Tension And Resolution 

Day 142 Week 21 Q2 Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Innovation requires adoption, insight is not enough. Adoption requires emotional engagement. Adoption is rarely based strictly upon logical, rational motivations. Emotional engagement requires emotional relevancy. We are literally bombarded with millions of sensations all of the time. How do we sort out what we pay attention to? We usually only pay attention to what is emotionally relevant to us at the moment. 

Of course, there are people capable of delayed gratification, but I doubt they are capable of delayed fear or danger perception. It is immediate and dominates the incoming barrage of sensory input. And yes, the wisdom literature has addressed this for millennia as it underpins most spiritual practices. People get scared and need to know what to do, and this is also why they elect authoritarian leaders, and it is how con artists make money. When people are afraid, what the more compelling candidates say is emotionally relevant to them, even if it is totally nonsensical.

There is only one kind of relevancy in the world: emotional relevancy. Things, people and ideas that are not relevant are not engaging. And to my mind, there is a larger dominant central underlying principle, tension and release. All music and all stories, including all movies and all television, and all advertisements and even the news, rely upon the same mechanism to ensure emotional engagement. 

That mechanism creates tension and release. If there is no tension, no one cares, so when music is all major, it is boring to me and most composers. The story analog is a character is introduced, and they have excellent prospects of a career or a romance or an adventure. But then the PROBLEM is introduced, which creates TENSION, and it hooks you because you want to find out what happens and how things will turn out. This is what major and minor in music are really about. Tension and Release. One example occurs in suspended fourth chords needing to resolve. They are harmonically ambiguous and neither completely major nor min.

If you either avoid all of the tension or resolve all of the tension too quickly, then the story and the advertisement are not engaging. They can all be reduced to a simple formula – things are fine, then they are not, and then they are again. This is what is happening with the major and minor. Ah, but how you do it, is where the art comes in. What is the proportion and how much is ambiguously neither major nor minor, and it is all dynamically time-varying. And the public has a diminishing attention span, so they now can only handle a three-minute song instead of a thirty-minute piece of classical music. And they do not listen to entire albums because the story arc is too long.

And they are also electing leaders who have no nuance – just good or bad. The elegance of life is the dance of moving in and out of grace or tension and release.

No tension means no relevancy, which means no engagement or adoption.  And therefore, no innovation.