Friday, 18 January 2013

Stay with it

The main theme of the 1st movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto is an eloquently long phrase that seems to last and last. As it progresses it seems to come to life: slowly growing, blossoming and maturing and then ever so gradually resigning itself to its eventual gently quietening conclusion.

By staying with his initial idea and allowing his mind to accompany it along its path, developing it in an unhurried and natural way, Elgar achieves what all great composers are capable of: he realises the innate potential of his idea. He is then able to use it as the foundation for a fully worked out and extended piece of music.

We often think of very good initial ideas but then, for one reason or another, we fail to stay with them: not giving them the time and attention needed to explore them fully and realise their potential.

The next time you have a new idea imagine yourself helping it to grow. Travel with it along its lifeline at its own natural pace. Watch it develop and gently encourage it to blossom. Once it has blossomed do not be too quick to assume that you have realised its full potential. Continue to nurture it for as long as possible. You may then find that previously hidden benefits accrue, not only as the blossoming continues but also as it begins to fade. Previously unappreciated thoughts that have been supporting the flowering idea may (like leaves in autumn) begin to present new hues, patterns and perspectives that add unexpected insights and value. Or perhaps unexpected offshoots previously obscured by the blossoming of your idea will be more easily seen and followed.  

Stay with and nurture your ideas from their beginnings to their apparent endings and they will repay you tenfold and more with the immense power of their fully realised potential.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Something old, something new, something borrowed...

One of my first music teachers taught me a very important lesson about composing music: if you wait for inspiration you will wait a very long time.

Composers have always had to write music to order: J.S. Bach had to write a new cantata each week; Handel had to write operas and oratorios to very tight time scales; Vivaldi produced concertos hand over fist in order to keep up with demand.

If these composers had waited for ‘the muse to come upon them’ they would have probably starved to death. None of them were afraid to reuse old material in new pieces. When they did get a new idea, however insignificant it might have seemed initially, they would ruthlessly develop and exploit it. They were also very keen borrowers of others’ ideas.

The next time you are asked to brainstorm solutions to a problem think of the following well-known phrase:

'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.'

Old ideas are always worth a revisit, do not be afraid to explore and recycle them.

New ideas do not always have to be ground breaking or clever, just capable of development.

Borrowing ideas from elsewhere is simple common sense.

The phrase ‘something blue’ at first seems irrelevant here, but this is the point. Sometimes we can have ideas that initially seem to have no connection with the topic under discussion, but for some reason they linger in our minds. It is only later, usually when it is much too late for them to make any difference, that we realise how useful they could have been.

It is often best to go with our gut instinct and mention our ideas at the time that we have them. Our intuition can be way ahead of us, pointing out how to resolve a problem even before we have had a chance to focus our conscious, rational thoughts upon it.

Remember, if you wait for inspiration your ideas will probably arrive too late to make a positive difference.