Inventions – non-musical and musical perspectives

Many of us are creative by nature. Inherent in the human being is a drive to be curious, to make things, and to find solutions for problems in our daily lives, to enhance them. Perhaps it is an evolutionary trait passed down from our ancestors, who had to improvise weapons and devices and improve on existing items in order to be successful at capturing animals, or at growing food. You may even surmise that to be human is to be creative, and part of life is about inventing stuff. (Just look at the number of new products made every year that manufacturers try to convince us to buy.) There have been many inventions made, but there will be no end to them.

One of the simplest inventions ever made was the barbed wire fence. It consists of two coils of barbed wire, interlinked with another wire so that the barbs do not separate. 36 miles of barbed wire were produced in the late 1800s by one company, six years later this had expanded to 236,000 miles of wire! This is astounding growth and made its inventor, a John Gates, one very rich man.

Gates showed his business acumen by rounding up some wild Texan longhorns and putting them in a barbed wire enclosure, then betting with others that his creation could contain the wild beasts. Of course, there were no lack of takers on the bet that his flimsy looking fence could not hold them, but Gates must have been successful, because he earned the nickname and reputation of “Bet a Million” Gates!

Inventions can come about by many ways. This can include finding new ways to improve on things. Or sometimes they may involve creative breaks from the past in the search of new ideas. In the latter case, this is especially true of musical inventions. Genres and styles such as bebop, tone poems, expressive dissonance (as personified by the composer Richard Wagner) have all come about this way. Even Beethoven, John Cage and other composers found a new way of utilising silence to create heightened tension.

Invention is key to the human spirit. We cannot cease creating just as we cannot cease being human. What would your next invention be?