Score Inadequacy

Day 226 Week 33 Q3 Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Just in case you were confused about the difference between the black dots on the page, music and what music really sounds like, you are not alone. Notation is definitely a sub dimensional representation of what is happening musically when a person plays music. Linearizing the duration of notes into a grid is overly constraining, as notes are not of equal duration. They change within the direction of the note.  Notes bloom in terms intensity and in terms of pitch variance, which may not be quite full vibrato, but nevertheless note pitches change throughout the duration of every note.

Metronomic accuracy is distinctly not musical. How different cultures count can vary by quite a bit.  Not all quarter notes are equal. Some are longer and some are shorter. Some are accented and some are louder. Some have more pitch variation, making it very difficult to capture this information in a score. I suppose if you spend your life reading music you get better at it but if you are improviser, who necessarily plays a great deal by ear, the scores always going to be sub dimensional projections of performances.

And it is performances that musicians are paid for, not sub dimensional projections. This is perhaps why it is so difficult to earn a living as a composer.  Even after 40 years of accumulated tools for spectrum analysis, looping, quantization, notation and recording, capturing the essence of a piece of music is still elusive. Furthermore, how music has been rendered not only changes as a function of your frame of mind, but also as a function of which instrument you are playing. It not only varies between, for example a keyboard and a guitar, but it also varies between different guitars as they have different, tactile requirements and opportunities, as do keyboards.

Interestingly, what makes music emotionally relevant to people, including audiences and musicians, is the set of nonlinearities managed by the performer in real time.  There are such an abundance of tools, teachers, and perspectives that one can drift around for their entire life without ever converging on emotionally relevant performances. This is why, getting in front of people and performing or playing together is far more difficult and also exciting than taking lessons and reading scores.

This makes performing far more valuable, far more likely to be compensated, and more justifiable and rewarding to spend your time on. You might actually get a return on investment in many more dimensions. These dimensions are more social and relationship oriented.

Music can be a solo, independent exercise, or can be a social, interactive exercise. And for many it can be bills. For me, being in a feedback loop with reality is far more exciting than living in an echo chamber of my own mind, perhaps enabled by a teacher.