Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Develop tiny details

"You hear something -- it may just be a tiny detail in someone else's piece, or even a pop song or a piece of ethnic music -- and you think, 'What an interesting connection that is. What if I took that one little idea, and turned it around, or expanded it, or took what is background and made it foreground?"'

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

As part of his compositional process John Adams sometimes takes a tiny seemingly insignificant detail from someone else's piece of music and works at developing it into a larger and more significant idea.

Beethoven did very much the same thing when composing the first movement of his 5th Symphony. He transformed a small rhythmic motif commonly used by other composers into an idea of immense power and significance which changed the course and nature of Western music: da da da dar! 

He often did the same with his own seemingly trivial material, taking a throw-away melody or phrase and developing it into a substantial section of a composition. He does this very effectively during the first movement of his 5th Piano Concerto (the Emperor): a very quiet unassuming little tune is stated early on and seemingly put to one side, only to return every so often in slightly altered guises which are delicately beautiful and increasingly memorable. Imagine seeing a small, finely crafted gem slowly turning and gradually revealing the rich spectrum and patterning of its glistening facets -- Beethoven gifts us his musical equivalent. 

Indeed, the feel and mood of this little idea does not fade away with the end of the first movement; it permeates and floats through the reflective, gently flowing second movement.

When seeking innovative approaches and solutions remember that their seeds may exist within your own or others' apparently insignificant or seemingly trivial ideas, and ask yourself the following types of questions:
  • What small facets and little details of others' ideas have caught your attention and interest? Why have they caught your attention and interest?
  • How would your approach change if they were placed in the foreground of your thinking? 
  • How do they connect with and complement your own interests and ideas?
  • How do they connect with your current challenges?   
  • What would happen if you looked at them in different ways and experimented and played around with them?
  • How could they fit, operate and develop within a different environment?
  • How could they contribute to solving different problems?
  • What would happen if you gave them resources and invested time in developing and expanding them?
  • What benefits would you gain if you implemented and/or combined all of them? 

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