Reply To: My experience of music

  • Don Salmon

    July 1, 2023 at 1:54 pm

    Hi folks,

    Wonderful discussion, sorry I hadn’t found it earlier.

    I started “making up music” (hardly call it “composing”) one evening when I was 11. I had been playing the accordion since I was 4 (hey, it was the 1950s, United States…). My parents had gone out to a movie, I was alone in the house (older siblings off to college by then) and I “made up” a boogie woogie piece pretty much standard for, oh, the 1940s (still remember it – might put it up on YouTube soon!). I was hooked,

    kept making up pieces on my own. Learned all the Beatles songs when I was 13 and just kept making up different pieces using their chord progressions, which I then changed to my own.

    The first encounter I had with the conflict between LH and RH was when I took off a year from high school to study full time. My teacher (a composition teacher at Juilliard) liked one of the pieces I had basically improvised and wrote down – it was sort of influenced by Prokofiev and Bartok.

    He wanted me to take it and ‘develop” the theme, which meant rationally analyzing intervallic relationships, developing appropriate harmonies, etc.

    I was totally stuck. I didn’t know how to use my analytic mind to “figure out” music. After about 4 months of not composing and doing theory exercises, I sat down at the piano one day and I have no idea how, but suddenly perfectly logical, well connected and well developed phrases came pouring out of me and I filled up about 12 measures of highly complex music that actually flowed – it sounded good AND made perfect logical sense. It was a miracle to me.

    I ended up struggling with this conflict through 2 years of music school, and then decided to switch to piano major, turn off my left hemisphere altogether for a few years, and just have fun.

    I eventually switched after 20 years working as a professional composer-pianist to clinical psychology. I’ve never had to “analyze” or “figure out” composition since, but I use music I’ve improvised/composed all the time for mindfulness workshops, online courses, live pain management seminars, etc.

    Such an amazing and fascinating revelation of many layers of our psyche.