In my continued exploration of metaphors that illuminate building great product experiences, the beautiful musical form of Sonata came forth while reading a book on Western Classical music. The Sonata form has been widely used since Baroque and Classical periods, and is usually the first movement in multi-movement pieces. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 “Pathetique” 1st Movement is a great example that you hear below.
In general, musical forms like Sonata imply a structure or framework within which the composer can bring to life a musical experience that is unique. The Sonata form especially caught my attention as a great framework to think about while building product experiences.
From music theory, the Sonata form has three required sections:
- Exposition: The exposition section using presents one or two themes that are then further developed in the next section
- Development: In the development section, the themes from the exposition are elaborated, contrasted, varied, and developed further. The listener still retains some of the ideas from the themes, but the composer takes the challenge of ‘playing’ with the theme that brings varying interest and character – yet grounding it somehow with the original ideas.
- Recapitulation: In the final required section, brings the Sonata to a closure by bringing back some of the ideas and themes from the exposition, but in a way that provides an element of closure and finality.
There is deep technical material within the Sonata form, but I wanted to stick with some of its structural form as it is a great metaphor for thinking about designing great experiences. Like music, product experiences can be a collection of discordant pieces that are more a cacophonic production rather than a polyphonic or homophonic production. The Sonata form gives another framework to think about how to develop an experience – beginning with clearly outlining one or more themes, developing those themes in unique ways, and then tying them together in a way that brings the full experience to a closure.