Small Musical Failures As Non-Obvious Usage Paths

“Create non-obvious usage paths. In my experience, it’s the best algorithm.”
– Dombaeb, KVR Audio

In my work I notice a recurring pattern to small failures and the breakthroughs that sometimes follow them. Here is how the pattern plays out:

1. I’m doing my usual musical things, but nothing seems to be working. Nothing sounds interesting, compelling, or enchanting. The process feels pointless. (Why have I invested so much time in this again?) 

2. Out of desperation, I try something unusual and non-obvious—because, since nothing seems to be working, I have nothing to lose. One day this is trying the melody as the bass to hear what happens and finding that it’s better than I could play it. Another day it’s messing with a beat until it’s flipped around, unfamiliar, and I can’t hear how it works. Yesterday it was removing notes, one by one, from a busy and uninteresting 16-bar sequence until it had space. The sequence was so uninteresting, in fact, that I used the note-removal process as a momentary game of How can I improve this? 

3. When I try out something unusual and non-obvious because there seems to be nothing left to do, inevitably something interesting happens. In sum, the pattern to small failures and breakthroughs is that the prospect of failing both frees me up to “swing freely” whilst ratcheting up my concentration through a momentary goal: use your small failures as a way forward.

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