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....


Ritsumei said...

You rock. I've gotta get to posting some of the stuff I was thinking about when I used the book for a relief society lesson...

Linda Adams said...

Hi! This is really interesting. I've made an INFORMAL study of music theory over the past year and learned so much more about how to be a musician, and play without the piano books in front of me...

Still, I'm with Einstein on pitch... "Everything is relative!"
I don't have perfect pitch either and don't automatically know which key I'm starting in.

I CAN tell, however, when a group of singers or musicians are all playing in different keys. LOL

Nice to meet you! --Linda