Orchestrations sound the way costumes look

Heard on NPR the other day that Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! brought together what had up to that time been fragments of musical theater. Made me think of what Disney accomplished in the creation of the “theme” park that took amusement parks to the next level. The NPR segment highlighted a quote by Rodgers describing what this new unifying quality meant – a quote that is captured in the book, Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre by Ethan Mordden (Chapter 12):

… Rodgers himself defined a “great musical” as one in which “all the individual parts complement each other.” In his words, “the orchestrations sound the way the costumes look.” Rodgers expressly offered Oklahoma! as an example.

One of the most popular metaphors for organizations is an orchestra where the designer of organizations is the conductor. But as Mintzberg points out, the metaphor quickly breaks down. Rather than focus on the different parts playing their respective parts, there is more to gain from the insight, “the orchestrations sound the way the costumes look” – looking laterally. Dialectically, one can also say, “the costumes look the way the orchestrations sound,” “the costumes sound like the orchestrations look,” and even “the costumes and orchestrations sound and look, respectively, as the characters dance.”