Are you leaving room for the unexpected in your music-making?
One way to think about art is in terms of what kind of balance it has between the expected and the unexpected. Or a way to say it more quantitatively is that each piece has a ratio between what’s predictable and what’s unpredictable by the audience that hears it.
A familiar way to discuss these dynamics is to talk about television shows or movies. We describe rom-coms with obvious endings as being corny or predictable, meaning we knew what was going to happen next, perhaps even what would be said next, because we’ve seen the patterns before.
A show like Law & Order or an HGTV home renovation show will follow recognizable formulas and thus will appeal to a certain audience that is comforted by a high ratio of predictability. (No judgment here–I find myself in that audience sometimes if I’m doing my taxes while watching, for example.)
Most of the films by David Lynch will appeal to an audience that savors a much higher ratio of unpredictability.
But regardless of which ratio appeals to you in general or on a particular day, we usually all prefer some kind of balance between them.
How does this apply to our music?
Well, one way it shows up is when we’re writing a song or a piece and our hands find themselves retracing the same patterns we’ve played on our instrument many times before. Or we put ourselves into a creative state but our voice sings a melody or in a cadence that is likewise habitual. It’s like we’re stuck in the past.
In these moments, can we pause and invite in the unexpected?
In the Jewish tradition, there’s a ceremony in which an unoccupied chair is reserved for the prophet Elijah. (The ceremony itself could be considered to be more of an editing activity, but the point stands nonetheless.) How else could Elijah himself feel welcomed unless we allowed a specific space for him?
In our songs and in the process itself, can we leave a chair open for the unexpected to sit right down next to us and collaborate?
If there’s no room, how can we expect the unexpected to show up?
In the next few newsletters, I will explore this topic further, but for today, I invite you to ask yourself the question in the most broad way possible:
How can you leave more room in your music for the unexpected?
yours on the journey,
for golden lotus studio
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