancing is fluid but formal; dancing is changeable but controlled. The best dancing, to my mind, has a simple and immediate effect upon those who dance and those who watch. 

John Harbison's method of capturing and working with his ideas achieves similar things. His notebook system is flexible enough to allow him to move between ideas (like moving between different dancing partners) but formal enough to ensure that he captures and develops his ideas accurately and methodically; his partner ideas may change but the steps of his dance do not. His system is also simple and straightforward, helping him to change the focus of his thoughts quickly: to easily and immediately dance with the distractions of new, unexpected and potentially valuable ideas.

So, when you next need to think creatively, try dancing with your ideas. Create a system similar to John Harbison's and balance the fluidity of distraction with the formality of focus. Then you can welcome distraction with open arms, safe in the knowledge that you will not lose your place within the overall dance of your thoughts.

Friday, 14 November 2014

See it from far away...

'Maybe they're far away, in the act of performing, but I don't hear what they're playing.'

Aaron Jay Kernis from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

One of the ways Aaron Jay Kernis inspires himself to start composing is to bring an image to mind. One of the images he creates with his mind's eye is that of musicians performing from far away, so far away he cannot hear what they are playing.

Imagine you are seeing your problem from far away. You cannot hear the clamour and noise it is making or, if they are involved, what people may be saying to each other.

But you can discern some things.

What glistens or stands out from afar? Which movements or actions catch the eye? What is blurred and difficult to make out?

What, from your perspective, surrounds the problem? Within what landscape is it set? Does it appear small when compared to what surrounds it? Or does it loom large over the landscape, despite how far away it is? 

Or is it not in a landscape at all? Is it in fact enclosed within some larger space? What does this space look like? What is its function? Is it reinforcing the problem? Or is it somehow containing or limiting it?

Is anyone else watching? What are they doing as they watch? Can you even hear a little of what they are saying?

Watch and listen for a while...

How are you seeing things now? What are you beginning to hear?

What do you want to do first? What direction do you want to take? What do you want to look at more closely?

Begin to compose your solution.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Create a memory pop-out book

'I don’t keep a lot of notebooks. I sometimes regret that I haven’t. But I sure have developed a memory notebook -- I have lots of ideas for pieces that I haven’t done yet. One piece I’ve had in mind for fifteen or twenty years is a setting of Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” a landmark American poem. I have so many notes for this potential piece interleaved in my copy of "Leaves of Grass" that the book looks like a cabbage in bloom. So in a sense I do have notebooks -- collections of ideas partially worked out, here and there.'

Eric Stokes from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

The above shows how Eric Stokes makes note-taking a valuable and intrinsic part of his creative process.

Making notes at the time of inspiration and physically placing them inside and beside the source that generated them enables Stokes to develop a 3D memory map and timeline of his ideas which steadily grows outwards and along, filling out and continuing the narrative of his creative journey.

He creates a memory 'pop-out' book which quickly captures his ideas, faithfully marks when and where they were first thought of, accurately maps their subsequent development, and easily enables new ideas to be added to and linked with them.

Every time he flicks and thumbs through his memory enriched book he sees his ideas in motion and once again experiences the pace and energy generated by his sparks of inspiration. The book's touch and feel, together with its physical sense of growth and onward movement, invite Stokes to continue his creative journey and associate ever more creative ideas with his initial inspiration.
You can create your own memory notebook. When a book inspires you immediately begin transforming it into a 3D map and timeline that captures your ideas at the place of their birth and faithfully records their progress as they grow, develop, reach out and connect with other inspirational ideas.

Frequently flick and thumb through your budding memories and ideas, adding and adding to them until they bloom into something new.

Stop press!

Isaac Newton used the above approach:

How Isaac Newton remembered everything he read

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Travel back to the 'Going Wrong Point'.

'...the point at which things go wrong may be a new area of exploration that you didn't see initially. You have to keep going back to that point, trying to figure out what to do. Often the problem is that you've just refused to bend the right way.'

Shulamet Ran from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

We do not like making mistakes, causing accidents, getting things wrong. We prefer to distance ourselves from our errors as quickly as possible: get back on track; regain momentum; regain direction. Some of us dislike mistakes so much that we exhort ourselves to do the impossible: 'right first time' after time after time.  

Some of us realise that perfection is impossible, so we commit to learning from our mistakes and moving forward; the two actions merge in our minds: learn move forward.

But what about learning and pausing, learning and changing, learning and going sideways, learning and travelling a less obvious path -- a path perhaps parallel or even opposite to our original intent?

