Just Thinking
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Just Thinking

The Riff Of Life

I watched the Beatles Get Back trilogy recently.

I thought I knew the Beatles, but my respect for them grew watching this. Almost eight hours of real-time creativity.

Sometimes hard to watch but mostly genius on film. Funny and breathtaking, insights at every turn. A masterclass on the power of riffing — turning glimpses of something into musical mastery through a very special level of collaboration.

There’s magic in music — sometimes explosive, often subtle and nuanced, always personal and indefinable.

If a piece of music moves you, the moments when you experienced it remain forever. That feeling hijacks your psyche — you can’t get it out.

A great piece of music invades your whole soul. The feeling is peculiarly indescribable.

Years later, it still transports you right back to the thrill it first gave you. The specifics may have faded a bit but not the feeling.

The sounds unlock pictures in your head — vivid replays of the places and the moods you were in spin up — a great lick, the emerging riff — the whole enchilada.

The Thing About Recall

Instant recall of that enormity is powerful; the emotional attachment to that much meaning is special. Incredible when you think that gaining attention in any way these days is nearing impossible.

Like all important things in life, music is both complex and simple. It has a framework, chords, riffs and licks. It has an overall story. It has highs and lows and tells a story. But the result is simple.

As far back as I remember, that complex/simple thing applies to my general idea of creativity and collaboration.

Collaboration — A Mercurial Thing.

We’ve brought a hidden structure to cause something close to riffing. A to and fro — a debate. A conversation among peers. Many of whom will deny being in any way creative. But they all are.

A ‘riff’ — the powerful and more complete idea brought about by riffing — is probably not the final product but still a massive step.

The lick — by comparison, is a single something — not even half-formed. Aching for other licks to become a more grown-up something and eventually a riff.

For riffing to work, it requires more than one person. The energy comes from multiple sources — each well-intentioned — they want to play. Everyone is open to changing their own mind and altering their contribution. Each bit layering and weaving with the messy whole delighting when something better gets thrown in. Magical.

A long and winding road for certain but oh, what a feeling.




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John Caswell

John Caswell

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