Learning Music and What It Implies
When it comes to education or cognition, I’m no expert. However, demystifying musical education (as a subject and not as a political or educational approach) is quite simple, and yet, socially, we have failed to provide a successful balance.
For starters, personally, I have found three aspects of music (and honestly of all arts), that make up musical education:
- Observation (Hearing)
- Creation (Playing or writing music)
- Academic Nurturing (Musical Theory and its variations around the world)
Normally, conservatories, schools, teachers and autodidacts lack the formation needed to develop all three areas in a balanced manner. Of course, it seems impossible to perfectly balance all three areas, and to be honest, people don’t need to learn and understand all three to perfect their ability to create and/or understand the wonderful art of music. However, when it comes to music as a whole, regardless of how developed an area is, one can never ignore the remaining two.
One of the most developed by the general public, yet one of the most underestimated by academics. We all know the story of that one songwriter that never learned how to read or write music; or that one EDM producer that has no idea either. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re less musical than other academically trained musicians.
Hearing, observing, analysing the macro-structure of musical pieces, requires great detail to attention that sadly, can only be perfected through practice.
It’s no mystery that DJs, songwriters, singers, make tonnes of money, even if they can’t sightread. And it’s no mystery why. They can exploit their talents in a way that society can relate to. In a way, we are all musicians waiting to be awakened, and demystifying this aspect of music learning.
Regardless of popular opinion, I believe that preparation of any kind is not needed for the creation of music. Case and point: babies can make music, cavemen could make music, children clapping can make music, and (excuse my gruesome example) slaves on a cotton field could make music so wonderful as to change an auditive culture entirely.
Of course, refining and preparing music is a huge factor in the quality of performance. Nevertheless, the ability to create sound, is entirely separate of theory or hearing. Through the practice of interpretation and creation, there’s a better chance that the musician understands phrasing, technicalities and expressive techniques that theory doesn’t expose.
And again, creation is a practical learning process.
Finally we come to this topic. Music theory. The much dreaded by beginners, music theory. While it is believed many times to be the basis on which music is built upon, I hope the above sections have exposed (or at least prompted a reflexion on) the opposite.
Let’s make a distinction: music theory is an essential part of musical learning, yet it only makes a third of the whole picture.
Reading music, understanding harmonies, deciphering scores, recognise complex terminology is a massive realm of its own. But without practice behind it, real life cause-and-effect, it means nothing
As a final thought, music is free. I’ve gone through a pedantic phase, where academics was everything and sole observation was meaningless. The latter was true, yet the former colossally wrong. A balance must exist, imperfect but present.
I used to think before that, people who didn’t know how to read or write music, yet still “had the nerve to call themselves musicians” ought to be ashamed of themselves. I have changed since then. In a time where we deny our musical, academic past and attach ridiculous customs to it, and explore our present and future by marketing it and undermining its true potential, the last thing we as a musical community want, is the “educated” and “ignorant” distinction (which is in fact meaningless).
I now despise the people that don’t get past the lyrics, the concert hall dress code, the photoshoots, the clothing. I despise those who dare deem one music better than another. I despise those who dare separate music into genres, as if such a thing was possible, everyday coming up with more ridiculous terms for the same branch of artistic expression:
Originally published at cosmophonicblog.wordpress.com on August 26, 2016.