Same Song Different Instrument

Day 348 Week 51 Q4  Wednesday, December 14, 2022

There are an awful lot of people who sing, play musical instruments, or do both. In some towns, it seems that every house has at least one instrument and at least one person who plays or sings. For those of you in this boat, have you ever noticed just how different a song can sound depending upon who sings it, or plays it? Or have yo ever tried to play the same piece of music on two different instruments? It can seem so different yet so much the same, at the same time.

There are some estimates that the crossover between those who play the guitar and the piano is as high as 40%, which is not as amazing as it seems because they are the two most popular instruments. They are also the two most self-contained instruments in terms of not needing accompaniment. 

Did you ever hear two different people tell the same story? Like two different newscasters on two different stations, networks, podcasts or the infinite number of ways we get our stories, ahem, information. It certainly feels like we are living in very many different worlds or at least very many different interpretations of the same world. Can you imagine the variations on the theme that historians transit through the ages? It can be tough to tell what is really going on because it depends on who you ask. There are popular songs that have been performed and recorded by dozens or even hundreds of performers. Versions of the old Gershwin standard Summertime has been copyrighted by over 1000 people.

The next time you feel quite certain about something, consider the context. It is time-varying. We are not always in the same mood and not always living in the same world, not only as each other but as ourselves.

This was driven home to me this morning when I tried to play something I had composed on the piano and had been playing not the piano for some time. This morning I thought, well I will just try this on the guitar instead and guess what? It turns out to be a completely different piece. I mean, if anyone should know the piece, it should be me, the composer who has been playing it for years.  Yet it turned out, in some ways, I did not even understand the piece at all or that there were many more ways to understand it. It was quite illuminating and immensely humbling at the same time.

I thought there might be a metaphor in there for other parts of life than music. The more creative and imaginative you are, the less likely you are to wake up every morning in the same world you went to sleep in.