Recomposing Your Event
I’ve been a fan of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons since I first heard it on Looney Tunes cartoons as a kid. Even if you think you don’t know it, you do. It’s ubiquitous in commercials, cartoons, hold music, and more. Follow this link, and click through the tracks—you’re bound to recognize more than one movement.
First published in 1725, The Four Seasons is one of the most widely recognized pieces of classical music. In the past 294 years, it has been iterated on and arranged for everything from the hurdy-gurdy to the electric guitar.
In 1998, the Great Kat created a shred guitar/violin version of Summer Presto.
But my favorite reimagined version is Recomposed by Max Richter, from 2012. Richter has managed to simultaneously pay homage and also craft something that feels entirely new. Unlike other iterations, Richter does not merely play the music on different instruments; rather he’s completely rearranged the pieces to create entirely new songs. You can listen to the full album here.
I have to respect someone who feels confident enough to make major changes to a much-loved, highly regarded, and well-known piece of music. I have to wonder what drove him—crazy arrogance, a new vision, or perhaps a mix of both?
Richter was quoted in The Guardian saying, “[The Four Seasons is] just everywhere. In a way, we stop being able to hear it. So, this project is about reclaiming this music for me personally, by getting inside it and rediscovering it for myself.”
I imagine his critics looked at him much like some associations look at us when we suggest making changes to their events:
- “It’s been fine for more than 30 years.”
- “The event already runs perfectly.”
- “We’ve tried changing things before. There’s nothing new to do.”
But what Richter was able to do was allow me to fall in love with a piece of music all over again and appreciate it like I was hearing it for the first time. And at the same time, he put Vivaldi back into the spotlight, exposing his work to new audiences.
I think the key is that we have to understand what we are trying to accomplish with the changes. Are we just trying to do the heavy metal version of our conference to be quirky, or do we see a real possibility to add new ideas and new people to the conversation? Instead of approaching the event like it is something we want to blow up, take the perspective of reimagining it in a way that will make your attendees renew their connections to the event as if they were attending it again for the very first time.
Try “rearranging” your event just as an exercise to see how it changes your perspective. This could be as simple as mixing up some dates and times in your Excel schedule. Or, for real fun, put everything (sessions, meals, breaks, etc.) on separate sticky notes, and move the pieces around. You may not make any changes at all, but this process can help you see your event in a new light and craft some new experiences while still honoring the soul of the event.