Monday, 19 December 2016

Music, Reading & Drawing


Heinrich Neuhaus in his book The Art of Piano Playing states that in (classical) music there is a three movement dialectic:
  1. The thesis: the sheet music
  2. The antithesis: the instrument
  3. The synthesis: the performance
What can be said of the art of musical interpretation can in some sense be applied to the arts of reading and writing.

Thus, when in music you learn a ready-made, written down piece this is equivalent to reading an author.

Learning a piece of writing by heart would be equivalent to memorising a musical composition so that, in both cases, there would be no need for visual support once the piece memorised. 

Some pieces of music are harder to decipher and learn how to play than others just as there are easier and more difficult books to read and understand. 

When in music you improvise or compose a piece, that could be said to be similar to writing a piece of prose or verse. 

Indeed, the pieces you have heard or learnt in music may well give you ideas and inspire the shape and sound of your musical compositions, just as the literature you have read or heard will come to bear on the form and content of your creative writing. 

Moreover, while there are many different genres of music, there are many genres of book. 

Thus popular music would be equivalent to popular novels, jazz music to stream-of-consciousness written and oral delivery, classical music to philosophy or, as the case may be, poetry, since poetry and music in classical times used to be performed together. 

If classical music were indeed the philosophy of the musical world I would be tempted to make associations between thinkers and composers. 

For example,
  1. Leibniz - Bach
  2. Kant - Haydn
  3. Hegel - Beethoven
  4. Schelling - Schumann
  5. Schopenhauer - Wagner
  6. Nietzsche - Chopin
  7. Heidegger - Shoenberg
  8. Derrida - Boulez
Of course these associations are very forced and meretricious but as far as idle pursuits go, it is of a far more erudite nature than counting sheep. 

Another comparison that can be made is between drawing and piano. 

Life-drawing, i.e. drawing what you see with your eyes, would be akin to sight-reading the notes as written on sheet music and drawing from one's imagination would be akin to free musical construction/improvisation on the keyboard. 

Manly P. Hall in his book Secret Teachings of All Ages goes so far as to describe how each musical note from C to B has a colour equivalent and that mixing the notes, e.g. in chords, is akin to mixing colours. 

The structure of the piece would be the composition of the drawing, i.e. how things are placed with regards to each other, and the music's rhythm would be the level of implied movement conveyed by the art work.

Another rather obvious analogy can be made between the aforementioned art forms and cooking. Following a recipe would be akin to learning a piece of sheet music or drawing from life whereas improvising a meal would be more akin to creating one's own musical piece or drawing from one's imagination. 

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