Music, a Flavour in Your Ear

I am a musician, I have been a musician for about 20 years: I have been a musician now for longer than I have not. In creating music my intention during its inception is that I can experience and enjoy music from the qualities contained within music – that is that the relationship between two notes can mean something to the listener – it may mean a different thing, but that this meaning does not have to have a cultural origin (whether it can ever be listened to in isolation, outside the context of other music or past experience is another question!).

Someone who has experienced music before in another context will invariably judge any new music in relation to what they have previously heard. I accept that a person’s reaction to music can have a myriad of influences depending on the context of their previous experiences. Music has pervaded throughout many cultures for thousands of years and become an inextricable fabric of many.

But the reason I create or listen to music is for how it makes me feel, how the combination of chords and notes and textures affect me: there is a whole new world inside a collection of sounds for me. There may be many cultural reasons why I prefer certain types of music, certain textures, certain sounds: why do so many people have the instinct that a minor chord is ‘sad’. Logic tells me that there are probably ‘western ideals’ imbued into me from an early age that colours my perception of a minor chord, but an instinct in me is certain that certain sounds have intrinsic value and it just so happens that I picked up on a tremendously interesting article by about the tonal nature of certain intervals and their affect on us physically and emotionally: ‘Why Major Chords are “Bright” and Minor Chords are “Dark”’ (Cook, 2008). Whilst I haven’t read it in depth (I will!), a quick summary  suggests that there are intrinsic qualities in certain musical intervals (differences between single musical notes) that have biological origins in the way we react to them – not cultural. Now this idea doesn’t exclude the idea of cultural influence on our emotional reaction to music but does explain how some sounds may have intrinsic emotional value. That, to me is quite exciting!

I think music is an example of how important it is to look at music as a contrast or reaction to other music, and it’s meaning and context within cultures, as-opposed to individual response but also that there are non-cultural, non-structural influences to be addressed. Structuralism I think provides a useful paradigm for post-hoc analysis of existing cultural phenomena if we wish to view them in isolation. Music can be seen in respect to its empirical/  rational / scientific natures and as a significance within cultures with differences/ contrasts within and between music genres. Music can be seen validly (with justification) in many ways.

Where do you start to define areas of interest that involve things like ‘modernism, post-modernism and POST-post-modernism’? Seriously? Looking from the outside-in for a second (oh sorry Jacque Derrida – apparently there is no ‘outside of the text’…) but it all sounds a bit like the philosophical snake with its tail in its mouth, progressively devouring itself out of existence (or disappearing into its own anus).

If language really does constitute reality then why am I coming across so many terms that clearly explain thoughts I have previously had? Language brings me clarity, sure, and it certainly re-constitutes my reality. I personally allow for language to open up new perspectives, to create a framework of thought: this seems logical to me, but to exclude the idea of intrinsic, understandable concepts – gut-feelings, knowledge as knowing – as something that it known, not learned, yes please!  

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