Thoughts on Stimulating Creativity in Perfumery
One rainy Sunday morning, sipping a cup of earl grey tea, and snuggled in my favourite armchair I was listening to a Podcast by economist Tim Harford, that really grabbed my attention: It was called “The power of messiness”, and was exploring ways to give your creativity a boost. The podcast started with the story behind a jazz concert by musician Keith Jarret: the Koln concert of 1975. If you don’t know this concert, I would encourage you to listen to it while you read on, as it will help you understand the article better.
What happened is this: when Keith Jarret arrived in Koln on the day of the concert, on the stage, he found an old, out of tune, rehearsing piano, instead of the grand piano he expected. Despite the organiser’s best effort to try and retrieve the grand piano from storage, Keith Jarret ended up playing on the small rehearsing piano…
Because everything was going so badly wrong, K J asked his collaborators to record the concert, to keep a trace of what happens when you are unprepared, and to prevent it from happening ever again.
During the concert, K J had to play avoiding a number of keys as they were broken. He had to keep using rolling repetitive notes, to create the resonance, so that the music reached the back of the auditorium. He also had to stand up in order to use as much power on the keys as he could. All this was really strenuous and you can hear him moaning out of frustration at the piano on the recording.
Against all expectations, the incredible outcome is that this is one of KJ’s best concerts. Luckily, it was recorded, because everybody agreed that it was magical. Yet; it would have been impossible to repeat, as this was pure improvisation!
Now, how could this relate to perfumery and creativity maybe more generally? It seems that one way to boost creativity is to be forced to re-invent the wheel: ambushed in a situation where routine is challenged. Additionally, for this to really have an effect, it seems that there needs to be a sense of urgency, where one’s reputation is at stake. Basically, it seems that creativity can be stimulated in very uncomfortable situations. From what I have gathered, other musicians, like Brian Eno, who worked with Bowie, tried to recreate such situations by swapping roles at the last minute before recording: the piano player would take the place of the guitarist and so on… And then see and listen to what happens.
Does this mean that we should start next Monday morning by sitting under a sword tied to a timer? Oh, what did you say? Is that how every Monday feels like to you? Well it might not be all bad news, after all?