Songwriting Design, Growth, and Universal Good

As a songwriter, you’re a designer. How effective your songs are speaks to your designing abilities.


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Bruce Mau, design visionaryCBC Radio One’s show, “The Current“, hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti, is presently running a series called “By Design.” That word design is one that grabbed my attention right away, because as composers of music, and particularly of songs, we are designing the sonic experience we provide for our listeners, usually in 3-to-4-minute chunks of time.

For their purposes, The CBC has applied a very broad definition to the word design:

We are constantly shaping the world around us – crafting everything from new structures to policies. This season, The Current explores the many ways – good and bad – that design affects our lives. Whether we’re engineering the human body, a new technology, or a new way to educate children … it’s all “By Design.” (link)

Today’s interview with Visionary Bruce Mau was very interesting, and very well-worth listening to. (The link to listen is just beneath Mau’s photo on the linked page). As writers of music, you’ll want to see how and/or if the notion of songwriting syncs with Mau’s take on design. His discussion is very philosophical in nature, and may resonate strongly with those of you who approach musical composition from a philosophical point of view.

In any case, if you don’t have time to listen to the interview, the CBC has published Mau’s short one-page document called “An Incomplete Manifesto For Growth.” When I read it, it surprised me how applicable it was to the songwriting process, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with each and every statement.

Give the document a read, and feel free to comment below. To get you started, here are five statements from Bruce Mau’s manifesto. Do you agree with them? Do they apply to songwriting as you see it? What might you add to Mau’s 43 statements?

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

Definitely give the entire document a read and let me know what you think below in the comments.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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