ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘songwriting’

When You Need Ideas, Make Sure You Invite This Collaboration Partner

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

I’ve been reading artist David Byrne‘s book, “How Music Works.” For those of you who don’t know, he was the founding member of the band, Talking Heads.

It’s a fascinating book, part history, part autobiography, part music science, and totally fascinating.

Sharing His Creative Process

Byrne is wonderfully introspective when it comes to his songwriting process.  He clearly pays attention to himself when creating, which, incidentally, on its own is a good thing to practice while being creative.

While the book is, in itself, an exploration of his creativity, a few of the pages delve into the specifics of his songwriting.  I found much of what he wrote resonates with my own songwriting and the creative process in general.

A Little Bubbly

One of the most powerful things Byrne does, and perhaps the most difficult, is listen to his subconscious and let it bubble to the surface.

As he listens to musical frameworks, he uses them as springboards to lyrics.  He does this by singing passionate jibberish and writing it all down.  In essences, he’s sketching.

Stop Making Sense

He allows emotions, memories, sounds, patterns, to express themselves, even if they don’t make sense! Eventually those sung sounds will be transliterated into actual words and music, but not in the early stages.  Instead, he simply trusts that those sounds, the lyrical structure, all things being articulated, are connected to the music on a deep, visceral level.

However, all this is for naught if he judges his work too quickly.  He does his best to

Suspend judgement!

This is something that I always drive home to people when I am moderating brainstorming sessions.

Don’t judge!

Judging the ideas is for a later time, after the various ideas can be explored for their apropos-ness to the music.  For people who are innovating, the ideas should resonate on multiple levels, not just the physical, but the emotional as well.

“I try not to prejudge anything that occurs to me at this point in the writing process – I never know if something that sounds stupid at first, will in some soon-to-emerge lyrical context make the whole thing shine.  So no matter how many pages get filled up, I try to turn off the internal censor.”(Italics mine; pp. 219-220)

This can’t be overstated: What seems stupid at the beginning might be the key at a later time.

What if the internal censor doesn’t cooperate? (“…the conscious mind might be thinking too much.”)

“Exactly at this point…I most want and need surprises and weirdness from the depths.”

His goal here is to “distract the gatekeepers.” Go jog, cook, walk, drive, do whatever so that the conscious mind is occupied with something else, just enough to let the goodies come through.

Again, make sure you have a recorder, sketchpad, camera, clay, whatever, so that you can record these gems as they “gurgle up.”  Just a snippet of these pearls could be enough to connect everything and make the whole project come together.   What was once a garbled mess can become a pleasing coherent whole.

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

With yourself!  Access the emotions,  knowledge,  patterns, experiences and feelings of all that you are!  Each of us is a wonderful repository of so much more than we realize.  Just because we don’t think we remember something doesn’t mean that something we saw, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, learned, or even thought we experienced, didn’t leave a valuable experiential nugget in our beings.

Our imaginations and our experiences can work together to enable us to design a better future.  (For a fascinating article on how we imagine the past and the future in similar ways read, “Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.”) We just have to get out of our own ways.

Are More Better?

As I’ve written before, there are certain conditions in which small groups are good for collaboration, especially when participants are able to share their own unique perspectives and experiences.  However, at the root of that multi-person collaboration is the ability for each individual to collaborate with themselves, to not censor themselves.   Solo-brainstorming is indeed powerful! (See “Why Groups Are Less Effective than Their Members: On Productivity Losses in Idea-Generating Groups“)

But you need to be you.

Take these tips from David Byrne and internalize them.  Listen to yourself – your subconscious.  Access who you are. Sketch. Suspend judgement. Explore. Look for resonance between concepts. (Sometimes they’re in that order, sometimes not.  😉 )

Regardless of what you’re designing, your innovations will be more creative the more you’re willing to collaborate with yourself.

Here’s to better solutions and a better world filled with better music 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, product design, Service Design, Sketching, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Design Better Products Using These Seven Tips From SongWriting

Posted by Plish on July 2, 2015

You know how much I like music. You also know how I like using parallels from other industries to supplement what I do.  I came across a great article from BMI (that happen to be the Performing Rights Organization that I belong to) that discusses 7 things to look for in improving one’s lyrics.  After all, a song has less than a few minutes to hook you and if the lyrics don’t work, the song doesn’t work.  It dawned on me that focusing on these 7 facets can also improve your products/services.

