The following essay is the winner of a selection between essays produced by the students of the Creativity and Innovation course, delivered during the spring semester of the Academic Year 2013-2014 by Prof. Giovanni Emanuele Corazza, within the Graduate Course in Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Bologna.
During these Creativity and Innovation classes, students learned about the DIMAI model for creative thinking, to understand the creative process and clarify the difference between idea generation and innovation, as well as approaches to face hurdles and strategies for success. Study cases were proposed for the application of strategies and techniques. The course also focused on creative thinking through the history of science and art, considering also specific examples of inventors and creators. Students were asked to write an essay on a specific creative personality and on his/her main original contributions, extracting the principles underlying the process.
THE BEATLES: Across the Universe
Enrico Ciccarelli & Matteo Ridolfi
The story of the Beatles would require an entire study in itself. In this short article we will only introduce the band from Liverpool in terms of music and culture.
It all started when John Lennon, leader of the group, met Paul McCartney and George Harrison for the first time. After a while they started playing together with a drummer who was soon replaced. The name of the band changed from Quarrymen to The Beatles, whose official formation was: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr.
In seven years, from 1963 to 1970, The Beatles produced more songs and records than any other group. What they did was to complement and sometimes even anticipate cultural trends of that time, singing especially about ordinary lives using the language of their contemporaries.
THE GENERATION OF A NEW MUSIC APPROACH
During the ’60s their albums became more various and innovative: a mix of their original rock and roll and blues, songs of ‘20s, psychedelic rhythms, folk, country, western, and even reggae, love songs, cynicism, comedy, parody, humor and sentimentality.
In 1966 the rock/pop music changed, psychedelia was born and The Beatles were the first to bring it in the UK with the album Revolver.
The album contains songs of all kinds: Eleanor Rigby, one of the first pop songs where it played only with a string quartet, I’m Only Sleeping, with the famous guitar solo on the reverse; Love You To, where they experienced Indian music and Tomorrow Never Knows, psychedelic composition that comprises the “loop”. The single Penny Lane marks the grand entry into the psychedelic rock through the use of sophisticated orchestral arrangements and Mellotron, in parallel with visionary texts, full of ambiguous references of the new youth culture, in which Indian temptations, hardness of guitar, melancholic melodies and pop architecture are combined with cutting edge electronic solutions.
EXPERIMENTING WITH TECHNOLOGY: MUSIC INNOVATION
Another fundamental thing was the contribution in the field of technological innovations that they used and explored with curiosity for the recording and manipulation of sound. During the years spent by the band in the Abbey Road studios, new sound solutions, equipment and techniques, still in use after decades, were elaborated to realize their musical ideas. An example is the aforementioned Mellotron that, as the technician Jerry Boys said, was used by them “in a way no one had ever thought of before”. The four musicians were equipped with tape recorders and they individually experimented new sounds in the most various circumstances. Paul McCartney, who was the most attracted by this kind of research, discovered that by removing the erase head of the tape recorder and recording the same tape repeatedly, it produced distorted sounds.
These tapes were then stitched and used with the Abbey Road recorders in different ways and at variable speeds, such that they could select the most suitable. Another feature of their sound was the exploitation of Indian sounds through special instruments such as the sitar, used for the first time in a composition of Western culture, the tabla, the tanbur, the dilruba and the swarmandal.
The artistic heritage also relies on the covers of their albums. The Sgt Pepper cover was the first cover of the history of rock that can be opened as a book and which contains the lyrics of all the songs of the album. On the other hand, the cover of Abbey Road has been parodied by dozens of bands all over the world.
With their creative skills in composition, the Beatles were able to combine the products enjoyed by a large mass of consumers of various age, with some surprisingly complex original works.
AN INFLUENCE ON WESTERN CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT
But the story of the band was not easy. By time they began to have conflicts within the band. A few weeks after the beginning of 1970, Paul announced to the other members that he wanted to leave the group. Meanwhile Phil Spector received from the other three guys Get Back tapes. The product that resulted was the album Let It Be, which would be released a month after the interview with McCartney, where he announced the abandonment of the group. It was the final act. They left a heavy legacy. In confirmation of their influence on world culture, with the passing of the years began to spread urban legends. The most famous, perhaps the first about rock, is about the death of Paul McCartney: in 1969 a rumor circulated about the fact that the bassist would be dead three years earlier in a car accident and was replaced by a lookalike. The legend was later disproved, but somehow continued to raise doubts and questions.
We do not know and may never know exactly all the truth about the Beatles, but what is certain is that innovation in the production of music heavily influenced the lives of millions people.
It’s not a coincidence that in those years Beatlemania was born, unprecedented phenomenon consisting in unconditional adoration beyond social class, culture, gender and age, for the group of Liverpool. The Beatles emerged at a time of high socio-political tensions and instability, which turned out just to meet the demands of the young people who wished to live happy, to love and distinguish by adults. The lyrics of their songs, original and fresh, were perfectly in line with the words that the teenagers wanted to say. The same could be said for their looks, for their statements, their attitudes and their behaviours.