perfect symphony

The Perfect Symphony

Tirthankar Poddar


The art of bringing together seemingly unrelated ideas from two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection is called Idea Synthesis.

It is at intersections that innovation happens. Those are the fertile breeding grounds for novelty. Here’s an example: Rock Opera

A pattern found in intellectually gifted individuals with many interests and creative pursuits is called Multipotentiality. Such individuals don’t have ‘one true calling’ the way specialists do, but many. With their varied backgrounds and interests, multipotentialites are able to access the intersections where innovation happens.

Some of the best project teams comprise multipotentialites and specialists paired together.

While the multipotentialites bring in breadth of knowledge and ideas, the specialists dive in deep to implement them.

It’s a beautiful partnership.

Here’s an example: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

While these names may need no real introduction, for the benefit of the uninitiated, Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer and producer of some of the world’s best-known musicals. Tim Rice is the lyricist for most of them. Both Webber and Rice have won a string of prestigious awards and are both Knights of the British Empire.

The Webber-Rice rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is something I am personally very attached to from having played the role of Judas Iscariot in Alyque Padamsee’s 2014 production of it.

It is the musical retelling of the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ.

What started out as just a collection of rock songs that narrate the story, like a concept album, made its Broadway debut in 1971. Since then, it has won very many awards and has been adapted by many theatre companies across the world.

A large part of the plot focuses on the character of Judas Iscariot, who is caught between his love for Jesus Christ and his dislike of his new political direction. Judas’s opening song ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ is the symphony that couldn’t have conveyed his emotional turmoil any better. It sets the tone with its dark crunchy opening guitar riff and rapidly escalates the tension with piercing banshee-like vocals and viciously accusatory lyrics.

Jesus! You've started to believe The things they say of you You really do believe This talk of God is true

And all the good you've done Will soon get swept away You've begun to matter more Than the things you say

What does it take to make a rock symphony as perfect as ‘Heaven On Their Minds’?

Sincere emotions?

Yes, absolutely. The music and the words, in all their complexity, have to be simple enough to be relatable. They have to be rooted in emotions that are 100% pure to be able to move people. They cannot be driven by the greed to impress the mainstream society. They have to be aligned to how people making the music are wired internally. Music and words like that come from embracing the many passions and exploring the intersections.

But, delivery is everything.

A brilliant symphony that writes itself inside a creative mind at 2 AM may lose its charm in broad daylight. To keep that from happening, the brainwave (that creative spark) needs to be carried delicately to the studio or the stage, and replicated with passion. If 2 AMs are indeed made for poets, writers, and visionaries like the viral posts on social media claim, the memory associated with that hour needs to be revisited in vivid high-definition while recording or performing the piece. This will generate the same current to recreate the same intensity. Nothing should be allowed to dissipate this current for the entire duration of the performance.

“There is always a method behind the madness, and a science behind the art,” maintained Alyque Padamsee.

Alyque made his actor-singers use ‘subtext’ extensively to trigger emotions and breath-patterns to bring in authenticity to the performances. Subtext is the content underneath the lyrics. Running it repeatedly in the mind generates the ‘neural pathways’ that help a performer emit the electromagnetic waves required to deliver a compelling performance. In essence, that’s merely an intersection of neuroscience and physics. But one must not forget that it is at intersections like that where innovation happens.

Yes, delivery is everything.

It takes years of obsessive practice to be able to make it look effortless. Grace never comes easy. Even a duck that appears calm on the surface is always paddling relentlessly underneath.

Clinical precision is one thing, and emotional involvement another. To deliver a song as emotionally charged as ‘Heaven On Their Minds’, the actor-singer's preparation needs to be thorough at many levels. The meaning of the song needs to be understood beyond the lyrics to paint an emotional landscape that explores the deepest human conflicts and wounds. This, however, does not discount the importance of clinical precision. Clinical precision comes from mastering the right delivery technique, the components of which could include:

Voice Modulation, Breath Control, Diction, and Body Language.

The voice needs to be trained to be able to hit the high notes with ease. Diaphragmatic breathing needs to ensure constant airflow in the windpipe to avoid vocal fatigue or damage. Every syllable needs to be separated (not just every word). This means every ‘i’ needs to be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. Finally, the piece needs to be performed with posture that does it justice.

The conditions at the recording studio and the performance venue matter too. Every last bit of detail does. The temperature, the humidity, the lighting, the acoustics, even the pre-performance snack… everything needs to align in perfect harmony. Getting this mix right is never easy. But the bet is the safest when put on a project team comprising the right mix of multi-potentialities and specialists. This is in such a setting that the ideas synthesize and allow for innovation.

That's when the symphony rendered nears the state of absolute perfection.

Tirthankar Poddar aka 2Blue is a rock singer, writer, and the occasional actor. He has also been a radio jockey and a Vice President. Tirthankar can be reached @2BlueHimself on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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