The Simple Symphony

As our Boeing 737-900 cruises along at 33,000 feet, I stare out my window, spying the tops of endless stratospheric clouds that blanket the sky. We’re about halfway to my Pacific Northwest destination of Seattle, and eventually, somewhere southeast of the Cascade Mountain Range, to a large printing facility.

It’s a west coast trip from the northwest corner of Ohio that’s about three hours too long for this “can’t sleep on planes” traveler. To pass the time, Beck’s latest album, and then Mozart’s last symphony — the Jupiter Symphony (No. 41) — pipes into my ears. And it’s a musical playlist that gets me thinking about the complexity of “simple.”

On average, a typical full-size symphonic orchestra is made up of nearly 100 musicians (plus that person standing with their back to you for the majority of the concert, intensely conducting en masse with their baton.) No matter your musical taste, it’s hard to argue with the chaotic beauty of the delivered product — the scale, the power, the shear complexity of it all. It’s also a humbling thing to contemplate and deconstruct, so since I have a few hours left in my flight, let’s.

Twenty-four types of unique hand-crafted instruments, finely tuned to perfection, made from the finest materials on earth; highly trained musicians, each well beyond N.Y. Times writer and author Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour minimum for mastery of their (musical) craft; an acoustically perfect concert hall, designed and built by visionary architects, designers, and meticulous engineers and builders, all to please the eyes and ears of its patrons; venue workers dedicated to impeccable service, from coat check and concession, to playbill and ticketing; wardrobe, mechanical, lighting, and sound personnel; mass transportation via train, plane and automobile; parking attendants; restaurateurs; police. The list goes on and on.

And, there’s the music itself. Imagine a single human being “hearing” the voices of four distinct groups of instruments all playing in unison, writing it all down in musical notation, and knowing that the result will be a harmonious musical journey that will captivate for nearly an hour.

Let’s not forget the recording studio equipment and employees that captured the performance; the post-production studio that balanced and mixed the recording; the photographer that captured the image for the album cover, and the designers that brought that album cover to graphic life; lest we forget the mind-bending technical ecosystem that created, distributed and sold the digital recording so it could stream to my phone over the airplane WiFi. The complexity of it all, dedicated to delivering music to my ears, over six miles in the air.

At Interrupt, I see symphonic works played daily. Yes, we excel at strategy, branding and marketing for the building materials and home improvement channels. It’s what we do, and the results speak for themselves (see our work). But, we don’t work in a vacuum — far from it. Rather, we are but one (selfishly… critical) part of a greater whole.

Like an evening at Carnegie Hall (hey, I’m biased being from New York), the “simple symphony” takes many talented and dedicated people, teams, organizations, companies, equipment and technologies to perform well — a complex process that delivers a deceptively simple melody. I am but one player in that performance. I play my part, in tune, to the best of my ability, and the rest of the orchestra does the same: the Interrupt section, the Client section, the Vendor section, the Delivery section (featuring Elvis the mailman, multiple overnight delivery guys and an occasional flower delivery), and our energetic Canine section (we have 2–3 four-legged friends roaming the office, depending on the day).

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve started our decent into Seattle/Tacoma Airport.” And so begins the second movement of today’s symphonic work, featuring: Interrupt (me), four clients, a sales associate, a pre-press manager, two plant floor managers, hundreds of printing employees, acres of printing equipment, 100’s of pounds of ink, reams of packaging material, and plenty of logistical planning and fulfillment. It’s all music to my ears.

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