The epic E and agile development

I grew up listening to the Beatles. It’s not that I was a big fan, but I spent much time playing with my cousins down the street. Their dad had every album, and when the stereo wasn’t on, he was playing Beatles on piano.

To me, music is one of the fastest ways to summon memories and the emotional states of the audience.

The picture is from The Beatles

At first glance, the simple way that music is written down may not look as though there is much room for interpretation or variation. Just play the notes and obey the rules. Follow the instructions and the masterpiece will be revealed.

Of course, anyone who has ever played an instrument will know that music doesn’t work that way. The dots on the page are just the pointer toward the actual work of art, the score is an incomplete set of instructions. Play these notes at this speed. Play loud here and play soft there, speed up a bit and slow down a bit. But the truth is not found in the notes. It’s found in between the lines.

Music is not about the notes on a scorecard. It’s always about the interpretation.

As a hobbyist musician and an engineer, I am also interested in recording music, and as most Beatles-fans will know, they were pioneers of music recording. I recently saw a tv documentary about how The Fab Four recorded. And someties pioneering requires some disruptive thinking too.

One of the grandest and craziest pieces of their work, in my opinion, can be found in a song ‘A Day in the Life’. The song reaches its peak with a huge orchestral section that lasts for 24 bars. The music video alone has over 72M views on youtube, so it’s not a small work of art! The part that I mean begins at 3'50".

George Martin was in charge of the recording session with the 40 piece orchestra and he had an idea. Instead of asking the orchestra to play specific notes written on the page, he simply wrote the lowest note for each instrument at the beginning and the highest note in the key of E at the end of the passage. Then he drew a squiggly line between the two notes.

He pointed a finger towards the outcome he wanted and decided to trust the team to do the rest.

What he had done produced a grand and emotionally engaging outcome. Each instrument seemingly improvised over the 24 bars starting at the lowest note and eventually hitting the final chord in concert. The epic E, where everything finally comes together.

So now comes the hard part. I didn’t mention agile development or software testing at all while writing. This is because I wanted to first ask what you think.

How is this story relevant regarding modern day development and testing?