“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
I was working with a group of songwriters who’d been having trouble coming up with good material for an upcoming project. I sat in on a few writing sessions. They all had good ideas to work from and they made it to a certain point and then it just died off.
During the sessions I noticed that there were competing styles. Stubbornness and the idea that they all had to agree was clearly what stood in the way of getting things done.
I asked them if they could agree on taking turns deciding what to go with or some kind of system so that the songs could be finished. They mulled it over and since nothing much came of it I had individual chats about it.
What became clear was that one of them felt the others ideas were “too irrational”. He didn’t get it and felt that music shouldn’t be left vague, it should cut to the heart of the matter and deliver an answer. It shouldn’t raise questions or leave the listener with a feeling of being unsure about the meaning of the song. Also, ending the song on an unresolved chord was a big no-no.
We all have different tastes and preferences. But labeling things that aren’t the way you like as being “wrong”? I told him that it might damage their working relationship and isn’t exactly conducive to creativity. He said he understood but that it was a big deal for him and that the others would understand that it was in their best interest. It was “logical”.
I couldn’t agree more. It was totally logical. But we rarely listen to music logically. We expect music to hit us emotionally. Tug at our heartstrings. There’s a certain logical aspect to it but it isn’t the main issue at play.
Later on he came around and started understanding that there might be a certain charm to leaving things open ended or “unresolved”. It could leave the listener pondering some larger question than if the song had just gone A-B-C.
I had serious doubts if they could stick together. The project went well in the end. After a few rough patches and a lot of compromise of course! I think that they learned a lot going through it together and the next project will go much, much smoother.
This did however raise a few questions in my mind. How can we get past our own tastes? How can we make sure that we always keep the listener in focus? As much as it is a matter of self expression it’s also a matter of delivering a story and feeling to the person receiving it.
That doesn’t really change whether we’re talking about music, books, movies, marketing or videogames. We want to move and affect change in people. We don’t do it by looking at something and saying: “Does not compute” and just moving along as if it’s some kind of anomaly that we’d better just ignore.
I guess all we can really do is to try and understand it. If it’s something we’re unfamiliar with we need to get curious. Why does it make us feel the way we feel? What is it that attracts these people to this? Is there anything here that I can relate to on any level?
Take some time to look at if there are some areas of your work that you’ve brushed off and have another look at it.
Maybe you’ll discover something there that you didn’t notice before!