I’ve been thinking about mistakes. Specifically, the mistakes that are made on purpose.
Check out Jerome Robbins’ The Concert below to see what I mean:
All of the steps— and more importantly, the missteps— were choreographed exactly as you see them.
There’s a term for this in visual music. It’s called a counterpoint: a piece of the composition that fits within the general system but stands out in some way. A splash of color in a world of gray. Without a counterpoint, a composition that follows a fixed structure feels predictable and robotic; with the addition of a counterpoint, a composition feels more interesting and natural.
Structure is expected— it gives people something familiar to latch onto. But no one asks for counterpoints. They won’t be requested in surveys, and they won’t be discussed after test screenings. They don’t seem like they belong, but their absence almost guarantees a mediocre and forgettable experience.
It’s easy to only build what your users ask for, it’s easy to craft a narrative that follows a three-act structure, and easy to follow the countless other rules that generally apply to your situation. Creative instinct is making choices that breathe life into your work, even when those choices don’t align with what people expect.
Going back to The Concert, choreographing mistakes is hard; to land well, it can’t distract from the experience and can’t feel heavy-handed. Robbins worked within a familiar structure— the piece was written to Chopin’s music, took place on a stage, and was performed by well-trained dancers— but pushed past what an audience would expect from a traditional performance. The Concert does what every artist aspires to do: its ingenuity gives the audience a memory that sticks around long after the curtain call.