Here are the seven tips and how they apply to product design:

  1. Is everything you’re writing related to the hook/message of the song?  Is everything in the design related to the message/meaning of the product?    What message or vibe do you want your product to convey?  Are buttons, directions, colors, shapes, feel, smell all working together to convey the same message?
  2. Have you used details in your verses? Have you used details appropriately in the product?  Architect/Designer Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Details call attention to the various centers of a product.  They can work together or provide distraction.
  3. Have you already said it?  Are there unnecessary redundancies in the product?  Not only is excess information (excess detail) annoying it can be confusing and lead to errors in use.
  4. Have you said enough?  Just as saying too much is a problem, not saying enough is equally bad.  Designers can assume that a person using a product knows everything the designer knows about the product: the context of use, how it works, etc.  These assumptions can then covertly get built into the design resulting in frustration and product misuse.  As a designer ask yourself, “Does using this product require knowledge that only I have?  Will the person using this say, ‘I didn’t know I had to do x for y to work!'” If the answers are “Yes” or “Maybe” then find a way to overtly communicate that knowledge.
  5. Is your chorus lyric the main message of your song and is it memorable?  The chorus is the part of the song that most people remember and join in singing.   It sticks in our heads.  Is the main use of the product memorable – does it get stuck in your head?  Does the product create a type of obsession?  Do you want to go back for more?
  6. Do your words sound good sung?  Does the product communicate naturally?  Is the product communicating in ways that are congruent with the desired experience?    Is there a unified brand experience? Does something seemed forced about the product interaction?
  7. Are the little words like “and,” “but” & “’cause” used properly, or can they be removed altogether?  Every action leads to an action and/or reaction.    Do I have to press this and hold that to make something work?  If I swipe but don’t use four fingers will it cause something undesirable to happen?  Does everything in a product get straight to the point?  If it doesn’t, it should be by design, not by accident. Little words like “and” and “but” create connections that can lead to confusion and a lack of intelligibility.   If they can be removed, remove them.  If you can’t remove them, make sure that each “and” or “but” in the product design is important and essential.

There you have it. Next time you hear a song that you’re singing along with, think about what makes that song work.   More importantly, think about ways to make your designs sing! 🙂

 

Posted in creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, Innovation Tools, Musical Creativity, Service Design, The Senses, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons in Innovation From Songwriter Eric Carmen

Posted by Plish on May 4, 2014

I was listening to classical music the other day, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18 to be exact.  One passage struck me as familiar….very familiar.  That’s when I realized: All by Myself by Eric Carmen.  It was a song I had heard in my youth.  I don’t particularly like it, catchy as it is, though I’m in the minority.  All by Myself reached number 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100.   (In 2011 it even made it into an episode of Glee!)

Anyway,  I thought that it was an amazing coincidence that this song had classical echoes, and then I read on how the song was written.  All by Myself does indeed contain the passage from Rachmaninoff.  It also contains parts of a song called Let’s Pretend that was also written by Carmen. Said Carmen, “I just took those notes and took it from there. I thought, ”Let’s Pretend’ was a nice melody.’ The song didn’t go quite as far as I thought it should have. I’ll go back and steal from myself for this.”

“Steal from myself.”  I love it.

He wasn’t afraid to take  a good thing and reuse it in another context – and in fact, the new creation was more successful.  Keep journals and notebooks of your ideas and inspirations.  Even if you use something, don’t be afraid to leverage it again – perhaps it can be used more effectively somewhere else.

Carmen didn’t stop with that inspiration.  He also borrowed from the Rachmaninoff piece.  Being that it was a classical piece, Carmen assumed the music was already in the Public Domain, meaning he could use the song for free.

He was wrong.

The Rachmaninoff Estate heard the tune, contacted Carmen and a deal was reached.  Carmen would give up a hefty 12 percent of what the song made as royalties.

There are multiple takeaways here.

First, Carmen  took something that was in the realm of Classical music and transformed it into a pop song.   That’s a pretty radical stretch.   This highlights how it’s important to look to other industries and technologies for inspiration.  After all, if an innovation existed in your own industry then everyone would already be using it, right?

Second, as the world becomes more and more ‘open source’, don’t make assumptions about ownership.  Lawsuits are very real.  This story has a happy ending.  All parties involved got something out of the deal.

But I still don’t like the tune…

Maybe you will.  Give it a listen…

 

Posted in Case Studies, creativity, Crowdsourcing, innovation, Innovation Tools, Musical Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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