Wednesday, 5 March 2014


If Music is a jigsaw then very few if any of us get the whole picture and for many of us the picture is full of black holes.
Music is so beloved by so many people, but rarely does a mind come along that can encompass anything like its entirety. It isn't all of music that is beloved. I don't think there can be anybody who adores Death Metal, Puccini, Webern, Gilbert and Sullivan, Reggae, Adele, and the songs from Glee. But perhaps there is. What about someone who loves Ancient Icelandic Music, the songs of Cilla Black, late Beethoven Quartets, Kurt Weill, Perry Como and Wagner? I could go on with combinations but will restrain myself. I am finding them too diverting! It is a matter of taste. 
I presume that it is also a matter of how each person hears these various types of music. Being able to hear into the genre of Death Metal requires some bravery and for me it requires a muting of my defences. I feel invaded by this music. It encrouches on my sanity, as Stockhausen's Hymnen does when play through head phones. These are intense demanding tracts. 
But I also feel invaded but the insipid. By plaintive narrow voiced pop songs with the repetitive theme of loss of the beloved: Ouch you hurt me I will never recover.  Yet if you transport me back to Dowland's Flow My Tears Semper Dolens Semper Dowland Or Purcell's Dido's Lament I am uplifted by what seems now a much more sophisticated message.
That was just a tiny skim across the water of musical appreciation. But this mighty musical jigsaw contains so many more pieces. In places there are chains of interlinking pieces that require sequencing for strong learning to take place. Find your optimal hand position or your embouchure and you will liberate your instrument. 
There are also some sturdy little blocks that maybe be taken in isolation. Rhythm can come without pitch. Playing music from a script means that you can access huge swathes of the history of music, but reading music does't mean that you could attempt an authentic rendition of an unaccompanied traditional folk song. Playing boogie boogie is an art in itself and does not require knowledge on Chanson. 
Most of us can never aspire to complete the jigsaw. We can complete a corner and a big block to one side. We might have half the edge and a random collection of unconnected similarly coloured pieces that could fall in place given the right setting. We might complete a section from the middle with no way to link it in the rest. It is at the best patchy. It isn't a 250 piece job, more like a 25,000 one. 
In my daily life as a singing teacher I come across exceptional intelligence. After a day at work such people turn up here to be challenged deeply by music. The people that I refer to are high IQ folk who want to complete a part of their musical jigsaw that has frustrated them for years sometimes. I teach all sorts of people but this is one category of musical learner that I have just started to think about. I am quite intelligent myself, but have some massive black holes in my knowledge and understanding. My early teaching was very poor and I had great problems even approaching learning, let alone processing, sequencing and assimilating knowledge. Going out to work for eighteen years in Special Education resolved a lot of that but early born frustrations lurk. Harmony makes no sense to me. The nature of chords and the way they link up to form the conventions of either classical or jazz music feels outside my grasp. I could take the knowledge onboard as facts but it would mean nothing to my personal musical world where I create my own composition based on pattern making. Therefore I have not taken it onboard. 
I meet all sorts of musical learners, including people who have wonderful natural musical gifts and some who want to start completely from scratch to find the music within them. Sometimes the gifted do not practise. Sometimes the person starting from scratch finds the music but that doesn't satisfy their yearnings. It turns out that they wanted more of the jigsaw than was actually available to them. Wanting to sing soprano cannot create a soprano voice. There are some barriers that are insurmountable and then there are those that will dissolve over time with careful practise. It is the nature of my work to support people to overcome their barriers to learn to free up their musical world so that they can access enough of that vast musical jigsaw to satisfy them. 

Well I woke up at 5.20 and it is now 6.44, so whatever I spent the night thinking about has drizzled out into this rainy morning and I hope makes some sense. It is a great way to start the day. Sometimes I wake up full of a dream but today I woke up full of ideas.