We all know what music is. Even if you don’t play an instrument.
I hear people constantly say (specifically non musically trained people) that they don’t understand a performance (symphonic concerts), or a piece they hear because they aren’t musically trained. That is complete nonsense.
Think about it.
Music has been and always should be a form of bringing people together through a reflection on yourself to which makes people reflect on an emotional concept.
You listen to music -------> You feel a certain way ------> You act upon it ------> Other people notice-------> React to it -------> Communication to yourself within yourself.
Think about life a hundred years ago (before modern instruments were created).
People chanted. People combined certain words with a certain melody to portray a certain topic or feeling that brought said people together. You can even look at a lot of African cultures as an example.They use simple objects (like a garbage bin and a stick) to create rhythms to which they sing along with.This brings their community together.
This topic reminded me of a message i received from a friend not too long ago:
“Man, I liked your concert, but i feel like i had no idea what you were doing so i just felt lost the whole time. It’s not really my vibe, i don’t get music”.
We all have music within us. Whether we know it or not. Whether we agree with that fact or not.
People who don’t listen to music (to whom i can rightfully say i’ve never met) can still react and feel anything from emotion, to a pulseI t’s in how we walk, how we think, how we feel and anything else in between.
Something a friend of mine mentioned was quite interesting. He said something like:
“Think of the difference between 21st century music, to Beethoven symphonies, to Medieval choral works. Why is it that people find Beethoven’s 5th symphony way more appealing to listen to than say “Poème symphonique?” (This is a piece by Hungarian composer György Ligeti, where he essentially asks you to take a hundred metronomes and put them at different tempos and let them all go off at the same time).
Within evolution our minds have created a norm of what music “is” since day one. Meaning we have created an ordinary (a norm) in how to categorize a grouping of pitches or chords into the concept of “music”. As far as harmony and chordal structure/simplicity goes, anything outside of this said norm of said category of “music”, is considered “out of the ordinary” (a song with pitches and chords compared to a metronome per say). I can assure you that if metronomes were a tool to the founders of music composition instead of instruments (our voices) Ligeti’s piece would be the norm and Beethoven 5th would be a monstrosity.
Now within this creation and affiliation with these social, artistic and psychologically “relaxing” norms, our ear has been modified to know what harmony, melody and rhythm is. For my non-musician readers, you have always known what these were but you just never put a name to it.
That is something that psychology is doing for society even to this day. The reason people find psychology to be so interesting is because we have been putting terms to words and concepts that we actually know, which as a result make us feel like we know what we are doing, where in reality, we knew it all along. We have always “felt” something or “known” something, we have just somehow never had a way to categorize it so that we could express ourselves to others to make them believe that we know how to affiliate ourselves with that concept.
So the argument now is:
Do people who have never studied theory or an instrument, connect to music emotionally (classical music) to the same degree as someone who is classically trained?
My answer is yes.
Connecting with music is using skills that we all have, to create an emotional connection that we all get. Having studied music just makes you notice aspects of the approach to emotion. Not the emotion itself.
We all have a foundation in how we regulate emotions. We all have reactors, receptors and concepts at our disposal that help us react/connect to people emotionally. This can come from: their actions, how they talk (dynamic wise), to what words they decide to use, to their physical persona. All this applies with music. We have always reflected on ourselves through music (listened to a sad piece when in a sad emotional sad) and thus this proves that we all have a deep connection to music. The only thing is that some people know THINK they know how to express this by stating what technique is used to derive that emotion (a certain dynamic, or crescendo, or color to a quality of note or tonal centre that gives a certain emotion).
Music plays --------> Certain sound is heard --------> Certain inner reflection is felt --------> Certain emotion in felt.
Just like we all have control over our thoughts and reactions (to a degree, there is the factor of what we notice in ourselves and as a result in the medium of music) we all have control over our own opinion on how we personally feel music.
Music is a universal form of communication. It can be an inductive reactor to inner feelings/ways of thought, just like it can be a way of portraying a feeling/ways to go about an interpretation of a composer’s state when writing the piece (this is generic since as we know, interpretation is a huge factor in how we take in/reflect on a feeling or way of thought based on how we react subconsciously to a note, vibration or anything known to the practices of music retention/appreciation).
