As I sound dive, searching for sounds I can play, I’m faced with a related puzzle:
What kind of music does this sound suggest?
Finding a playable sound is a good start, but also a potential rut, because a playable sound is often a sound that leads me in a familiar direction, as I play things just as I have always played them. Sometimes, though, a sound suggests a different way of playing. For example, it has happened many times that I hear something interesting and notice that what I’m doing to trigger the sound: the sound dictates a new approach. The sound may not require a triad or a cadence; it may simply ask for a single pitch upon which to soar.
In his book Principles, Ray Dalio speaks of what he calls radical open-mindedness as a way to enhance the feedback loop between making decisions, seeing their outcomes, and improving our understanding of reality (p. 136). Dalio’s concept is useful to keep in mind when going through sounds insofar as my listening indicates how close-minded I can be regarding what I think I like and why. Evidence for my close-mindedness is everywhere: I come up short in imagining a context for a sound I would never have thought of using. I dismiss sounds with a cursory I don’t like that or that’s not my sound. I pass over sounds because they’re too abrasive or too one-dimensional, or too lush and layered. Each time I’m close-minded in this way I miss opportunities to add to my vocabulary of useable sounds and combine them into new juxtapositions.
Can I become more open-minded and accept sounds for who they are?