Musicians call it a ‘lick’. A lick is a short piece of melody used during improvisation. A phrase. The same sequence of notes in the same melodic pattern. Every time. Good licks are what make up a blazing solo. They’re the currency and vocabulary of musical improvisers.
If you find something that works, you can use it again and again. Creative work is being rehashed again and again and again. It probably always has.
On the one hand, the licks make up the richness of culture by continuing to provide new material.
On the other, they dilute the culture by avoiding the meaningful change which is only possible when risks are taken.
Even those that do notice the diluting force of licks in popular culture don’t seem to have the conviction to vote against this force with their wallets.
As long as the skin of the work is different, and the sources are hidden to the audience member, the lick can be repeated. Ad nauseum.
There is an amazing amount of tolerance for winning formulas before they’re viewed as contrived, overdone or cliched. We simply do not give ourselves the time to go very deep. From this level, we question the meaning of our time.
But what continues to impress you after the nausea has passed?
Arts are a gateway to self-knowledge. Whatever it is that holds your attention over time, water it with your attention. Take that gamble on yourself.
illustration 'Miles Davis' by Eri Griffin