- On June 16, 2015
Where does innovation start?
Rarely, if ever, is it a lightning bolt out of the blue, Ben Franklin and the kite experiment notwithstanding. The kite thing was just one part of a long series of Franklin’s inquisitive attempts.
Innovation begins with grounding in the fundamentals…and then letting what you think you know go.
Recently I attended the “Envisioned Strings” violin concert at the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria. I know next to nothing about classical music and even less about the violin. My neighbor’s daughter was playing back-up on one of the songs so I went along for a show of support.
Truth be told, the only other violin concert I’d ever been to at the Kennedy Center was a ‘concerted’ effort in trying not to dose off. That genre of music was not quite my cup of tea.
The evening began with a very skilled quartet playing classics of Bach and Mendelssohn. Precise execution. What I imagined violin is all about.
And then…everything I assumed about the violin was turned around. Black-Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” on violin? Eminem “Lose Yourself” on violin? The Dueling Fiddlers, Adam DeGraff and Russell Falstad–both exceptional classically trained violinists—moved the violin into new places.
This was not prim and proper. This was raw, emotional, physical. They had me transfixed.
My ‘light bulb’ moment?
This innovation of music was only possible with a solid grounding in fundamentals. To ease mash-ups Rap, Rock, or Hip Hop out of the strings required mastery in creating the music the violin was designed to play. When innovating, it helps to have something solid to launch from and then turn it around into something new.
A quick list of people who have game-changed their industry–Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell, Warren Buffet, Henry Ford, Elon Musk. Two things are very clear:
- They each had deep mastery of the fundamentals of their craft allowing them to divert and experiment with the ‘unknown’ spaces.
- They each had far more tries and fails than successes.
In music, the fundamentals of Johan Sebastian Bach–a classic now, but in his time quite the innovator in music development–are still the grounding that many creative and innovative performers use as their own point of departure.
Listen to the guitar riff at the beginning of Guns and Roses “Sweet Child of Mine”–Can you hear the influence of Bach’s counterpoint?
If you want to be more innovative, focus on mastering the basics and then turning it around in new and unexpected ways. See what the Dueling Fiddlers do for AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
I’m hearing music I know done in ways I don’t expect and it’s shifted my perspective—isn’t that what innovation is all about?
Photo credit: © Komprach Sapanrat | Dreamstime.com