Every going wrong point along our journey towards getting something right is an opportunity to get something right in new, innovative and better ways.

Wilson Greatbatch installed a wrong part into a heart monitoring device. He realised his mistake, but rather than immediately correcting it he was keen to find out how it would affect the device. When he switched the monitor on he heard a regular, heartbeat-like pulse. Intrigued by this effect, Greatbatch altered the direction of his research and became the inventor of the pacemaker.      

Édouard Bénédictus accidently knocked a glass flask off a shelf. Rather than immediately clearing up the mess and continuing his work, he stopped to examine the broken flask. It had not shattered into sharp splinters but had more or less kept its overall shape. Curious, Bénédictus changed the focus of his thinking for a while; he concentrated upon the remains of his accident. He found that the flask had contained a substance which had dried, creating an adhesive layer that stopped the glass shattering. He went on to invent laminated safety glass.    

So, when you realise you've made a mistake (or caused an accident or taken a wrong turn), travel back to your going wrong point. Park yourself there and search for signs and paths you may have missed first time round as you rushed on by.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Cue success!

'I want my things around me (posters from world premieres, published scores, etc.) I like to look at my things and say to myself, "You did this in the past, so maybe you can do what you're about to do now".'

John Corigliano from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

Many of us are forced to live in the moment forward.

New pressures, new obstacles, new challenges and opportunities demand that we clear our minds; they demand our undivided attention.

This is only natural, sensible even, but it can also increase our difficulties. Forgotten memories of past success can no longer cradle our confidence and offer us calming reassurances that we had and very likely still have what it takes to get things done: to achieve what we need to achieve.

To help ourselves meet new challenges we need to regain our memories and re-experience our feelings of past success. We need to cue them up around us in object form: letters and notes of thanks; letters of praise; letters of achievement; awards and rewards; and small personal reminders of fond feelings of achievement (that book you wrote; that report; that photo taken at a conference; that name badge; that pen you used to sign the deal; that first invoice).

No object is too small to cue strong feelings of enjoyed success. Place them around you and access their cued up, ready to go memories as and when you need to feel their warm and reassuring glow.

Then face forward and achieve, buoyed by the gift of confidence you have given yourself.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Set yourself some awkward rules

I recently listened to an orchestral piece by Carl Ruggles called ‘Men and Mountains’.

It uses very dissonant harmonies; its two outer movements sound like slowly grinding granite and the middle movement is like experiencing the slowly binding crush of an insidious vine.

I like the piece; I find it immediate and powerful in its emotional impact and even strangely and uniquely beautiful.

Ruggles composed the music according to his own awkward and arbitrary rules. Essentially, these dictate that certain pitches cannot be repeated until a specific number of other pitches have been played.

On the face of it this seems a very cumbersome, unsubtle and counter-intuitive approach to apply to the fluid medium of music and the creative process of composition. Its application, however, created a piece of music that has influenced many composers and is still being performed today, ninety years after its composition. 

Ruggles did not impose the above rules on himself to be rebellious or just plain awkward. He did it to force himself to think differently and find new solutions to new problems.

What awkward rules can you apply to your life and work to make you think and act differently, so enhancing your ability to generate innovative ideas? Here are ten possibilities:

  • You must gain five differing opinions before making decisions and taking action.
  • You must not use the same analysis or problem solving tool more than twice in a row for the same sort of tasks.
  • When studying a subject you must read the work of three authors new to you before revisiting your old favourites. You must incorporate the thinking of at least one of the new authors into your work.
  • When writing you must use no more than a set amount of words per sentence or paragraph and ensure that the document is no more than a set number of pages in length. You must also include a concept or idea you have not used before.
  • You must change your environment or change your activity at set intervals.
  • You must make contact of some kind with a set number of people or organisations each day, before you finish work.
  • You must change your route to or from work every three days and stop at least once along the way, however fleetingly, to explore a neighbourhood or venue new to you. You must tell someone about it during your day.
  • When you give an opinion at a meeting you must wait for three other people to say something before you repeat yourself.
  • You must identify what you like, dislike or find interesting about an idea before you decide to accept or reject it.
  • You must find at least one way to make your least favoured idea or solution viable before you discard it.

