Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Intro to Intro to Music Everything: What are you doing here?

   This is a blog about music.  Specifically, this is a blog about the History and building blocks of music.  There are many textbooks around that explain history and theory and everything I'll be covering in much greater and more detailed fashion.  Many subjects I'll write a single blog post, or maybe two, and one could easily spend an entire lifetime studying the same thing.  So why start the blog?  If there are so many resources out there, and there's so much to study, why a dinky little blog in the nowhere corner of the internet?

    Put simply, this is meant to be an overview that hopefully is less painful to read than the Norton Anthology of Western Music, 7th edition.  And less time consuming than spending a year at a music conservatory to learn why exactly an Aug6 chord functions as a Predominant and what forms of Aug6 chords there are and why and how they got their names and how were they used.

     And that's why I'm here, but why are you here?  Maybe you're asking yourself that now.

     Knowledge of the building blocks and history of music is important to every musician, be you rock, classical, jazz, whatever.  Because that knowledge gives you two things.  It gives you a broad toolset, and it gives you context.  Why does Wheezer's "Say it ain't so" go to a G# Major chord in c# minor?  And why does it have the b natural thrown in there with the B#?  And what the hell even is B#, and why didn't I just write C?  Why does Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" have two distinct groups playing completely different things?  What the fuck is Dorian and why do I use it over m7 chords?

     And the answer to each one of those questions is important to everyone, not just one person.  Music is a set of signs.  Some are idexes, ideas given meaning by past context, such as a perfect fourth played in a specific way evoking the idea of a wedding, because it's how "Here comes the bride" starts.  Some are iconic, an attempt to model a thought exactly in sound, such as Messiaen's use of tritones to mimic bird sounds.  Unlike language, which also contains Symbols, or signs arbitrarily agreed upon as standard, such as the word "Tree", which while it has nothing to do with a tree in form or function, and is not simply a personal association, is imbued meaning, music has very few if any symbolic signs.  Learning all these signs, learning how they often are used, learning, how they interact with each other and why, it allows a composer and a performer to have far greater control over their medium.

     This is not going to be a set of rules or laws to go by to create or perform music.  This is not going to be an exhaustive list of things to learn to be able to do music.  I'm not trying to stifle anyones creativity, or stop any one method.  What this blog will do is provide an expanded toolset to performers, composers, singer-songwriters, whoever stumbles upon it.

    Because knowing is half the battle.

     Go Joe.

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