Here's how I gained a little insight into what made The Beatles great:
Each December, I give some of my piano students an assignment: compose a piece of piano music using Winter, Christmas, or Hanukkah as inspiration. I don't give any further instructions, and I love hearing the amazing music my students of all ages come up with. For their part, they enjoy the freedom I give them to come up with any music they want. I don't limit them; I listen to their initial attempts and show them how to focus and develop their musical ideas.
One of my students, who was about 9-10 years old at the time, came to her lesson with a page of lively, invigorating music. She said she had imagined a snowman riding a sled down a hill, going fast. She ended the piece with a fun, downward glissando.
The best part for me came when we thought about a title. She wanted to call the snowman Frosty. I said, "Let's see... Frosty is sledding. Or is you want to use the word sleighing?" She said the title should be, "Frosty Goes Sled Sleighing."
As an adult and a teacher, I knew that we would usually use "sledding" or "sleighing," but not both words together. I heard myself explaining this to the student, and immediately saw how limiting I was being. After all, this wasn't a language assignment. It was a creative project with no boundaries! Why couldn't she use both words???
As she joyfully repeated her composition's new title: "Frosty Goes Sled Sleighing," I reflected a bit on the nature of creativity and how we constantly limit ourselves by our usual thought patterns and our sense of what's "acceptable." As the lesson progressed, I thought about one of my favorite music groups, The Beatles. The Beatles weren't the most proficient players on their instruments, but they had boundless creativity. I could now see that they had never lost the wide-eyed openness that my young student exhibited when naming her piece. The Beatles had held on to something that most of us lose as we grow up!
"Frosty Goes Sled Sleighing." Hmmm.. Could have been on a Beatles album!
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