Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Echo Chamber of Music

Music is the one and only thing that I could actually be called an "expert" on. I truly believe that the more that we learn about anything, whether it be music, a sport, a craft a hobby, a skill, history, science, the more we will see that all disciplines are an "echo chamber", reverberating the deeper truths of life on a smaller scale.

I believe this because I see it in music. Here is my latest observation.

Classically trained musicians tend to learn music by reading musical scores. Scores spell out every single detail of the song to be performed to the musician.

Although scores can be used for modern music, if they are followed strictly they often produce music that comes out as stiff and methodical.

The average classically trained musician that I have met is very analytical and intelligent, but can be very stiff in their systematic approach to life, not just music. This type of musician finds security in structure.

OTOH, a contemporary minded musician will tend to play music either by using simple chord charts, or if they can, even by ear.

A chord chart (pictured in the graphic) gives the musician some information but unlike the score, it is not comprehensive. The chord chart gives enough of the essentials of the song to communicate its essence, but it doesn't give so much as to detract from the musician's freedom to bring their own creativity to the music.

For example, the first chord of a chord chart may simply read "C minor". However the musician is not told where in their instrument's range to play that C minor or which C minor to play (which inversion or chord voicing for those of you who are musicians).

The chord chart doesn't provide any rhythm either, but I need to keep my analogy simple to illustrate the point.

The contemporary approach leaves enough ambiguity to the musician to allow them to choose. This ambiguity allows the musician to be creative. If the musician has the creativity and knowledge, when he/she sees that C minor chord, they will know that they can try three chord inversions, and multitudes of chord voicings in several octave ranges on their instrument (choices).

Faith is God's litmus test of our desire...

The classical approach limits the creativity to the composer. But the contemporary approach allows the performer to be creative. It allows them to choose.

Now let me frame it another way because I don't like to put classical up against contemporary and sound like I'm making a judgment for one and against the other. To the contrary, I don't necessarily believe that newer is inherently better.

I'm really talking about the differences between a propositional (classical musician) vs an existential/experiential (contemporary musician) approach to life.

A propositional approach is a traditionalist's mindset, which draws its security in structure and predictability. The downside to the systematic approach is that this security leaves no room for the questioning process (the essence of creativity). This prevents critical thinking from taking place.

The existential/experiential approach is not without its flaws either, but it is strong where the propositional approach is weak. The ambiguity of its looser structures encourage the questioning process that cultivates creativity and critical thinking. Its pitfalls emerge if it goes too far as the pendulum swings and tries to reject against anything that even looks like structure.

Creativity itself is often mistook to simply mean "making things up". However, you'll never learn to be creative with such a definition. You'll simply learn anarchy. True creativity is hinged to its art. As Clint Eastwood once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." Creativity is tied to purpose. This truth is reverberated in the echo chamber that I presented in a previous blog that I wrote entitled, "What is Freedom?".

True creativity is the convergence of the propositional with the experiential. Life itself is only rightly lived when we see it as a symbiotic relationship between the classical and the contemporary.

True Christianity is holistic. It balances the propositional with the experiential. This is summed up in John 1:14 which says that the Word (proposition) of God became flesh and lived (experiential) among us.

Are you a person who tries to make everything up and live your own life with no set boundaries? If so, you need purpose before you can be whole.

Are you a person who tries to know everything and uses traditionalism or propositions for a security blanket? If so, you need to listen to God asking the questions through the mysteries that stare you in the face.

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