World Thinkers’ Ideas – Ways to Deal with Boredom


Mark Applebaum is a composer and an inventor. In the video below, he tells a story about how he used boredom as a catalyst for creativity and invention.  His overall aim with the talk is to provide us with inspiration to search for ways to push the boundaries and be creative. By pushing the boundaries, he is embarking on a journey that forces him to ask the question “But is it Music?” In a similar way, you may ask yourself “But is this new gadget a mobile phone?”  “Can this idea be used in our organisation?”, or “Can we really sell a product that looks like this?

Mark Applebaum’s ideas may not fit into what we call “music” and musicians may embrace some of his compositions, while some do not provide a musician with enough “music making”. Interpreting a huge score lacking traditional music notation may be embraced as an improvisational challenge. But making certain repetitive sounds may offer few ways  for a musician to express him/herself.

Getting ideas and exploring new ways of making music has lead Mark to embrace ideas like using the underground system, its map and timetables, in Copenhagen as inspiration for a piece filled with opportunities for a musician to improvise.


“While I was living in Copenhagen in 1991 I observed that the city could be thought of as ongoing, large-scale improvisation. I think of the city as a kind of complex instrument and its inhabitants as players. There is one temporal element of agreement among everybody: the subway schedule. It seemed to me that the train system was a pervasive tempo template that regulated the metropolitan improvisation, a thread that ran through the daily lives of the players and thereby connected them. . . I renamed the subway stations to fairly abstract musical provocations (high, slow, more, don’t listen, etc.). Players synchronize stopwatches and take a trip, acknowledging each provocation at the exact time as indicated in the schedule. Like the citizens of Copenhagen, the players can take the same trip or different ones, of the same or different durations, starting at the same time or not.”


Yet a composer may also need to explore other ideas in search for something that is not boring for him to write and for musicians to play. The journey towards new territories and roles is what makes this journey interesting.

Photo: “Music Waves” by digitalart

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