Set yourself some awkward rules. Choose from the above or create your own. Like Ruggles, it is best if you create your own. Force yourself to think and act differently, and innovation will likely follow.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Don't tiger ideas

'I say to my students all the time, "you're taking yourself way too seriously. You're thinking only about beautifully sculpted, perfect ideas. Why not look at the dorkiness inside, the clumsiness, and realise that that may be where your real genius lies?" In awkwardness you can find tremendous grace.'

Richard Danielpour 
From 'The Muse that Sings' by Ann McCutchan)

Picture a new born foal. What do you see? What most of us see is the foal's charming awkwardness as it tries to stand. We are also immediately aware of its potential, of how it is going to grow into a strong and graceful horse.

When a tiger sees a foal it sees something clumsy, weak and unable to defend itself, something to be devoured and the remains, if any, discarded.

When I was studying composition I showed some of my rough sketches to a group of my fellow students. They were all over them straight away, tearing into the clumsiness of my infant ideas, devouring my belief and confidence in them. 

It was with a great amount of trepidation, and not a small amount of visceral fear, that I showed the same sketches to my composition teacher. He looked through them for a while, nodded to himself and then, with what seemed to me to be genuine interest, began to ask questions:

'Why this chord? Why that combination of instruments? Why this particular turn of phrase? What was my thinking? What was I trying to express and achieve? How could I make my thinking and intentions clearer? How could I more clearly achieve my goal?'

Together, we stayed with the awkwardness of my initial ideas and gradually, through discussion and exploration, we began to tease the quality out of the clumsiness.

The next time you come across a new idea that is taking its first stumbling steps treat it like a new born foal; enjoy and explore its awkwardness and ask:

'Why is this part so crucial? Why is it put together like that? Why is it described in that particular way? What is the thinking behind it? What is it seeking to achieve? What is its potential? How could we help it realise its potential and achieve its goal?' 

Above all, do not tiger it; do not tear into its clumsiness; do not devour it and discard its hollowed out remains before it finds its legs.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative

Friday, 1 August 2014

Disarm! Putting guns to better use

Here is a great example of vision, determination, effort, skill, expertise, teamwork, collaboration and creativity all combining to deliver an immediate and powerful message,

and a much better use for guns.

I will let it speak (and sing) for itself:


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Do not fall off the creative problem solving train before it has even left the station!

'For the texts, I decided to use several languages, but since I didn't actually speak most of them, I just picked out words for their look and sound. My sources for words were my opera recordings. I'd pull out a libretto, listen to the opera, and select the words I liked, based on their sounds. I didn't look at their translation.'

Christopher Rouse describing the composition of his work Karolju, a piece for chorus and orchestra based upon made up Christmas Carols. (Quotation taken from 'The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process, by Ann McCutchan.)

Our attempts at creativity and innovation can easily fail before they have properly started. Often, the cause of this can be tracked back to the way we habitually separate the act of creative problem solving from the process of selecting the people, tools and other resources we are going to use to do it.

This can be about as effective as bringing together all the people and materials needed to build a traditional house, and then using them to try and build a skyscraper.

Our remorselessly dry and logical approach to selecting the people, tools and resources we are going to bring together to creatively problem solve, which understandably is based upon good common-sense criteria focused on what we consider to be relevant experience and expertise and proven track records of effectiveness and efficiency, can severely limit our ability to be creative and innovative.

The logical, unquestioned assumptions that underpin our selections can predispose our thinking towards certain types of expectations about what a solution should look like, so forcing us down fewer innovative tracks than would otherwise have been the case.

An historical example 

Speaking of tracks, the introduction of train travel was one of the most innovative and influential developments of the industrial age. Essential to its effectiveness was the safe transportation of passengers, drivers and guards. It was only natural that the best carriage-makers of the day, and the best most tried and tested designs and materials, would be brought together to create the new train carriages. Strangely, the new carriages, based open the expert knowledge and experience of the day, looked remarkably like horse-drawn carriages or stage coaches, with the guards on the outside (perched precariously at the front or back of the carriages).

Now, trains are quite fast, faster than horse-drawn carriages, and this previously unexperienced speed frequently caused guards to fall off, injuring themselves or even dying as a result.

The expert carriage-makers of the day were brought together again, and the designs and materials meticulously reviewed. The conclusion was:

'The guards need to hold on tighter!'

If someone had thought a little ‘outside (or even inside) the carriage’ they might have thought it interesting, intriguing, or even merely 'quite nice' to gain the views of the guards and the passengers, asking them for their ideas about what would constitute an effective and safe carriage. Perhaps some of the guards and passengers could even have been selected to contribute to the design of the carriages. (Guards and particularly passengers would have had a different perspective on carriage design, focusing more upon the interior than the exterior, which would probably have led to a better use of seating and space, thus enabling guards to work and sit inside rather than outside the carriages.) But this did not happen for some considerable time, and however hard the carriage-makers exhorted the guards to ‘hold on tighter’ the injuries and deaths did not diminish.

