Listen! Can you hear the collaboration?

By · Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Collaboration is one of those words that evokes strong emotion, and not usually positive.

When asked about collaboration and teamwork, journalism students in the past often gave these responses:

Fair enough. But. These reasons miss the most exhilarating part of collaboration — the mix of minds and talents.

That’s why it was so refreshing to read the recent piece in The New York Times by Jim Farber under the headline: “Elvis Costello, Carole King and a Song 20 Years in the Making.” Their song, “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter,” was just released on Elvis Costello’s new album, “Look Now.”

If you want to get an idea of how two professionals do it, consider these two excerpts from their published conversation with Farber.

Farber asked this question:

Elvis, you’re known for full-album collaborations with everyone from Paul McCartney to the Roots. Carole, you’ve teamed with artists from Paul Westerberg to Mariah Carey. Why do you enjoy the collaborative process?

Costello: It’s the speed with which it’s done. When I did the songs with Paul McCartney, it was like a tennis match. Reaching across the table, I’ve got this line. I’ve got that line. And then the song was done.

And Farber followed with this question for Carole King:

Carole, what do you look for in a collaborator?

King: You trust that the person is coming from the same place — i.e. let’s write something creative that comes to a conclusion we both want. Most of the people who I collaborate with rise to that occasion.

What stands out? A positive spirit. A shared outlook. Trust. Communication. Excitement. Energy.

And you can’t really experience all of that if you’re working alone.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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