Creativity through Constraint

This will seem a bit not-video-related, but I’ll bring it around. Maybe.
Last night I went to Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Happy Hour event. It was my first time attending and the thing that brought me: “a mash-up of Brahms’ First Symphony and Radiohead’s OK Computer.” WELL THEN.

OK Computer is my favorite Radiohead album and one of my favorite albums of all time in general, so yeah, of course my ass is in a seat. And the performance was incredibly well done. The mash-up was great, the vocalists were fantastic (covering Thom Yorke is no small task) and it was one of the best concerts I’ve attended. (PS to the ISO, do Bjork! Specifically Homogenic but I’m not picky. I will buy ALL THE TICKETS.)

The performance was arranged and conducted by Steve Hackman who spoke beforehand and said some stuff that I really dug, which is the point of this blog post. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said that Brahms and Radiohead both used the predefined constructs of their respective musical styles to innovate while maintaining relevancy.

Creativity through constraint. One of my favorite things! I’ve probably talked about it before in this massive pile of blog posts, but I think constraint is one of the most powerful tools you can use to innovate. It keeps you focused and helps you finish what you started by providing finite possibilities. It gives you a roadmap. It keeps you reigned in so you don’t alienate your audience. And it makes you even more motivated to kick out the walls and push yourself beyond the scope of the pre-determined construct.

In school, I participated in some constrained projects in the style of Dogme 95 (which I love). In my professional life, I’ve done projects like The Collective where I had to create within the theme of a collection. I do my very best work under constraint because it combines the motivation to move beyond the four walls of a thing with the ability to focus enough to make it happen.

So I really really dug ISO’s mash-up. I’m glad to see such creative innovation as Radiohead and Brahms not only being recognized locally, but also being taken to the next level by local artists willing to take a risk.

(Seriously, do Bjork. I will go. I don’t know enough about classical music to know what she pairs with, but the alliterative possibilities are irresistible: Bjork ‘n’ Bach? COME ON!)