Inspiration Outside The Box

A few years ago my wife picked up the accordion (she already plays clarinet, piano, bass, guitar, flute, sax, French horn … you get the picture). I somewhat dismissed the accordion but she insisted on bellowing in the basement for hours on end.

She took me to a concert by a local artist / group (Dan Newton and the Cafe Accordion Orchestra). I didn’t expect much but was blown away by an entire spectrum of music I had overlooked. Musettes, kumbias, ethnic music from around the world. (BTW - DO check out Dan and the group … great, great stuff!)

It dawned on me how isolated I was in my musical viewpoint. The only difference between a groove and a grave are the dimensions. As a composer I want to be aware of all this not just be boxed into my own world.

QUESTION: Where do you turn for inspiration on new genres, sounds, etc? Do you consciously seek those places out? On a regular or sporadic basis? How do you go about assimilating and incorporating these ideas into your own writing?

Use both sides of the paper if necessary, as my old high school teachers would’ve said.

I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences!

Take care!


Hey Stan,

Great topic! Yeah, we often usually stick to our favourite music and forget there are other genres. I had a similar experience to yours in which an Argentinean friend told me he was a fan of tango, and was amazed by how good it was! I think the best way to discover genres is probably to interact with other people about music and you’ll perhaps find surprises!
Anyways, here are links to tango music by Argentinean composer Astor Piazolla:

Adios Nonino:
Invierno Porteno (amazing and close to classical music) :



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Thanks, Alexis! Loved the links! Looks like a few more tangos go on my playlist! Thanks for sharing!

Here are just a couple favorites from Dan Newton. Enjoy!

Cumbia Cantina

La Zingara


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Interesting topic. I can’t say I specifically seek out new life and new civili…er, new sounds, but rather I tend to listen to my favorite artists and composers and pick out a particular phrase/melody/chord progression that I really like and then take it apart and rearrange it to something new I can use. Also, any repetitive sound I hear around me I can make it musical in a way.

I do however love to listen to many different styles from around the world. Language isn’t a barrier to me when it comes to music. Artists from other places have their own unique influences. I personally like a band from Japan, Wagakki Band, who mix traditional Japanese instruments and vocals with modern rock to create some amazing music that always leaves me speechless.


Thanks, Matt!

I like the organic approach (e.g. “any repetitive sound I hear around me”) as well. Keep that great sense of wonder and exploration!

Two thoughts:

First – I saw the great jazz pianist McCoy Tyner live in a club in Boston years ago. I was lucky enough to be at the front table so this happened right in front of me. He was playing an arpeggio but when he got to the top note the key was dead and it only make a clunking sound somewhat like a wood block. You could tell by his facial expression it caught him by surprise but you could also see the creative wheels turning. The rest of that evening he kept going back to that dead key and using it as percussion instrument (e.g. clave patterns, accenting notes in his left hand, etc.). THAT’S being in the moment!

Second – Check out a great doumentary film on Herbie Hancock called “Possibilities”. One of my all time favorite films. Herbie takes a year, travels the world, and collaborates with other artists in styles they and he aren’t familiar with; exploring the possibilities. I actually like the film better than the album that came out of the film because of Herbie’s reflections about the process.

Take care, Matt! Live long and prosper!


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That sounds like a real interesting film—i’ll need to look that up this weekend. Here’s a link to Wagakki Band I forgot to provide. if you’ve never heard them before. This is their most famous song. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it, but I’m entranced every time.

Also another interesting artist I recently found are Heilung, which I would describe as an ancient Norse spirit band. Great to clear your mind and meditate to!