25 October 2007

Chapter One

So much jargon!!! Ritsumei, you were so very right. For a guy who seems to be encouraging people to get into music, assuring them that the jargon is not that important, he seems to use an awful lot of it. (I sort of have resorted to skimming through most of it) I'm hoping he is laying the foundation for more interesting, in depth observations once he moves past the definition mode.

However, there were some interesting thoughts thrown in amongst all the other stuff too. (I even went so far as to underline some of it!)

I thought it was interesting that Mr. Levitin noted on page 25, that "many melodies do not have a 'correct' starting pitch, they just float freely in space, starting anywhere" and that melody is just "an auditory object that maintains its identity in spite of transformations...". This was a discussion I had many times in college with my other music student buddies. As a vocalist, I'm totally down with that concept. (Especially because I'm not cursed with "Perfect Pitch") I completely agree that songs (melodies) are just a collection of pitches recognizable by their relation to each other, and not necessarily the starting pitch.

Despite the overall heaviness in jargon, I really find it fascinating when Mr. Levitin points out things that have been gleaned from apparent science experimentation regarding brain activity while listening to music. For example, on page 27, he talks briefly about the way different parts process sounds. And while, to the conscious thought process, melodies can be a floating entity of pitches, best recognized by their relationship with each other, it the "absolute pitch values that the brain is paying attention to throughout its different stages of processing."

Later on in the chapter he starts talking about how the octave is found in all cultures (pg 29). I sort of liked his discussion on frequency ratios. He continues with all the details and examples of different intervals, ratios and frequencies, and then on page 33, he says: "This is entirely arbitrary." That amused me greatly.

I am impressed by the human brain's ability to process information. Anyone familiar with Western music is almost intuitively an expert in recognition and anticipation of (typical) music. He defined it very susinctly on page 36:

Declaritive knowlege - the ability to talk about it; but in spite of our lack of
forlmal musical education, we know what the composer intended to establish as
the tonal center, or key, of the piece, and we recovnize when he brings us back
home to the honic, or when he fails to do so.

However, I'm still working through chapter one. More to come later....

12 October 2007

Back in the Saddle

Ok! So, I FINALLY started reading this book we've been talking about reading for months. I got through most of the introduction today during lunch. I like his tone so far.. It sounds as though he'll be taking a different approach than most musicians might. I like it!

I thought it was interesting when he said,

"Nowadays there is a great emphasis on technique and skill, and whether a musician is "good enough" to play for others. Music making has become a somewhat reserved activity in our culture, and the rest of us listen." (pg.7)

Recently, I've been trying my hand at composition (again) and I find it rather a daunting task. I feel like since I have a degree and all, people expect that my stuff be amazing, Beethoven level stuff that'll wow the socks off everyone. But having Mr. Levitin point out this juxtaposition aloud sort of started me thinking about how it doesn't have to be that way. I have something to share, and there doesn't have to be such a stark separation between those who do music, and those who listen.

And, in view of my lack of composition confidence, I like how he discussed the similarities of artists and scientists. (pg. 5) Perhaps a little over the top, but my favorite part was when he said:
"The work of artists and scientists is ultimately the pursuit of truth, but members of both camps understand that truth in its very nature is contextual and changeable, dependent on point of view..."

I think that perhaps truth isn't the exact word that I would've used, but the concept of "what is music" is very much captured in that statement. Music is something that is enjoyed based upon perception and point of view, which is as ever changing as the sands of society around us.