Mintzberg Quoting Mozart on Composing

Forrest ChristianKnowledge Leave a Comment

For whatever reason, there’s something about the “Aha!” nature of genius that resists deconstruction. Or reduction. Or even reducing to a broth. One of the problems with many of the current KM theories and practices is that they basically ignore this. It’s as if knowledge and knowing were somehow the big secret. The big secret is guessing and doing. Then figuring out why that might have made sense.

Of course, this is the same problem with the post-moderns. For all their bluster, they still haven’t gotten much farther than Deconstruction, which is simply Modernism’s fascination with reductionism running backwards. Instead of tearing apart the clock to see how it works, they simply tear apart the theory of tearing apart the clock. Same thing, different level.

Now, for a really neat feat, can someone please, please, invent something new?

Anyway, Mintberg quotes Mozart on how he actually composes and it’s worth keeping in mind.

Among the more intriguing findings of the brain research is that when listening to music, lay people tend to favor the right hemisphere whereas musicians tend to favor the left (see Fincher, 1976:70-71). The implication seems to be that generalists listen to the gestalt — they absorb music as a whole in a sense — while the experts tend to decompose they hear the individual notes. That too fits with much that has been discussed here. But surely the great musicians, and especially the great composers, must do both. That has to be one source of their greatness, the blending of analysis with synthesis. Indeed, in a truly astonishing comment, here is how Mozart described his act of creative composing:

First bits and crumbs of the piece come and gradually join together in my mind; then, the soul getting warmed to the work, the thing grows more and more, and I spread it out broader and clearer, and at last it gets almost finished in my head, even when it is a long piece, so that I can see the whole of it at a single glance in my mind, as if it were a beautiful painting or a handsome human being; in which way I do not hear it in my imagination at all as a succession — the way it must come later — but all at once as it were. It is a rare feast. All the inventing and making goes on in me as in a beautiful strong dream. But the best of all is the hearing of it all at once.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that there is no citation for this quotation, so one of Mintzberg’s graduate students could have made it all up. But one doubts it.

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