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Creative Collaboration

My recent work on a grant application and a series of stories on National Public Radio have me thinking about creative collaborations.  Why do we enter into such arrangements, when we know that in so doing we sacrifice a degree of control over the final product?  Certainly, as in the case of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his chief designer, Jonathan Ive, there is the promise of bringing complementary skill sets to bear.  And while the exchange of ideas that takes place in creative collaborations may weed out bad ideas- apparently the title of the film Star Wars was initially Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars – its greatest potential value may be its tendency to encourage the collaborator to take risks he may have otherwise eschewed.

I can personally attest to the squeamishness that accompanies sitting through the premiere of your own creative work, knowing that every bit of the audience’s skepticism and displeasure is yours and yours alone.  At such times, the prospect of someone – anyone – sharing the blame is appealing.  Of course, the diffusion of responsibility for the end creative product of collaboration is not necessarily a good thing (witness many recent films that look like they were conceived around a boardroom table).  But I have often thought that when he was conducting the premiere of “The Marriage of Figaro,” which thoroughly thumbed its nose at the aristocracy in the audience, Mozart must have taken some solace in the fact that the libretto was written by someone else (Lorenzo Da Ponte)- perhaps, he thought, at least the Emperor Josef II would let the two of them share a dungeon cell.


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