to a Deeper Understanding
by Rich the TweakMeister
(this essay must be read carefully to obtain the insights)
Metaphor is one of the most powerful devices of the human
mind. We liken our experience to other experiences in order to apprehend them.
Through metaphor we are able to understand highly abstract processes that would
be unattainable without it. All songs share one metaphor in common: The
Story. One might get confused to think that songs are stories, but they
are not. Songs are music that is arranged like a story. Things aren't
the way they seem sometimes, and that's something we will go into later.
For now, however, just understand that the model in our head for interpreting
the phenomena of music is the same model we use to understand a story.
Therefore, anyone who wants to write a great piece of music should think of
the process of writing and telling a great story.
Stories have three basic elements: 1) A beginning 2)A middle
part and 3) an end. All music--even the most esoteric eastern music--has these characteristics.
Forget for a moment about the "climax", which of course all stories have in the
West. Think of the basic underlying structure. The sounds start, go on a bit,
then end. Then something else happens, the phone rings, you talk, you hang
up. Then you begin to see that all of our experience is "stored" in stories, and
that everything we "know" is a matter of us being able to store the undifferentiated
mass of experience in a little story. This is because of time. We lock experience
into a straightjacket of time, into a phenomena with a beginning, a middle and an
end. Until our minds develop multi-dimensional ways to transcend time, we
will be locked into seeing our world as a series of stories. No matter what part
we are at in the story, it is defined by what preceded it, and what we expect to
happen in the future. One might say the way we store experience creates expectations.
Translated, the way we "hear" a musical passage determines what we think will come
next which is determined by what we just heard a moment ago. To rush to the
point, it is expectation, its fulfillment and violation, in our storage facilities
(brains) that leads us to experience both musical beauty and boredom. In simple
terms, there are good stories and bad stories. Much is a matter of the way
the story is told, and we fill our lives with the stories everyday, every minute,
every conscious second.
Think of someone you know who is a great storyteller. How do
they do that? They play with your expectations. What is humor but the sudden violation
of expectations in a little story. Its the "surprise" that makes the story a good
one. We may be startled, awestruck, or "blown away" when we are the recipient of
a great new story. We suddenly know, usually joyously, that our lives have
changed as a result. We have a new meaning, a new understanding, awareness.
And everyone marvels, "how did they come up with that, it's great!"
Its the same with music. Perhaps this is why early classical
composers focused on the greatest story, the revelation of the godhead. Was
the music designed to "blow you away" back in the 18th century? You bet!
We are always reaching to increase our understanding and comprehension of the world
we live in. The early dudes and dudettes just shot for the Big Story, and
if we go by record sales over 200 years, they may have been on to something.
This is just to get you thinking about the way our brains deal
with musical information. We think and feel in stories. A story is the way we store
info. Communication is the transmission of stories. Music is communication--the
transmission of stories that allow us to feel the same thing. Cyberspace is a 4th
dimension by which communication happens, brain to brain. Ok, let me take you there
now. Music is the cyberspace of emotions. You music will not make sense without
a story. You can take this even further. Your life will not make sense unless you
see it as the unfolding of a story. The story metaphor is inescapable. You can't
think outside this metaphor because it is one of the bounding principles under which
we encapsulate what we know as "real".
So what is this cyberspace? The Tweakmeister has pondered
this over a decade. Perhaps our greatest assistance comes from the works of
Marshall McLuhan. Cyberspace where Media happens. Media is the substance
that is transmitted. You got it, stories. Consider cyberspace like a
giant PatchBay, and we plug into each others brains, or storage facilities with
our storage facilities. Now it should be easy to get to. Music is the
cyberspace of emotions.
Now, give me this one. Consider music as an external object.
It's not inside you. Its not your creation. It's something you tuned into.
Like in Plato's cave, its already there. You just discover it. and give it
your own name. Perhaps this is how the old great composers came up with their
stuff. They looked for the godhead and they found incredible music, so powerful,
it killed a lot of them to get it written down.
Now, earlier, I suggested that music may be "more" than a story,
though that is the form in which we convey and interpret it. So, what is this "more-ness"?
Here we get into the thick of the real questions. A true philosopher is not one
who has the answers, by the way, its the one who asks the right questions. So what
is the "vibe" in a piece of music. Why does good music make people move their bodies
in rhythm to it? When we feel this excitement while listening to music exactly what
is going on? True music may be beyond the endless cycle of story creation and be
much closer to natural sources of energy than we understand. It may be in music
we understand each other exactly. Why? On top of the vibe we build the story to
make it accessible. Yes, but what is underneath? If we witness the phenomena of
music strictly by its effects on people in the various places it is played, we see
one thing. Music stops us, captivates us and takes control. It's everywhere!
Its on TV, in your car, at the restaurant, in the gym, at the grocery store--you
can't escape music! And if you do find yourself in the most quiet of spaces,
is that you humming a tune? You know when they sent the Voyage Spacecraft, rigged
with microphones and transmitters, on its final run to exit our solar system and
go beyond you know what was heard---Yep! If music were a conscious being,
it would control reality as we don't know it. Ha, us human being are so sensitive
about other human beings controlling us we never let down our guard. But nobody
put up a guard when the radio is playing, yet the effect on us is often dramatic.
Now, what if it is a conscious being? You answer that one. I've taken you far enough.
From brain to brain, the concept travels, beamed everywhere in
the form of patterned electrons. Someday we will realize we have been living this
cyber-spaced fantasy from the moment we could talk. Technology just makes it easier,
closer and more accessible than ever before.
Yours Truly in Thought,
copyright 1996 Rich's MIDI and Audio Lab All rights reserved
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