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Old 05-17-2012, 06:03 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Fixit eh View Post
So itís kind of like acting then! Itís not about duplicating the emotion, but itís about faking it?
"Faking" is a loaded word!
It suggests cynicism, which is not the right attitude at all.
The point is - IMO - that the "emotion" contained in (or communicated by) a piece of music is not something that can be expressed any other way. It can't be duplicated, IOW. It's something that happens when the music is played right.
Music is what it is; there's nothing hidden, no secret messages. Play it right, and it will do its job. I talked about "meaning" before, but music doesn't "mean" anything beyond itself.

Stravinsky had a couple of great quotes, expressing the same idea.
"If music is a language, it's an untranslatable one".
"Music expresses nothing but itself."

IOW, music is a strange kind of proto-language. It resembles language in many ways: we can talk about "phrasing", "vocabulary", etc. But it doesn't represent anything. It just presents. (Rather like the way an abstract painting is not a depiction of anything; it's just an object in its own right.)
Its "message" is not even classifiable as "emotion" IMO, in the sense of feelings we can describe as "sadness", "anger", "joy", etc. Those things are mundane, caused by a mix of biology and human interaction. Music is beneath and beyond all that: both more primal and more transcendent.

If music moves us to tears - and it can sometimes - we never know why. It probably won't be a "sad song" that does it. It'll just be some kind of sudden connection with our unconscious, like a memory we can't quite recall, or a dream we just woke up and forgot.
If music makes us laugh, it won't be because there's a joke in it. (I often laugh at Thelonius Monk's music - because it's just so "right". It's "witty", but there's no way you could translate that wit into verbal terms. It isn't comedy, but is like the musical equivalent of comedy; the kind of comedy that reveals the truth.)

In short, you can't "fake" music. You can only play it well, or play it badly. Playing it well means accepting it, in a sense. Not trying to impose your own agenda on it.

If you've enough experience of playing live, you know the feeling when it all just "clicks". People talk about being "in the zone". It's like the music is playing itself, and you're just being carried along, like surfing a wave: you might start out with a conscious plan, an idea of controlling the situation, but once you're "up" you know the wave is in command.
An audience will recognise that when it happens, and they will "get it". The weird thing is, even though it's totally mysterious, nobody regards it as strange. It's just a "great gig". Sometimes we might be tempted to put it down to the audience just having drunk more than usual (because we don't think we actually played any better than usual). But if they get into it, then so do we, and it becomes a feedback loop.

That's music's purpose, IMO. Something that binds us in groups, in a way that feels as if it goes way back to prehistory. We might only be playing a tune that we know was recently written, but somehow - when performed live - it connects into a motherlode, a "collective unconscious"; it becomes an expression of that, not of any trivial idea we might have had when writing it.
I once had a lesson in Latin music with a great Brazilian percussionist, and he liked to describe the clave (the 2-bar rhythmic "cell" at the root of most Latin music) as something that was there in the air all the time, like a radio signal. When you played, you just kind of "hooked on" to it; plugged into this invisible, inaudible web and made it manifest.

That idea goes way back to ancient Greece and the "harmony of the spheres": the idea that the planets produced tones as they moved across the sky.
The crude interpretation of that is that one ought to be able to hear it, like actual music, but IMO it's more like an idea of music: a reflection of the sense that there is an underlying order to nature, which we express - in a more or less clumsy form - in the act of making music.
It's as if, when we play music, we are saying: "Here: this is how the world really IS. If the laws of nature made sounds, they would sound something like this."
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