So remember

The creative problem solving process includes the selection of the people, techniques, tools and resources that will be brought together and used to creatively problem solve. Be not only logical in your selection of these things but also intuitive and curious; make some of your selections for different, unusual or emotional reasons. Who or what would be intriguing to include in the process? Who or what looks and feels like an attractive addition to your problem solving resources? What would be fun to try out simply because it is different or unique or you have not encountered it before? Who or what will you include in your creative problem solving process simply because it sounds like an attractive idea?

Do not fall off the creative problem solving train before it has even left the station!

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

No one can make music

Composers write music, but they do not know how to make it. Instrumentalists play music, but they do not know how to make it. Singers sing music, but they do not know how to make it. Conductors conduct music, but they do not know how to make it. It is only together, by sharing and combining their ideas, knowledge, experience and skills, that composers, instrumentalists, singers and conductors can make music.

But wait a moment; this last statement is untrue! Can players make the instruments upon which they play? Do singers spring singing from the womb? Can composers design the computer software many of them use when composing? Can conductors build the concert halls within which they conduct their performances?

There are many, many people, some I have not mentioned or even thought of, who need to come together and share their diverse ideas, perspectives, knowledge and skills to make the making of music an audible reality, and unsurprisingly this is not an easy process.

Composers know best about the structure and fabric of their music. Software designers know best about the programming, structure and layout of the software tools composers use to write and record their music. Instrumentalists and singers know best how to play or sing the music. Teachers know best how to teach the skills it needs. Conductors know best how to interpret and direct it. Instrument makers know best how the instruments they make can be adapted to the music's demands. Architects know best how to manage the acoustics of the concert halls they build, so helping the music to sound its best.   

In short, everyone knows best but in different ways, which is a basis for conflict and tension if ever there was one!

How can this conflict and tension be managed? We need to practise the following four things:

Adopt a curiosity mind set

We need to hold our certainties lightly and develop an eager curiosity about the ideas, views and insights of others, readily exploring how they can be adopted and adapted to enhance the overall quality of the music and its performance. Composers need to be curious about the views and opinions of conductors and players. Players and singers need to be curious about the thinking and perspectives of conductors and composers. Software designers need to be curious about the needs and opinions of their client composers. Teachers need to be curious about the ideas and perspectives of not only their students but also the people who will employ their students. Architects need to be curious about the people who will occupy and use the spaces they build. Conductors need to be curious about everyone and everything.  

Essentially, we need to ask more questions and make less statements of certainty.

Allow others to play

We need to encourage and allow others to play with our knowledge, skills and ideas. Those of us that compose need to realise that our music, once written, will have a life of its own that will be shaped by those that take it up, rehearse, play with, interpret and perform it. Those of us that are players and singers need to expose our instruments and voices to new techniques and ways of creating sound, allowing the composer to play around and experiment within the personal, sometimes intimate space of our playing and singing techniques. Those of us that build instruments need to allow others to play with their shape and form. Those of us who build concert halls need to allow others to own and play with the space, adapting it to their needs and preferences. Those of us who are software designers need to allow others to modify it and adapt it to their needs. Those of us who teach need to allow others to play and experiment.        

We need to allow and permit rather than disallow and prohibit.     

Let go of ego and status 

To be comfortable with allowing others to play with our knowledge, skills and ideas, we need to work hard at letting go of the ego and hard won status derived from our respective roles: composers need to let go of the ego and status derived from  being 'the creator'; conductors need to let go of the ego and status derived from being 'the interpreter'; players and singers need to let go of the ego and status derived from being 'the performer'; instrument makers and architects need to let go of the ego and status derived from being 'the makers and builders'. Software designers need to let go of the ego and status derived from being 'the technical or IT expert'; teachers need to let go of the ego and status derived from being 'the recognised source of wisdom and knowledge'. 

We need to let go of individual ego and instead share in the raised status derived from an enhanced performance that relies upon and assimilates everyone's diverse knowledge, skills and talents. 

