Saturday, 29 June 2019

Be a subtle and quiet revolutionary

It is well known that Beethoven was a musical revolutionary. The size and loudness of his 3rd Symphony, "The Eroica", challenged the accepted musical conventions of his time and provided the foundations upon which later composers would build; the epic, all embracing symphonies of the Romantic and Late Romantic periods of music (epitomised by Bruckner and Mahler respectively) would not have been possible without the inspirational impetus provided by Beethoven.

But Beethoven was also revolutionary in subtle and quiet ways.

For example, Beethoven would sometimes start his concertos (pieces for soloist and orchestra) quietly, introducing the soloist in an understated and reflective way: his 4th Piano Concerto begins quietly, introducing the soloist not with a virtuosic flourish but with a reflective prayerlike meditation.

This quietness broke the musical conventions of the time: most contemporaries of Beethoven would start their concertos with a loud flourish and provide solo parts that were written to show off the brilliant virtuosic skills of the soloist.

The subtly revolutionary act of starting quietly immediately freed the music from the shackles of virtuosic "display for display's sake" and enabled Beethoven to add emotional depth to his concertos, elevating them to a place beside his symphonies in terms of their ability to express profound feelings.

How could you be subtly and quietly revolutionary? Would quiet dialogue rather than loud argument provide new and game changing ways forward? Would subtle rather than dramatic changes of word and deed encourage beneficial responses and outcomes? Would quiet meditation and reflection prove more productive than energetic action and reaction?

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Mix old and new

Towards the end of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto (written in 1935) a German Lutheran hymn (written in 1662) is combined with a counter-melody that is very chromatic and modern sounding. The mixing of these two very different melodies creates a magical, almost mystical experience for the listener.
Mixing the old and the new can often create something that is very innovative: the boat and aeroplane were combined to create the flying boat; the stagecoach was combined with the steam engine to create the steam train; the principle behind the Victorian flick book was combined with modern film and projection equipment to create the motion picture.

The next time you need to generate innovative solutions to problems, do not forget to consider how old ideas could be combined with new ones.

Ask yourself the following questions:
  • How can you use what already exists to enhance your new ideas? (The quick drying ink used to print newspapers was also used to enhance the effectiveness of the newly invented Biro or ballpoint pen.)
  • How can you use your new ideas to enhance what already exists? (Transistors replaced valves and enhanced the speed and effectiveness of computers. Then along came semiconductors, and computer performance was enhanced once again.)
  • How can a past success be incorporated into something new? (The principle behind the superbly effective paint tin lid was, in reverse form, incorporated into the design of Tupperware container lids.)
  • Which ideas and approaches have been so successful that they are now taken for granted or overlooked? How can their immense success contribute to something new? (The humble O ring seal, which has been keeping bathrooms leak free for decades, eventually became an essential component of aeroplanes and spacecraft.)
  • How can a proven principle or concept be combined with new technology in order to gain enhanced returns? (The well-established idea of discount stamps was combined with computer technology to create Nectar Points.)