Reply To: My experience of music

  • Anneloes Wolters

    August 23, 2023 at 11:45 am

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I really needed those to start thinking afresh and comparing my experiences with the ideas of others. Thank you for listening, I put my thoughts next to “<i style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>yours”:

    “Language is …… …… not a representation of something unfolding anew. <i style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>And I think the same applies to music. <i style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>When it comes to poetry for example he suggests that good poetry subverts language.”

    I have been corresponding for years with composer Stephen Melillo (who is also a Kung Fu master). A kind of poetry in a musical form evolved during those years. Intuitively we avoided the language problem doing that. We discussed mostly philosophical questions, because we hear the philosophical background of a composer in the essentials: contrasts and silences.

    This teacher doesn’t teach Craft, (you can read a book if you must) he thinks it’s better to “Sit at the piano and press the keys you like best” He believes it’s best SEE the music first and unravel that point in time, that Moment. Still, the score, which is a development over Time, is that point, that moment, again.

    Now, I know seeing the Gestalt is a RH process, without the drawbacks of the LH intervening at this stage of creativity. For me this works great, but everybody works differently.

    “This is like being given the formula to solve a maths problem rather than simply being given the answer.”

    I call the composers who write from music theory ‘bookkeepers’, and though it sounds well crafted, it is entertaining, the music is never GREAT. I think this is because Time stays segmented, the many moments never become one. In like, that one moment is the one that all the music brings tears to your eyes.

    There is no deep emotion in Craft, there is in Art. In Art you get an interplay between Space and Time, because Time is not thought of as a linear line. The end of the piece is the beginning. The composers who manage that, I call ‘mathematicians’, because there is the same Beauty in a simple (not easy) elegant mathematical solution.

    Being able to See the Music first, helps you understand the form of your composition and know when the composition is finished. (I started composing using this workflow: But it is not needed to create Beauty.

    “Likewise with music: great music alludes to themes and echoes and the listener fills in the spaces, joining the music unfolding just as it did for the composer.”

    I think that ‘the coincidence of opposites’ sounds much better than an easy black/white contrast. Though there is effective dynamic-based music, I believe that you have to color the contrasts to make them meaningfull. You can only hear ‘negative’ music in the Silences, when you color the contrasts (with orchestration, dynamics, articulations, metre, rhythm etc.). The listeners will fill in their own ‘negative music’ in those Silences as they join the music unfolding (nice word choice!).

    “So, it might be that the skill of composition …… rules take you necessarily to something that has already happened.”

    Busoni: β€˜A new esthetic for music’ (1907): Music may scarcely be allowed to leap when it were its joy to follow the line of the rainbow, and to break sunbeams with the clouds.

    As opposed to

    The Cambridge history of western music theory, part 1: Disciplining music theory.

    “And I think such a process, as you rightly point out, is more akin to listening than to speaking”

    Talented and well trained composers are mostly good listeners, more than loud speakers. That also goes for musicians, now I think about it. A good musci teacher teaches how to listen, rather than how to play. It’s the only way a pupil can play better than the teacher and musical skills develop over generations.

    “it becomes something that is happening to you rather than something you are making happen.”

    Life can even make you becoming a composer at my age, ha, as long as you dare listen to your own music, you can be becoming a composer. I do think Music happens to you, rather than that you choose music, but that’s my own personal experience.

    “The skill with the Language and Theory of music would then come to bear upon the writing down of the unfolding, the editing, tidying and structuring of the music overall.”

    Yes, this is where the LH is a friend. I also like to structure the music in a mathematical architecture from the start, then the music can grow like a rosegarden on a frame and attract butterflies and birds and dew and …

    “At this point there is another unfolding, is there not? In the direction and dynamic of the piece, its development and denouement.”

    Depends on how you work: If you work from a Gestalt, the whole form, including dynamical structure is there from the beginning. (I often draw an curves before writing) If you work from left to right and let the music flow, you might have to go back and forth to structure the work. The upside is that you can work orchestrated from the beginning in great detail. This helps work faster when you hear an orchestra in your head, but not everybody hears that. (I do, but some teachers I had don’t)

    Both can lead to beautiful results. I use both techniques now, I find it nice to experience what each way of working can do for my music.

    “Gifted writers of music allow the previous stages of development to resonate within the piece, echoing forward and back, referencing what has done before.”

    Yes, they do, but this can also be a Craft that you can learn. If you learn this so well it gets unconscious, it will become part of your compositions when you like working in a flow from left to right. Designing an architecture before starting (like the rosegarden) to write also helps getting this result. Afterwards adding the latest developed motivs at the beginning also helps.

    “Throughout there is an oscillation between the dominance of selves, taking turns to bring the piece together, the overarching meaning and direction coming from the RH with the grinding and polishing provided by the LH.”

    Yes, I think so too. This is what makes a work GREAT, you need a clear execution: a precisely articulated score that exactly describes what you need to hear. (It also saves a lot of rehearsal time πŸ˜‰ )

    “I honestly think this is why music is so beautiful. And I think you are 100% correct: you listen to, and receive what is happening to you, capturing and recapturing those moments of reception.”

    Yes, this way you can let something new develop, grow. Because you can go back and bring that music to a new level. I cal this the helix instead of the circle. I find it useful to go back to earlier work and re-hearing it. Your own music can teach you, what step to take next. I was never allowed to call that ‘improvement’, because there is no ‘right’ or wrong’ in music. So I came up with: Then the music can get so unique that it is universal again. And that is a much better way to work indeed, because you avoid thinking in a linear way about accomplishments and goals. It elliminates the ego and that, now I know, enhances the RH to SEE a Gestalt.

    And we are back at the Beginning.