Thursday, 20 February 2020

Change the nuance of your idea

"The central idea behind the piece is having the same musical idea presented in slightly different ways by the two instruments, hence the changing nuance of the materials..."

Daniel Kessner

This quotation is taken from Daniel Kessner's programme note for a piece called "Nuance", a duet he wrote for bass flute and viola. 

Presenting or changing ideas in slightly different ways can achieve two closely associated things: it can help us perceive ideas in different ways, and it can help us improve ideas in surprising ways.

If you have edited photographs using Instagram filters or similar, you will have experienced the above at first hand: as you apply each filter to the photograph, some aspects are emphasised or enhanced and new aspects are revealed. Then, after you have selected a filter and begun editing the photograph's colour, brightness and contrast, etc., you discover that the slightest movement of your finger can bring forth additional and sometimes surprising nuances of shade, light and emphasis, some of which transform an average photograph into a good one and a good photograph into a great one.

Find slightly different ways to present or change your idea: change one or two of the words and phrases you use to describe it; slightly strengthen or soften the emphasise you give to different aspects of it; listen to it being presented by someone else, at one remove; add one or two small aspects to it, or take one or two away; slightly change the context within which it is framed.
What does changing the nuance of your idea reveal? How can what has been revealed help you enhance your idea?

Monday, 10 February 2020

Do not be deceived by initial negative impressions

The Viennese premier of Anton Bruckner's 3rd Symphony did not go well.

The audience laughed and hissed and departed in droves during the performance. When the symphony sounded its last notes, the orchestral players (who had never liked the work) immediately bolted for the exits.

Bruckner, who had conducted the symphony, was left alone on his podium to receive a battering of catcalls and sarcastic cries for encores.

He was so traumatised by his experience that a whole year passed before he could resume composing.

But the 3rd Symphony's premier was not the total disaster it had at first seemed. This was because it caused the following three things to happen:
  1. Bruckner gained a 1st champion for his symphony: a music publisher, Theodore Rattig, offered to publish the symphony and a four-hand piano transcription of it.
  2. A seventeen year old music student was greatly impressed and influenced by the symphony: his name was Gustav Mahler. Some years later, he gained ownership of the symphony's handwritten score.
  3. The history of the symphony, the symphony's influence upon Mahler and the ownership journey of the symphony's handwritten score (Mahler's widow inherited the manuscript and smuggled it out of Germany to ensure the Nazis could not use a valuable musical artefact to bolster their cause) all contributed to a story that inspired many people.
When you premier a new idea, when you share it with people for the first time, remember that initial negative impressions of people's reactions can be deceiving: a 1st champion may make herself known above the catcalls; a seed of inspiration may have been planted within an open, creative and gifted mind; the story of your idea's emergence and subsequent journey within minds and beside lives may reach out to and inspire more people than you initially imagined.

(And today, of course, Bruckner's 3rd Symphony has taken its place amongst the established symphonic repertoire.)