Thursday, March 29, 2012

W.A. Mathieu

The Musical Life The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music
I first discovered the work of W.A. Mathieu over 15 years ago, when I came across an audio version of The Listening Book at a local library. Mathieu is an American pianist and musical scholar, trained in jazz, classical, Indian and African music. He also has the gift of explaining deep musical concepts in a way that anyone can understand; his mission is to show that music is an essential part of life itself. Those two cassettes I got at the library that day were life changing because they made tangible what I had always felt but never could quite express: that music is everywhere, in everything. The more you get that, the deeper your personal connection to music can be; this can lead to creative and even spiritual awakening. And yet it's as easy as walking down the street.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Temperament, Equal and Otherwise

If you are studying music, sooner or later you arrive at the question of what "in tune" really means and how it is determined. Especially if you play a fretted instrument like guitar, you start thinking about the notes between the frets, the bent notes, and you wonder, where are they in our musical system? The answer is nowhere. Suddenly a rabbit hole opens up and you are dropped into a new universe of musical concepts. Things you thought you understood, like, you know, notes and chords, are suddenly revealed as incredibly deep subjects. You are obliged to look deeper into the meaning of intervals, overtones and harmonics, and discover their relationship to the history of tuning. You discover Pythagorean tuning, just intonation, mean-tone temperament, microtonalism, the harmonic series, resonance and more. You start listening to sitar music. You finally come to realize what you've known intuitively all along; our whole modern system of equal temperament is wholly inadequate to really describe music. How could this have happened??