Friday, February 3, 2012

Understanding Music

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; it's hard not to fit new information/experiences into existing contexts that you're familiar with. For example, every time I read something about the economy I fit it into one of the macro frameworks I've learned at work. Which is useful and relevant, but I think it can blind you to the nuances of any particular situation, especially with a topic as complex as the economy.

I bring this up because I'm starting to see a similar dynamic happening with my relationship to music, ever since I really started studying theory and composition. It's one thing to listen to a piece and think, "this part gives me tingles. I like that." It's another to say, "I really like the use of the Lydian dominant and how it modulates to Dorian minor a major third above." I'm starting to move from the former to the latter.

What irks me slightly is that I think there's an element of music appreciation that hinges upon not understanding the theory behind it. People like music for all kinds of reasons: lyrics, timbre, mood. Being able to hear chord changes on the fly gives you a structure you can use to interpret what you hear but creates an extra element of predictability that I think can blunt an aspect of the aesthetic experience. I guess it's a little like magic: once you know how things are done it's less exciting..

1 comment:

  1. if you buy into an 'embodied'/ 'thought as metaphor' framework for new frameworks (hehe), you adopt a metaphor (or metaphors) to borrow their logic in a new context. once you become familiar with the nuances of the new context, the new 'information/ experiences' become a new metaphorical domain in their own right. this is why i've found that a good way to think of learning is as a horizontal growth and/or increase in detail as opposed to vertical growth (ie your understandings become more nuanced as opposed to just becoming more abstract or just 'getting more info'). also, learning is situated. ie...without context and connection to other contexts... you won't learn. in summary: connections are good and won't blind you to nuance. they give you a basis from which to gain nuance via noticing contradiction/conflict with your 'macro' model... they give rise to new metaphors and concept blends and blahblahblah.