The summer always brings festivals: a chance to hear music that one knows and loves as well as to discover new talent. This evening, i’ve been to a gig in Hoxton by Evening Hymns, a Canadian artist, performing tracks from a recent album, written as a response to his father passing away several years ago. As with many songwriters, he has a tale to tell, a deeply personal story, and the choice of music, as opposed to poetry, art or the written word, is not accidental: the music adds a layer of meaning to the words. Whilst words conjure up images, music conjures emotions through it’s tempo, rhythm and orchestration.
There is nothing more beautiful or more lonely than a single voice speaking from the heart: stories and songs crafted from experience and pain.
I’ve written about music before, using it as a metaphor to explore the co-creation of meaning in learning, essentially using it to explore how we make sense of the world about us: coming together to create, to listen, to perform. Performers come together to write, to put words to music and to add layers of meaning in the process. Every click, whistle and chord is carefully orchestrated. Tonight, the artist described how for one track, recorded live, you could hear an ice cube popping, fifteen seconds in, from the glass of whiskey a friend was drinking as he sat in silence, listening to the recording taking place. For the artists, this memory evoked the reasons for recording the album: surrounded by friends, mourning his loss, celebrating life. For us, alongside the artist, the story allowed us to participate, to co-create the meaning of the gig by sharing (a key skill in the Social Age). It created a shared point of narrative.
Stories are powerful in learning: they let us share emotional as well as factual content, they let us come together to create meaning.
But the experience of creating meaning within a live performance can teach us a lot about organisational learning: the simplicity of the encounter, the brevity of the interactions, the times when we listen, the times we participate, the times we respond. It’s carefully choreographed and we all know the story: the build up to the start, the support act, the encore.
When we use stories, storytelling techniques, in organisations, we should pay as much attention to this brevity and choreography as any artist would. The power comes through the tempo, the rhythm, the balance of words and music, not through length.
Clear stories, in whatever format they are delivered, based upon conviction and honestly, have power. We just have to find the power in the stories and let it shine through.