accidental innovation

One of the most recognizable sounds in music today was the result of an accident – literally.  Guitar amplification was still a new technology when an early guitarist damaged his amp in transit to a gig.  As they say, “the show must go on” and the band continued plugging the guitar in to an amplifier with a damaged valve.  The resultant sound was described as raucous and menacing – distorted.  Today, guitar players the world over spend thousands of dollars in pursuit of gadgets and pedals to make their amps sound “broken.”

Consider for a moment what would have occurred had the proud guitar player determined he could not go on with such a limitation to his gear.  If he would have been more concerned with his image or his product endorsements, the signature sound of a generation would have been lost.

Worse yet, imagine if the club owner would have cancelled the band because they didn’t sound like everyone else.  Had he found their new sound too offensive or distracting, many of the greatest songs of the past 50 years may have never been written.

Sometimes we need to be better at discerning which things are “unplanned” and which ones are “mistakes.”  Music allows us to make beauty out of our mistakes.  One of the best guitar lines I wrote for a song was an accident – I lost my place on the fretboard and played a note “outside” of the scale.  Most of the time this results in something offensive – but this “accidental” worked beautifully!  It brought color, personality, and motion to an otherwise bland song.

Accidents in music are welcome.  They offer opportunities to stretch the bounds of creativity.  Too often we do not allow for the same level of creativity in our other ventures.  We punish accidents because they fall outside of what we expect.  We expect innovation, but do not allow for differences.  We celebrate the results but shun the process.  We criticize people who don’t think inside of our boxes, yet complain when we remain stuck in the same old rut.

I will determine to celebrate the process in all aspects of my life – enjoying the failures as much as the breakthroughs – in others as well as myself.


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