Originally Posted on 01 / 13 / 2010 at 11:03 pm PST
It’s burned into our minds from a young age. It starts as early as our mother and father disciplining us when we misbehave. The differences between right and wrong, reactions we’re meant to have in certain situations, acceptable behavior, expectations about life, ideas about society.. these are things we must be taught. But why is proportion most desirable to look at, why are alarms.. alarming, why does blue signify something is cold, and how does any of this relate in any way to what it is. . that an artist does?
Some behavior can be credited to our nature as human beings. There is no denying that we inherit certain traits from our parents. Such is the reason why twins who are separated at birth, come of age in completely different environments, and will meet 20 years down the road, only to find many distinct similarities in tastes, views, and behavior. Going even deeper, straight down to the most basic of human functions; all of us are born with the instinct to breast feed, cry when we hurt, etc. The most basic human functions are written. Even some behavioral characteristics are passed through conception and development in the womb. . though not all are.
Of course, I’m no scientist. I’ve opted to create with the life i’ve been given, rather than discover. I know not which behavioral characteristics are passed down from parent to child, or which we develop through exposure to sights, sounds, events, and so on. What I know, is we weren’t born with the knowledge that loud noises are startling, nighttime is when we sleep, and the smell of poop isn’t favorable. It is through repeat exposure to these things, that we develop a type of expectation as to what is associated with them. I don’t know why bright colors are associated with the summer, but I can assume it has something to do with flowers being in bloom, green grass, and blue skies. Such colors have clearly transcended across various ideals to give us our “summer clothes”, fruity colored drinks, and so on and so forth. Imagine you’re sitting in your house late at night, and you hear a loud booming thud. . it is likely to scare you, at which point you’re likely to jump up and turn your fear into an audible release similar to the sounds made famous by Chandler from Friends when he would yell out an abstract sound such as “blegahhhhh”. . But, if a loud sound occurred every 15 minutes, followed by a cute puppy coming to play with you, and 500 dollars falling from the ceiling, you’re not likely to have the same terrified reaction. . rather, one of joy! You see, we learn from our surroundings, and allow it to affect our reactions, expectations, and ideas.
Believe it or not, every single experience you have, moment to moment, leaves some kind of imprint on your mind’s expectations of the world around you. I like to think of these expectations as what we know to be “true”. These experiences vary from time to time, and place to place. A clever artist understands this, and uses it to his or her advantage, manipulating what one knows to be “true”. As a musician, I understand certain things about what people know to be true of sound. Through life’s exposure, we’ve learned that fast, repetitive sound rising in pitch and volume signifies excitement, anxiety, etc (think car alarms). Noises that are low in volume, slow in tempo, and low in pitch create an essence of calm (think a clothes dryer, my apartment has a Maytag. It’s not bad. Seems to favor liquid detergents). How can I now use that knowledge to my advantage? Well that’s easy, if I want you, as the listener, to feel excitement, you can bet pitch is going up, perceived loudness is going up, and tempo will either be faster, or will be a simulated faster pace through fitting more notes into a fixed amount of time, while remaining in signature. Of course, much more goes into making music than that, but you get the idea.
I’d like to say this blog had some kind of point.. though, frankly I just sat down and wrote thoughts as they crossed my mind. So now I’m going to try and write some kind of closing paragraph, as if to tie everything together, and say I had any kind of goal in all of this. Okay? Okay. Creating music is about manipulating what we as human beings know to be “true”. Manipulating the minds (and feelings) of your listener through creating expectations, and either meeting, or breaking such expectations, is a key element in the creation of music. Tastes in music vary based on a listener’s upbringing, the life they live, and what they’d like to get, emotionally, out of their time spent listening. As people evolve, so does music, in order to more accurately fulfill the wants of a day’s society. Changes in society = changes in truth = changes in music. The instruments used, the way they’re used, mixing techniques, lyrics; all of these things and more go into music’s evolution. Of course, no two societies are going ever going to feel the same about music, as no two society’s “truths” are the same. This explains the vast discrepancies between what we know as “western music” here in America, and the music created in say, Tanzania. Take some time, and listen to artists/songs of various genres. Try to pick up on the techniques used to manipulate what you know of the truth. Tempo, pitch, rhythm, how are you being affected? What do you think the composer’s goals were?
If you’re an artist, write the truth.
It’s real. It’s powerful.
FOR CONTINUED READING I SUGGEST :
“This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel J. Levitin
This book opened my mind up to more ideas than I can count. .