Monday, January 7, 2013

Correcting the Dissonance

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending a party at the home of two musicians, many of whose friends and relatives are or have been involved with music, some professionally, all seriously.  We were talking about how difficult it is to learn to read music and, therefore, to teach children how to read music.

One young relative had studied piano with me over 30 years ago.  Her frustration at the complexity of reading was horrible to her at the time and even now as she recalls the experience.  (It was long before I was able to observe the signs of conflicting activities and preoccupations on the part of each student and adjust expectations accordingly.)  She described her frustration in dealing with a particularly dissonant diminished fifth in a Bartok piece, a sound that she really disliked and insisted on "correcting." 

Over and over again I use this very experience as proof to the child that, in fact, they are reading.  The fact that they are not reading mechanically but in reference to an internal predisposition to consonance (in this and in most cases) displays active musical intelligence at work.  All the pain involved in correcting the error by deliberately distorting the desired sound reveals the subject matter of the composition. 

I have learned this from observing Tonal Refraction at work in the lives of many musicians of all ages.