Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Explore others' meanings

I recently listened to the orchestral piece "Midnight Sun Variations" by the Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen. When I heard the title, I immediately assumed the piece was a set of musical variations in the traditional sense (i.e., a number of movements or sections that are derived from an initial melody, each of which develops the melody in different and creative ways).

When I listened to the composer talk about her piece, however, I realised my assumption was incorrect. Outi Tarkiainen said that her piece was not a set of variations in the above traditional sense; instead, it was a musical depiction of the ever-changing light that plays upon the tundra and dense forests of the Northern Finnish landscape during late summer: a time when midnight sun slowly gives way to darkness.  

This change of meaning immediately altered my perception and expectations of Outi Tarkiainen's piece, which made me listen to and appreciate the music in a new and refreshing way.

Because of our education, training and experiences, etc., some words and phrases have specific meanings for us: meanings that have become hardwired into our way of thinking about and perceiving things (as illustrated by my assumption about the meaning of the word "variations", which my musical education had embedded into my mind).

The next time someone describes a problem to you, check out your assumptions about the way it is being described. What do the words used to describe the problem mean to the person saying them? How does this meaning differ from the one you were assuming? Does this different meaning alter the way you perceive the problem? Does this new perception of the problem suggest new ways to address the problem?  

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