Collaborate to achieve excellence 

We need to collaborate to achieve excellence rather than compromise to achieve mediocrity. This involves searching out and embracing conflicts and tensions, being curious about them, eagerly exploring them and seeking out the novel and innovative insights that lie hidden within their dynamic interactions. It means resisting the temptation to take the easy, non-confrontational route, the route that offers the immediate satisfaction of a seemingly smooth solution that, because it has not been adequately hardened and tempered within the heat of conflict, will lose its shape and shatter under the intense pressures of performance.

We need to welcome and embrace conflict and use its heat to mould innovative, insightful and superior performances.

And what if I am not a musician?

You can apply the above principles elsewhere in your life and work. It is up to you to find out where and how.  

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A goal effectively achieved is the culmination of a journey fully experienced

"When I was small, I was told a story about a garden of treasure with a secret entrance. Everyone searched and searched for this garden until, after a very long time, the door finally opened itself and there was no treasure. In the end, maybe the purpose of the search is the search itself, through which we learn about composing." 

The composer Bright Sheng, from "The Muse that Sings" by Ann McCutchen

The above quotation contains an important truth about the creative process: many insights and other things of value are stumbled upon as we pursue our goals rather than when we attain them.

Many of us, however, can be so goal focused, so focused upon finding our very own garden of treasure, holy grail, magic bullet, theory of everything, money making opportunity, whatever we choose to call it, that we treat the things we stumble upon as inconvenient and sometimes painful obstacles along our path (rather than welcoming them as potentially valuable sources of unexpected knowledge and insight).

We would not voluntarily wear blinkers as we take a walk through the countryside to our favourite pub or café; we would miss the sights along the way and any stumbling would certainly tend to be painful rather than enlightening. But when we are at work we readily allow ourselves to become blinkered: our focus quickly narrowing towards the achievement of organisational goals, sometimes at the expense of pretty much everything else.

We often assume that the most efficient, cleanest and uncluttered path towards our targets is also the most effective. We are then surprised when, having so efficiently achieved our goals, our blinkers fall away and we see the upset caused to our surroundings, others and ourselves by our single-minded directness. We also, belatedly, comprehend the actual significance of our achievements which, when viewed within their true landscape, diminish and perhaps even disappear; having entered our secret garden we find little or no treasure.  

The journey towards and achievement of our goals can be damaging. This is especially the case when our goals are associated with financial rewards or performance assessments: think about the damage caused by the bonus culture within the financial sector, where huge individual performance bonuses encouraged high risk investments; consider the perverse incentives created by target-setting in the UK health service, which led to patients being placed in corridors or kept in ambulances to achieve waiting time targets set for A&E; reflect upon the obsessive compulsive preoccupation with maximising sales, again within the finance industry, which led to the widespread miss-selling of payment protection insurance.   

So, to be creative and innovative in the achievement of your goals, and to ensure their relevance, usefulness and benevolence, keep them in your mind but not always to the very front of it. Do not allow them, and the rewards and incentives associated with them, to pull you by the nose and stop you looking up, down and from side to side, and if you stumble, look mindfully at what caused you to stumble rather than absent-mindedly kicking it aside. You will then pick up glistening handfuls of unexpected insights shot through with multifaceted learning that will help you journey towards your goals: goals that can only be effectively achieved when perceived as the sum of the parts and the culminations of journeys fully experienced. 

You may also find that the insights, wisdom and experience you gain along the way enable you to travel past your goal and achieve much more than you originally thought possible.       

Develop the habits of:

Welcoming and exploring surprises, apparent wrong turns and unexpected paths that open up before you. Ask what insights you can gain from them.

Looking for ways to link unexpected insights with the goal you have in mind.

Being open to the possibility that unexpected insights, wrong turns and the occasional stumble may help you transform your goal into something even more useful than originally conceived.

Taking time to stop and reflect upon where you have been, where you are and where you are going.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative

Monday, 19 May 2014

Explore and experience your ideas in 3D and maximise their chances of success

"I realized that for me, a piece has to make sense in many different ways at once. I want it to flow sensuously, intellectually, emotionally."

Lois V. Vierk 
From 'The Muse that Sings', by Ann McCutchan.

The above quotation from the composer Lois V. Vierk emphasises a simple but much overlooked truth: useful, effective and truly attractive ideas must not only exist intellectually within our heads (and look good upon computer screens) but also live within our lives and feel good physically and emotionally.

The logical design of the London Millennium Footbridge looked good upon the computer screen but when tested by the reality of large numbers of pedestrians walking - and swaying - across it in unison, it provided an experience which felt physically and emotionally bad. (The bridge was closed for nearly two years whilst it underwent expensive modifications to reduce its side-to-side sway. Londoners still call it the 'Wobbly Bridge'!)

