Friday, April 24, 2009

Innovation In C

Tonight I participated in the miracle of Terry Riley’s 'In C' (to borrow an expression from Louis CK) at Carnegie Hall. 'In C' is an amazing piece. This is what the score looks like:The rules of the game are as follows: All performers play the same page of 53 melodic patterns in a sequence but with each musician having the freedom to determine how many times to play a specific sequence before moving to the next. Any kind of instrumentation is possible.

Basically the entire piece is improvised which is neat as each musician chooses when to phase in or out. But what’s really neat about it is that it gets you thinking about innovation. We tend to think of innovation as a one-man show. (And even in cases in which we say that organizations innovate we don’t really think it’s the group being creative). Here, on the other hand, the individual’s contribution isn’t interesting – what’s interesting is how the group innovates. It’s the interaction between individuals that creates musicality. As Terry Riley puts it in the performing directions:

“One of the joys of 'In C' is the interaction of the players in polyrhythmic combinations that spontaneously arise between patterns. Some quite fantastic shapes will arise and disintegrate as the group moves through the piece,”

Note that Riley writes “as the group moves through the piece”. 'In C' strikes me as the perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Music flows from the interplay of patterns that "spontaneously arise". I tried to think of any digital equivalents during the performance but came up blank. Not sure mashups meet the bar. Any suggestions? (Listen to a sample?)

PS: Also, if you will, why not consider 'In C' as a metaphor for (internet) business. It seems dead easy to perform (I’ll probably regret saying this), but in principle anyone who can read rhythms can do it – much like anyone with basic programming skills can put together an app. Provide the platform and have others do the legwork

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