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Oblique Strategies

In the 1970s two authors created a box of cards called “Oblique Strategies”. [1] They are supposed to help creative people (musicians) to break creative blocks. It works like this: You get stuck. You pull out a card from the box and ponder it’s meaning which hopefully will help you resolve your problem.

The suggestions are sometimes cryptic. But many suggest a change of perspective. [2] This is useful. Perhaps it is a good idea to start developing our own sets of cards, as well.

There is a website that will randomly give you one card from the original decks. [3] Try it out or read the whole list extracted from that website’s HTML:

  • (Organic) machinery

  • A line has two sides

  • A very small object -Its centre

  • Abandon desire

  • Abandon normal instructions

  • Accept advice

  • Accretion

  • Adding on

  • Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)

  • Always first steps

  • Always give yourself credit for having more than personality

  • Always the first steps

  • Are there sections? Consider transitions

  • Ask people to work against their better judgement

  • Ask your body

  • Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group

  • Back up a few steps. What else could you have done?

  • Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle

  • Be dirty

  • Be extravagant

  • Be less critical more often

  • Breathe more deeply

  • Bridges -build -burn

  • Call your mother and ask her what to do.

  • Cascades

  • Change ambiguities to specifics

  • Change instrument roles

  • Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

  • Change specifics to ambiguities

  • Children’s voices -speaking -singing

  • Cluster analysis

  • Consider different fading systems

  • Consider transitions

  • Consult other sources -promising -unpromising

  • Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element

  • Courage!

  • Cut a vital connection

  • Decorate, decorate

  • Define an area as `safe’ and use it as an anchor

  • Describe the landscape in which this belongs. (9 August)

  • Destroy nothing; Destroy the most important thing

  • Discard an axiom

  • Disciplined self-indulgence

  • Disconnect from desire

  • Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them

  • Discover your formulas and abandon them

  • Display your talent

  • Distorting time

  • Do nothing for as long as possible

  • Do something boring

  • Do something sudden, destructive and unpredictable

  • Do the last thing first

  • Do the washing up

  • Do the words need changing?

  • Do we need holes?

  • Don’t avoid what is easy

  • Don’t be afraid of things because they’re easy to do

  • Don’t be frightened of cliches

  • Don’t be frightened to display your talents

  • Don’t break the silence

  • Don’t stress one thing more than another

  • Emphasize differences

  • Emphasize repetitions

  • Emphasize the flaws

  • Faced with a choice, do both

  • Feed the recording back out of the medium

  • Feedback recordings into an acoustic situation

  • Fill every beat with something

  • Find a safe part and use it as an anchor

  • First work alone, then work in unusual pairs.

  • From nothing to more than nothing

  • Get your neck massaged

  • Ghost echoes

  • Give the game away

  • Give way to your worst impulse

  • Go outside. Shut the door.

  • Go slowly all the way round the outside

  • Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place

  • How would someone else do it?

  • How would you explain this to your parents?

  • How would you have done it?

  • Humanize something that is free of error.

  • Idiot glee (?)

  • Imagine the music as a moving chain or caterpillar

  • Imagine the music as a series of disconnected events

  • In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

  • Infinitesimal gradations

  • Instead of changing the thing, change the world around it.

  • Intentions -credibility of -nobility of -humility of

  • Into the impossible

  • Is it finished?

  • Is something missing?

  • Is the intonation correct?

  • Is the style right?

  • Is the tuning appropriate?

  • Is the tuning intonation correct?

  • Is there something missing?

  • It is quite possible (after all)

  • It is simply a matter or work

  • Just carry on

  • Left channel, right channel, centre channel

  • List the qualities it has. List those you’d like.

  • Listen in total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

  • Listen to the quiet voice

  • Look at a very small object, look at its centre

  • Look at the order in which you do things

  • Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify.

  • Lost in useless territory

  • Lowest common denominator check -single beat -single note -single riff

  • Magnify the most difficult details

  • Make a blank valuable by putting it in an excquisite frame

  • Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate

  • Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list

  • Make it more sensual

  • Make what’s perfect more human

  • Mechanize something idiosyncratic

  • Move towards the unimportant

  • Mute and continue

  • Not building a wall but making a brick

  • Once the search has begun, something will be found

  • Only a part, not the whole

  • Only one element of each kind

  • Overtly resist change

  • Pae White’s non-blank graphic metacard

  • Pay attention to distractions

  • Picture of a man spotlighted

  • Put in earplugs

  • Question the heroic approach

  • Remember those quiet evenings

  • Remove a restriction

  • Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics

  • Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

  • Remove the middle, extend the edges

  • Repetition is a form of change

  • Retrace your steps

  • Revaluation (a warm feeling)

  • Reverse

  • Short circuit (example; a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)

  • Shut the door and listen from outside

  • Simple subtraction

  • Simply a matter of work

  • Slow preparation, fast execution

  • Spectrum analysis

  • State the problem in words as simply as possible

  • Steal a solution.

  • Take a break

  • Take away as much mystery as possible. What is left?

  • Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance

  • Take away the important parts

  • Tape your mouth

  • The inconsistency principle

  • The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

  • The tape is now the music

  • Think - inside the work -outside the work

  • Think of the radio

  • Tidy up

  • Towards the insignificant

  • Trust in the you of now

  • Try faking it

  • Turn it upside down

  • Twist the spine

  • Use “unqualified” people.

  • Use an old idea

  • Use an unacceptable color

  • Use cliches

  • Use fewer notes

  • Use filters

  • Use something nearby as a model

  • Use your own ideas

  • Voice your suspicions

  • Water

  • What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving

  • What context would look right?

  • What do you do? Now, what do you do best?

  • What else is this like?

  • What is the reality of the situation?

  • What is the simplest solution?

  • What mistakes did you make last time?

  • What most recently impressed you? How is it similar? What can you learn from it? What could you take from it?

  • What to increase? What to reduce? What to maintain?

  • What were the branch points in the evolution of this entity

  • What were you really thinking about just now? Incorporate

  • What would make this really successful?

  • What would your closest friend do?

  • What wouldn’t you do?

  • When is it for? Who is it for?

  • Where is the edge?

  • Which parts can be grouped?

  • Who would make this really successful?

  • Work at a different speed

  • Would anyone want it?

  • You are an engineer

  • You can only make one dot at a time

  • You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas

  • Your mistake was a hidden intention

Links:

[1] Oblique Strategies (Wikipedia)

[2] Nice quote about perspective by Alan Kay

[3] oblicard.com

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