Friday, December 10, 2010

Doing music

I have been reading about music. It’s metaphorical, philosophical, ontological, epistemological, psychological and aesthetic. The question, “What is music?” seems to engender what it is to listen to music, or what it is we are listening to. Another book talked about how musicians (and non-musicians for that matter) imagine music.

When I mentioned to a friend who is a Physics graduate that I had been reading about what is music, he wrote, “you mean about how music is a combination of sound waves with varying numbers of nodes to determine the pitch and the brain recognises certain patterns within the nodal numbers and converts that into a feeling of either melodious or disharmonious”.

I’m happy to leave the question of what is music to other people. What I’m interested in is how does music. By which I do not mean the how the sounds are interpreted by our brains. I mean how do you do music. How does one music (verb)?

Why is this relevant? I am studying music students, focusing on their literacy. By literacy we can mean a range of things, from the traditional and etymological sense of reading and writing, to modern sense of technological literacies to deal with how we interface with computers and oral literacies of the various ways of speaking and listening. So it seemed to me necessary to consider what else the students are doing other than literacy.

I asked my uncle, who is a professional musician, and currently the director of music at a private school. I wrote, “If literacy is reading and writing, and oracy is speaking and listening, what is playing music?” He wrote, “Fun!”

I find myself shunted between two points of view – a highly complicated psychological/scientific/philosophical perspective or the Fats Waller/Louis Armstrong perspective of “If you don’t know don’t mess with it!”

And so, if you’ll pardon the pun, I had to improvise.

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