Architects vs gardeners
This idea was coined by Brian Eno in Composers as Gardeners.
An architect, at least in the traditional sense, is somebody who has an in-detail concept of the final result in their head, and their task is to control the rest of nature sufficiently to get that built. Nature being things like bricks and sites and builders and so on. Everything outside has to be subject to an effort of control.
A gardener doesn't really work like that. Unless it's, as Mark's mentioned, Versailles, which is, to me, the most grotesque of all gardens, since it's the total denial of nature and the complete expression of human control over nature. So it's a perfect forerunner to the Industrial Age, Versailles. But what I think about, I suppose my feeling about gardening, and I suppose most people's feeling about gardening now, is that what one is doing is working in collaboration with the complex and unpredictable processes of nature. And trying to insert into that some inputs that will take advantage of those processes, and as Stafford Beers said, take you in the direction that you wanted to go.
Use the dynamics of the system to take you in the direction you wanted to go. So my feeling has been that the whole concept of how things are created and organized has been shifting for the last 40 or 50 years, and as I said, this sequence of science as cybernetics, catastrophe theory, chaos theory and complexity theory, are really all ways of us trying to get used to this idea that we have to stop thinking of top-down control as being the only way in which things could be made.
We have to actually lose the idea of intelligent design, because that's actually what that is. The top-down theory is the same as intelligent design. And we have to actually stop thinking like that and start understanding that complexity can arise in another way and variety and intelligence and so on. So my own response to this has been, as an artist, to start to think of my work, too, as a form of gardening. So about 20 years ago I came up with this idea, this term, 'generative music,' which is a general term I use to cover not only the stuff that I do, but the kind of stuff that Reich is doing, and Terry Riley and lots and lots of other composers have been doing.
Since I have always preferred making plans to executing them, I have gravitated towards situations and systems that, once set into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on my part.
That is to say, I tend towards the roles of planner and programmer, and then become an audience to the results.
I've always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener. In my Hollywood years when everything does work on outlines, I had to put on my architect's clothes and pretend to be an architect. But my natural inclinations, the way I work, is to give my characters the head and to follow them.
A gardening approach is well-suited to provoking emergence.