Less architects, more gardeners

“What the composer had was a kind of menu, a packet of seeds, you might say. And those musical seeds, once planted, turned into the piece. And they turned into a different version of that piece every time. So for me, this was really a new paradigm of composing. Changing the idea of the composer from somebody who stood at the top of a process and dictated precisely how it was carried out, to somebody who stood at the bottom of a process who carefully planted some rather well-selected seeds, hopefully, and watched them turn into something.” – Brian Eno, on Edge

Brian Eno is talking here about a musical movement that happened in the last couple decades of last century. He talks about himself (and others such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and John Cage) as gardeners, not as architects. These guys wrote some amazing music back then (and still do), but they created it not through trying to control every single piece of their work. They created a system, and stood back and watched what grew out of those systems.

I think the vast majority of creative people working in this industry are architects. And yet in an age where you have absolutely no control over your idea once it’s out in the wild, we all need to be thinking a lot more like gardeners.

- November 2011