Thursday, May 14, 2009

In between hearing music the way a child hears it (which adults can only dimly imagine) and reading it the way standard notation presents it (which any sensible musician will tell you doesn't make much musical sense) there is a huge gap.

Which is more important: to be able to read music or to be able to make music?

Don't misunderstand me: I value reading music enormously. But I respect the distance between these two very different skills -- so much so that I will work with anyone who has trouble reading for whatever reason. As a result I keep learning more and more about the life of sound itself, without an interface of notation or of theory or of any other system of indirect reference.
Last night I attended a session on Surrealist poets Paul Eluard and Rene Char at the Philoctetes Center. (The session will be viewable on-line in about three days--I recommend it.) I was struck by how the most ordinary words were so charged for the scholars/translators presenting the poetry that they had trouble speaking. At one point one of them said, after confessing that she did not understand the poem she had just translated, "After all, I have a doctorate!"

A person playing the piano--even, or perhaps most especially a child--pronounces with their fingers. Think about it. If a word can be reduced to its pronunciation or its dictionary definition an esteemed Ph.D. will never be caught in public confessing awe at its power. If a tone on the piano could really be reduced to its fingering you might not have had to quit taking piano lessons.

Think about it.