In the last post, I talked about how fans feel about music. Now I want to turn to how performers feel about it. We might all agree on a technical definition of "music", but what we are thinking about when we say the word may be very different. We can easily end up making no sense to each other. Let's be more careful.
When performers talk about "music", they are thinking of the activity. They are thinking of their own visceral, corporeal, tactile, kinesthetic experience of physical motion, bodily effort baked into the muscle memory and reinforced, usually, by immediate auditory feedback. No matter how long you approach music in this way, as a physical activity or feeling, you will never truly understand it, because its nature is mental, not physical.
When I say the word "music", I'm thinking of a different inner experience, a beautiful world made of colored light, shifting patterns, and exquisite curves—different things happening at different levels at the same time. I don't mean this in the sense of synesthesia, but as a sensorial analogy to a non-linguistic experience of thinking about music. In other words, it's like thinking about mathematics, but mathematics with the specific purpose of grasping music. I'm positing mental structures, like mathematical structures, that describe the music. The imagery is just a metaphor for the feeling of knowing what one is doing.
But do I know what is going on in music, or am I fooling myself? Are my mental structures valid, or are they irrelevant? Why are the mental structures that I posit better than the kinesthetic habits of the performers? Simply: mental structures for understanding music—music theories—are valid to the extent that they describe the listeners' experience (more about that in the next post). The corporeal feelings of performers are irrelevant because they do not map the listeners' cognition of musical phenomena. That's what 'music' proper is: the mental experiences that arise from sounds: rhythm, melody, harmony, and from these, texture and form.
Also, music is just that, the contents of the third layer (as described in §1.3 of AMFB). It is not all of the other mental sensations that get projected onto the musical ones. It is not imagery, poetic notions, emotions, nor hedonic feelings of either valence—only children think that things like emotions hide in the notes; adults know they are in the ear of the beholder. It is even less the psychological identifications or social games that fans pile atop it. Music is neither in the musician's hands, nor in the listener's heart. Sorry, but it isn't.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for all that dreary paramusical stuff. Some poor soul has to book the bands and sell the beer (tip him well). The acts have to get into character and play their parts on the stage (along with the incidental burden of learning how to make some kind of sound). The performers have to go through the motions with their instruments, typing the notes out either on keyboards or guitars. They usually have guitars (a sort of mechanical analogue computer only useful for solving the wave equation) and amps (analogue circuits that simply multiply the guitars' outputs), and these are unbelievably heavy. Someone has to lug all of this around and drive the van, and someone has to drill enormous amounts of petroleum to power all of this lugging and make the world a better place. Et cetera. What I'm saying is that that stuff is a bore. I'm interested in the stuff that relates to the listener's experience (the seven-layered model described in Ch.1 of AMFB, "Introduction"), and I concentrate particularly on the part of it that we can control easily (§1.3, "The Musical Layer").
I also want to talk about music education's tragic insistence that all musicians must be primarily performers, sidelining the other musical roles (theorist, composer, or many types of technician), all of which are much more interesting and useful. That should wait for another post. Next time, I'll talk about what is meant by "music theory".