Friday, 23 November 2012

Apply transformation

The person credited with creating the musical technique ‘Thematic Transformation’ is the innovative, risk-taking composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886). 

His technique entailed taking musical ideas and changing them, sometimes radically, in order to explore different emotional, psychological and philosophical perspectives. 

Liszt’s Faust Symphonie (based on Goethe’s famous work) makes extensive use of thematic transformation. Liszt introduces us to Faust and the other characters (Gretchen and Mephistopheles), giving them their own musical themes. He then gradually transforms each of them through music, depicting the physical, psychological and emotional experiences and traumas of each protagonist. 

Interestingly, it is inaccurate to say that all the characters are given their own musical themes. Mephistopheles, the Devil, does not have any musical themes of his own but distorted, disfigured versions of Faust’s own musical themes, suggesting strongly that we all have our own devils within us.

Applying the above principle of transformation can help us to better understand and address many of the problems that we face in our lives and work. When next considering a problem ask the following types of questions: 
  •          How is the problem viewed through the eyes of others?
  •          How does exploring and appreciating these differing perspectives transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of staff, managers and board members transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of customers and stakeholders transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of your children transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of your partner transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of your parents transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of your friends and enemies transform the problem?
  •          How do the views of others not directly involved transform the problem?
  •          How does simply discussing the problem transform its nature?
  •          How does the passing of time transform the problem?
  •          How could the problem be transformed into the foundations of a solution?
  •          How could the perfect solution be distorted into new problems and difficulties?
  •          How does context and environment transform the problem?
  •          How does distancing yourself from the problem transform it?
  •          How does placing yourself within the problem transform it?
Transforming a problem by exploring and appreciating it from differing perspectives can help us discover innovative, mould breaking solutions.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Slow it down

I play the piano, badly now and averagely when I was a young music student. For some reason a got through quite a number of piano teachers and each of them implored me to ‘slow down!’ They strongly encouraged me to practise pieces at a much slower tempo than that indicated for performance. This especially related to the fast and intricate passages.

As you can imagine, for a teenager full of hormones and eager to show off during the fast and loud bits this was something of a frustration. As a result I found this type of slow practice very difficult to do, but when I did manage it my playing benefited immensely.

Now, as I struggle to regain some of my technique, I continue to find the rewards of slow practice to be great. This is particularly so when I am grappling with the intricacies of Bach fugues. When I play this music in slow motion I notice harmonies and subtleties that I would not have noticed otherwise, and as I gradually speed up my playing my mastery of the music (and its tricky passages!) is that much more assured.

Sometimes we can be so keen to attain our goals or find solutions that we rush headlong towards them, barely noticing the subtleties and complexities of the problems we are trying to address. Unexpected difficulties can then spring up before us, causing us to falter in our progress.   

Consciously and systematically slowing down and experiencing our problems in slow motion can help us better appreciate not only their nature but also the full extent of their challenges.

Develop the habit of dividing a problem into short segments or parts. Take your time as you look over them. Notice their intricacies and interrelations and how they develop and grow towards the overall problem. Pause and reflect before coming to any conclusions about what you have found. You will then be able to identify, develop and execute your approach to solving your problem that much more effectively than otherwise.