Now. Just like we all have emotions and versions of how and why we react a certain way, we all end up with the same emotional state as a result. The only thing that is different is the thought process (both conscious and subconscious) we go through to enter that state. If a stranger gets punched in the face, you and another stranger beside you will both react (In a perfect world) in a way that involves sympathy for the person that got hit and confusion or anger towards the attacker. You would then probably question why that instance happened.You both entered the states of confusion and anger but what connected you to that confusion and anger can vary from person to person.
It’s the same as far as emotional reaction to music from a trained musician’s perspective to a non trained musician. You both have the same tools to react the way you do because you are both human.
Think of music as a medium of emotion that can be interpreted in any way whatsoever.
Take this quote for example:
“Sometimes I think that classically trained musicians are a bit jaded and don’t allow themselves to just feel the emotions whereas for the non classically trained musician it’s all they have to go off of”.
- A dear friend of mine
What struck to me in this message wasn’t the idea of trained musicians not feeling emotion (because it’s somehow implied that we (musicians) don’t deliberately think about feeling music because it just happens through our technique practices) but that NON classically trained musicians have nothing to go off of.
The more someone has at their disposal, the more they search for other things (the more the merrier theory) right? If someone only has one skill up their sleeve, they will use that skill in as many ways possible to them. In this case, emotionally connecting to music. We can all go through a different process of connecting with music but the result will be the same.
Classically trained musicians spend hours and hours a day rehearsing certain approaches to sound, body control, breath control, scales, technique to use and apply to help someone feel music. Non classically trained musicians just have the built in fundamental building block given to them from evolution (like we discussed above), the act of “feeling it”. They don’t necessarily know WHAT they are feeling or how that “what” came to be, but they know it’s there (this is the 6th sense that i mentioned last blog).
So because we all have things that have been installed into us from social norms (thinking, reacting, feeling, connecting, speculating, foreshadowing etc etc) we all think and react a certain way. The only difference between trained musicians and non trained musicians is just that musicians know how certain physical doings can create a certain colour of tone to which can be interpreted into a certain emotional idea or concept. Non musicians just have their gut feeling (Which is cool too).
The beautiful thing with non trained musicians, is that without noticing, they are using thought processes and ideologies (essentially tools) that they have learned or have been installed in them throughout their life to make an educated guess or opinion on a musical phrase from an auditory, spiritual and emotional point of view.
Whenever any of us react to any situation (music or not) we use our reactions, opinions, views on ourself, current spiritual state and our current knowledge within us to formulate an educated guess on any given situation. The only thing non trained musicians don’t have that trained musicians have is the fact that trained musicians have studied the technique to justify the creation of said naturally given emotional response.
The Placebo effect:
A lot of musicians think (whether subconsciously or on purpose), that because they have spent hours studying a craft, that they are more connected to it (when listening to a performance. This is a common problem and is an example of a “Placebo effect. This would be you using said practice knowledge as a way of justifying your feeling to the PRACTICE of music and not the emotion of the vibe within the music itself. In reality, you should be justifying your level of feeling with social norms that have been implemented into your DNA through evolution the moment we were born. The reason a lot of people enter this placebo effect is simply because they have an emotional connection with the practice of music (spending so much time with anything will create a bond or viewpoint on something). The act of practicing is a mental game. Since musicians have spent the time practicing the technique, this emotional bond with practicing makes people believe that they think they connect with an emotion within a performance since they are emotionally connected with the craft itself. The thing is that even though they are connected with the craft, the emotional response is you using common practiced evolutionary norms are at the exact same level as someone who is not classically trained.
In conclusion, both trained and untrained people react and connect to music to the same degree. A lot of people just believe that because they know more about a craft that they can use it to justify that they “feel” more connected to it. They just have more emotions involved (from the music itself, to the emotions derived from practicing the craft) so they are led to believe that they are somehow more connected to it. In reality, they simply don’t know where this emotion is derived from + not knowing the purpose of said emotion.
Does studying music mean anything then…..? If you aren’t connecting to it more than “normal” people what’s the point??? I will discuss this next blog.
So stay tuned!