Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Art of Sound

Music absolutely amazes me. We can string together sounds that create certain feelings, bring memories back to us, and influence our mood, provoke deep thought and that’s not even all that music can do. It’s complex and beautiful. Musical instruments are constructed so that the sounds have a pattern and theory behind them, that way we can mathematically figure out how to create these sounds and emotions. And there are so many different instruments that make their own unique sort of sound. I mean look at this list: and I’m sure there’s even more than that. And they all have their own unique sound and way of being played. Each one is crafted perfectly to make that particular type of music. When you touch a piano key it actually triggers a small, felt covered hammer to hit a metal string and when it vibrates it is transmitted through a sounding board that perfects that vibration. When you stop pressing the key, a damper causes the string to stop vibrating. Pretty amazing right? I think so anyway. And every instrument is constructed in a different way.
But of course, an instrument would be useless if no one could play it or if no one composed melodies. After ten years of taking piano lessons I am still completely in awe of people who can sit down at a piano and just compose something beautiful. Like Jennifer Lin. She is 14. Watch this video, it blew my mind. Music composition is daunting to me. There is so much more that goes in to it than I think we usually realize. The sounds have to be organized so there isn’t dischord, so it evokes the kind of feeling you want to portray. You have to consider if you want it major or minor, what key you want it to be in, naturals, flats, sharps, timing, volume throughout the piece, melody, complex patterns, etc. etc. I don’t know enough about it to really tell you. But I just really appreciate those people who can do that.
Also, music memorization and sight-reading. I love sight-reading music, I love how I can read it like I read words but it comes out my fingers and transforms into sounds. (Weird way to describe it I know). I’ve never been good at memorization though. But it feels so good when you know the song so well that your hands just flow through the piece and you can hear in your mind what is coming next and make it happen simply from your hands remembering.
Which brings me to a thought I had today. Listening to music is wonderful. Like I said before, it influences the listener so much even though it really is just a bunch of sounds strung together in some sort of structure. But it’s actually a whole different experience for the performer. I am terrible at performing in front of people, but when I’m home alone sometimes I’ll just sit down at the piano and play. There’s just something euphoric about being able to make music. It’s not necessarily better than just listening to it, but it is kind of a different experience for me. I guess I can’t really explain it very well, but my point is, music is versatile. It influences all sorts of people in all sorts of ways and from both sides—the performer and the listener. I realized this when I was watching a very impressive violin piece. It was amazing but it was really long. I got kind of bored half way through. But while I watched the girl play, I remembered, when you perform something difficult, it doesn’t bore you. It’s challenging and exciting to try to get through the piece and make it flow and sound beautiful. And it can definitely wear you out. Camille and I worked on a duet for a piano competition a few years ago and I remember a lot of people liked one duet better than the other. I loved the one that wore me out the most though because it was difficult to get through and it was very dramatic. It was fun to play, basically. I felt more accomplished after playing that particular song rather than the other one. But I think if I were just listening, I would enjoy the other one better because it was more pleasant and relaxing to listen to.
So this was much longer than I anticipated and I doubt anyone wants to read my rambling thoughts about music. But all in all, I love love love music. And I really just want to keep learning about it, learn more instruments, and to sing, and go deeper into the theory aspect of it. I just need to remember to practice. :P 

P.S. If you want to see one of my favorite musical artists performing go here. He plays tons of instruments and is a one man band. He uses some sort of loop pedal or something (I don't completely understand it) to make the music keep going even after he stops playing so he can move on to his next instrument and create his own little orchestra. It's pretty long, the first few minutes can give you an okay idea of how talented he is though. His style is really unique so you may not like it, but it's pretty amazing to watch him create music like that even if you don't like it.

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