17 Strangers

Posted by on June 27, 2011

The Monday Morning Memo for June 27, 2011

PROVED: Technique Beats Inspiration

Wizard Academy completed an experiment last Thursday and we’re prepared to share the results of it.

Amateur musicians were gathered from across North America. We refused to allow them to create music in the manner they preferred. Instead, we showed them video clips of Bob Dylan, Elton John, Richard Carpenter and other musicians explaining the tricks they used to create the greatest hits the world has ever known. Our musicians were required to do as they had been instructed.

The objective of this experiment was to determine if success in the arts might be less dependent on talent, sincerity and inspiration than we have previously assumed. This is not to say the amateur musicians who volunteered to be the objects of our experiment were untalented, insincere or lacked inspiration. They simply weren’t allowed to access these traits and characteristics.

Instead, they were given specific techniques, narrow guidelines, insufficient instruments and not nearly enough time.

The 17 spent the morning of the first day in training and instruction. Four of the 17 were writers. At lunchtime, the musicians were sent to the banquet hall while Trisha Sylvestre, Ashley Leroux, Mark Forrester and Scott Broderick were asked to randomly choose 4 strong emotions apiece and write a dozen short lines about each emotion. They were given a total of 28 minutes to do all of this. Their 7-minute writings were later distributed randomly to the musicians who were told these “song lyrics” could not be altered in any way.

Each musician’s assignment was to write music that expressed whatever emotion was precisely opposite the lyrics they had been given. They were then told to sing those lyrics to the music they had written. Words of rage were sung joyfully. Words of hatred were sung lovingly. Words of happiness were sung sadly. Words of anxiety were sung calmly. Deep thoughts were sung as shallow little ditties. This first exercise taught the musicians the techniques of random entry and contradiction.

The songs they created were shockingly interesting.

On Day Two the writers presented the musicians with a second set of lyrics that employed additional techniques they had learned. And instead of 7 minutes, the writers were allowed a luxurious 20 minutes per song.

Did I mention the only instruments the musicians were allowed to use were conga drums, a violin, a flute, a bass clarinet, a harmonica, an acoustic guitar, a melodeon, an electric keyboard and an electric bass? In other words they were given instruments that could not possibly be combined to create what had been demanded of them.

And yet they did it anyway.

On Day Three all the songs were recorded live. No corrections or alterations were made in post-production. And just to keep things fair, the writers were each told they had to write and deliver a spoken word performance.

Want to hear the results?

Wizard Academy is a business school where big things are taught quickly. Come. You belong here.

We think you might be our brand of crazy.

Roy H. Williams

PS – (1.) We’re going to launch some online companies from concept to revenue in just 72 hours. Maybe one of them will be yours. Do you have an idea for an online company?

(2.) “Absolutely the coolest Academy class ever.” We heard this from everyone who took part in the inaugural Marshmallow Surprise. Want to be part of the next one?

(3.) Do you have a child or grandchild between 12 and 16? Does he or she like to write? Would you like to create a lifetime memory with them?

Leave a Reply