The Beach Boys’ 1966 release of “Pet Sounds,” produced, arranged and almost entirely written by Brian Wilson, forever changed the landscape of pop music and is considered one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music. Inspired by the immaculately constructed and filler-free Beatles album, “Rubber Soul,” Brian’s masterpiece incorporates unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans, and even barking dogs.
Record producers, musicians and arrangers are continuously on the lookout for unique ways to incorporate novel sounds into their productions. The 13th Floor Elevators are remembered fondly for Tommy Hall’s work on the electric jug in “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” That’s an ocarina solo happening halfway into The Troggs “Wild Thing” and Nirvana on “Drain You” made musical use of a rubber duck, some chains, and aerosol cans. On “Harvest Moon” that down-home sound is created by an old corn broom being swept across a sheet of sandpaper and Brian Eno fastens down a contorted guitar solo with a deft typewriter beat on “China My China.”
Being able to see alternative uses of anything is a key to jump-starting the creative process. A slice of white bread with the crust removed will eliminate greasy fingerprints from painted walls and bicarbonate of soda sprinkled into offending shoes will eliminate the odors. Crayola crayons serve as excellent fillers for small gouges or holes in resilient flooring especially since the color options are immense. And, don’t throw away those scratched CDs. Screw them onto stakes along your driveway and they make great nighttime reflectors.
My point: looking at objects and problems from different perspectives is key to coming up with novel solutions to any challenge. Right now, wherever you are sitting, pick up any object within reach and think of all the alternative uses you can imagine for it. And, when you think you’ve exhausted the possibilities, think again. The best ones are waiting for you. Now, apply alternatives to life and career. The possibilities are endless!