Restrictions and Creativity

Years ago, I read an article by the Lead Game Designer Mark Rosewater wherein he explained that (paraphrasing) “restriction create breeding grounds for creativity“. His exact words were:

["Rules are obstacles to creativity"] is probably the biggest myth that causes people to lash out against the rules. The problem is that this myth is based upon a false assumption. People like to believe that a world of infinite choices is more conducive to creativity than a world of finite choices. Essentially, the more choices available, the more chance for creative thought.

Unfortunately, scientific exploration into the means of creative thought has proven this not to be true. Testing has shown that restrictions actually aid creative thought. How is this possible? The answer rests in the human mind. It turns out that the mind isn’t good at completely open-ended choices. When faced with total freedom of options the brain retreats to known pathways. It simply repeats what worked last time it was in this situation.

This idea, that constraints somehow force us to explore creative space more, is one that has stuck with me ever since reading that article. I had read elsewhere that a coping trick for feeling overwhelmed is to break your mammoth task down into smaller bits and manage those bits little by little, and this is sort of the same principle: our brains are not particularly good at tracking large sets of data.  Continue reading

Electronic Music Final Project

DownloadA while back, I had posted a project I did for my Electronic Music course. With the close of Fall semester, I have my final project completed. (FINALLY.)

This particular song is a full-length track, mixed, mastered (as best as I know how) that involves actual vocals recorded.

It’s worth knowing a few details first:

The song was composed and written by Melissa. I took her original chord progression and elaborated from it. The reason it’s called the “Epic Fail Mix” is because every time I would play her what I had made so far, she would just shake her head. Not that it’s bad, per se, just that it’s very different from her original folksy acoustic version.

Give it a listen — it’s about 5 minutes long; get ready for a bit of music whiplash about 3 minutes in. :) Details about the production are below the jump. Continue reading

Short Song – Class project


For my MUS-K 361 course (Intro to MIDI / Electronic Music), my instructor gives us assignments for each unit where we have to create a short 30 sec – 2 min song and demo it in class.

reason rack

Cartouche (Precursor)

One thing I really like about these assignments, and this may seem counter-intuitive, is that we are restricted to only using the instrument covered in that unit. In this specific assignment, where we discussed synthesis (using the Subtractor in Reason), the assignment restricted us to using 3 – 6 Subtractors only — no effects processors, no drum machines, not even equalizers.
A game designer, Mark Rosewater,  that works for Wizards of the Coast once wrote an article about game development (specifically for Magic: the Gathering) where he debunked various myths about design. One point he made that has always stuck with me is “Restriction breeds creativity.” Continue reading