Oblique Strategies (with the subtitle “over 100 worthwhile dilemmas”) is a set of published cards first created in 1975 by ambient music pioneer and music producer to the stars, Brian Eno and his longtime friend Peter Schmidt.
They were designed to break creative deadlock through generating thought, discussion and inspiration from randomly chosen phrases or cryptic remarks written on a set of separate cards.
Oblique Strategies is now in its sixth edition.
A number of songwriters have used the concept of randomness as a songwriting idea generator.
Most notable of these writers is David Bowie who used the technique of cutting up words, throwing them up in the air and creating lyrics from the end result.
If my general knowledge is correct, some songs that were written in this way are featured on his albums “Low” (1977), “Lodger” (1979) and “Scary Monsters” (1980).
I have been fascinated by the Oblique Strategies concept for a long time and I can really see how they would be extremely helpful in my own songwriting process.
Like most songwriters, I have songwriting ideas in my archive that I can’t seem to progress any further because I’ve unfortunately set the songwriting idea in concrete.
Every time I revisit these ideas I find myself playing the same things over and over again and it’s in these types of situations that I would find the Oblique Strategies cards useful.
Speaking about randomness…
If you have taken my advice in my other blog posts “Brainstorming Possible Song Titles” and “Expanding On Your Possible Song Titles” you would have at your disposal quite a large collection of lines, phrases and semi completed songs.
Look at your list as your own personal set of Oblique Strategies. You’ve created your very own songwriting tool to help you break through those periods of creative deadlock that we all face from time to time.
Even if one line from your list sparks an idea that finishes a song that you’ve been agonising over for ages, it would’ve been well worth the effort.
Here are some other Oblique Strategies links for you to check out:
Plus, to finish things off, here is my favourite Brian Eno song. It’s called “By This River” and it’s from his 1979 album “Before And After Science.”
It’s a song I wish I had written. Enjoy…
Until next time, happy writing,
All About Songwriting