Give your ideas the best start in life by developing and testing them in three dimensions: the physical, the logical, the emotional.

Ask the following simple questions:
  1. Can you create a physical model of your idea that people can experience and interact with? Can you make your idea tangible to others? Can you gain a sense of its look and feel within people's lives?
  2. Can you describe your idea logically? Can you clearly articulate its rationale, its reason for being? Can you list its strengths and weaknesses and how the former can be maximised and the latter minimised?
  3. What are people's gut reactions to your idea? What do people love or hate about your idea? How can you help people love your idea more? How can you help people hate your idea less?
Explore and experience your ideas in 3D and maximise their chances of success.    

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

National Youth Orchestra of Iraq: the adventure continues in the USA!

The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, the creation of which is an inspirational story, is shortly to tour the USA.

Click on the following link to find out more about the orchestra and how you can get involved: 

To find out more about the orchestra's conductor and the story he tells about its creation click here:

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative


Friday, 11 April 2014

Work hard at getting a second performance

"Getting a second production is about as difficult as getting it done first time."

Eric Stokes (composer)
(From 'The Muse that Sings' by Ann McCutchan)

This is a common problem for contemporary composers: a piece is commissioned, written, performed, and then all too easily forgotten. The energy and enthusiasm everybody feels for their 'bright new piece' dissipates in inverse proportion to the amount of time that passes after its first, sparkling performance.

Eric Stokes's short but telling statement also hints at an under-rated characteristic of successful creators and innovators: the ability to recognise the importance (and difficulty) of continuing the work beyond the successful introduction of an idea. Successful creators and innovators stay with an idea as it journeys into the world. They invest effort in maintaining, supporting, polishing and publicising it in readiness and expectation of its next outing and eventual acceptance into the repertoire of how things are thought about and done.


Those involved in the ground-breaking world of collaborative working, which brings separate organisations together to find new and innovative solutions to complex and difficult problems, need to work hard at gaining a second hearing or 'performance'.

Many of the bright new ideas and approaches identified and implemented by collaborative projects are generously applauded by those who commission and/or use them. Once the project's work is done, however, once the curtain has fallen on its premiere performance, the bright new ideas can easily become faded memories of sound and shadow, rather than influential instruments of ongoing change and innovation.

"That new youth centred approach to providing services to young people; that simple yet innovative way of helping the unemployed into work; that novel way of building health and social services around the needs of older people - what were they again? I think they were good. Why is no one using them now?"

The answer is not simply that the initiatives finished (or the money ran out), but that no one pushed for those second performances; no one worked to gain the interest of additional people or organisations who were willing and able to provide repeat performances which would help embed the ideas within the main stream repertoire of thinking and practice.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Take a walk

Beethoven frequently took an afternoon walk in the countryside, note book at the ready to capture ideas that occurred to him. Tchaikovsky was obsessive about taking a two-hour walk each day - not a minute more and not a minute less. Eric Satie, during his long nightly walks home through the suburbs of Paris, would frequently stop under a street light to note down ideas that came to him. (His musical output dropped during the first world war. Perhaps this was because the street lights were switched off during the blackout.)

During our own time the inspirational powers of the walk have not diminished. For contemporary composer Bright Sheng, taking walks is an integral part of his compositional process:

'My normal composing process is this: I think about a new piece first while taking walks. I start to hear sounds and I process them. I pick the music that excites me. It could be an interesting beginning for a piece, or a middle section, or an ending. As I take more walks, I hear more. Each time, I hear more details.' (From 'The Muse that Sings' by Ann McCutchan) 

The brain boosting effects of taking a walk, especially before or between bouts of mentally challenging activity, are now supported by scientific research:

Perhaps most importantly, we know from our own experience that doing something physical and relatively mindless can not only be predictably therapeutic but also unexpectedly inspiring: that great idea that occurs to us as we do the shopping, do the gardening, take a shower, take a walk.

So, if your thinking gets stuck in a rut resist the temptation of just sitting there, trying to think harder and harder. The evidence shows that the longer you just sit there, trying to think harder and harder, the longer you will just sit there, trying to think harder and harder.

Take a walk between thinking, and energise not only your body but also your mind.

To see the 'Creativity in the Air' workshop click Here.

To see more like this go to: Creativity-in-the-Air-50-Ways-Music-Can-Make-You-More-Creative