The quote that is used as the title for this article made me think about the ‘birthplace’ or creation of music. I’ve read/heard many different opinions on this topic with answers ranging in nature from scientific to psychological to pure subjective opinion but they all have similar strains of thought behind them.
In my mind, the composition of music is a three-way battle; it is the product of three forces pulling a creative spark apart and in three separate directions, each with its own purpose and goal. Every unique piece that is involved in the equation counts, and the composite of these results in what we hear through the speakers.
But boil it down to its purest form and you start with that creative spark. This is where peoples’ opinions, I think, are fractured and begin to migrate in different directions; down separate paths that may cross over and under each other dozens of times or perhaps never once. You could make the argument that the birthplace of this spark is within one of these formative forces, but I think that is too simple an explanation…
Our mind is perhaps the most powerful, influential and capable force responsible for the creation of music, or any creative endeavor for that matter. So powerful, in fact, that we cannot, at times, distinguish between our own, controlled conscious thought and the wild, enigmatic subconscious that drives many of our most basic actions. We study and learn to play instruments in a certain manner; there is a structure and methodology that impacts every aspect of ones creative composition. There are certain ‘rules’ that guide creation; scales, patterns and rhythms and physical mechanics in music, whose inter-compatibility is defined by centuries of musical tradition.
There is beauty in the seemingly natural resolution that certain intervals and scales have and we strive to create and enhance those patterns. Like a chess match, there are movements and counter-motions that define the ebb and flow of a piece of music. Each of these actions planned and orchestrated for maximum sonic impact. We calculate and plan out our works, sometimes delving so deep into the minutia of a sound and timbre of a particular passage of music that we lose sight of its role in the overall piece.
While this force is seemingly the most simple (in comparison) it can be the most influential on the final product. We may intellectualize an idea, craft it and shape it, but unless we possess the physical capabilities and prowess of executing the broad strokes and subtle touches we envision, our desire to express our thoughts and emotions is futile.
It’s generally believed that the more technically proficient a player is, the more capable and precise he/she can be when crafting their work. Sure, you can build a house using only wood, but there will be certain areas that may require other skills and materials and possessing these skills will enable you to build a more efficient and cohesive structure. Ideally, the larger your vocabulary, the more vivid your descriptions and the more focused your message.
In contrast, it can be one’s physical limitations as players that define his style and unique voice. There are countless artists that may not be the most talented musicians, yet they each have their own identifiable sound and style of phrasing that is, most often, a direct result of what they can’t do.
Finally, the force that we have the least control over but one that is most apparent and obvious, our emotions. Just as energy is never created or destroyed (it’s physics, man, look it up) you could make the argument that the emotion that an artist pours into his/her work came from someone/place else in the form of inspiration. These ideas and feelings are ingrained in the piece of work itself, in every melody, rhythm and tone. Even though we filter this in through our ears, and there is a physiological response that allows us to recognize and organize the sounds as music, there is, simultaneously, another response elicited; an emotional response. That response is typically expressed with both physical and mental actions: released as you dance around and sing out lyrics at a concert, recalling an event or memory tied to a particular sound or piece of music, or even in the form of enthusiasm you exude when talking about music with your friends…you’re passing along the emotional energy.
This is obviously not a scientific quantity that can be measured, or even properly defined. Nevertheless, it may be the biggest reason that people enjoy music; it taps into some unknown and undefined part of their psyche and allows them to release some of the emotional energy that they have inside; to pass it along down the ever-flowing stream of our collective social and cultural creativity where it will meet and blend with other similar and different thoughts and creations.