Finally, a clear, visual, reasoned explanation of why some harmonies are are pleasant to hear and others unsettling. This is a great companion video to The DNA of Sound.

The concepts so elegantly outlined in this video echo what is probably my most fundamental fascination with music: that is a reflection the the physical essence of the universe.

That sounds a bit fanciful, I’ll admit, but the deeper you look at it, the more you understand acoustics and the physical properties of sound, and the more you compare those properties to what has become traditionally accepted as great music, the more you see patterns and connections and overlaps.

Music is a game of sound. And there are essentially two sets of rules… (a) physics and (b) the human mind. The more you understand those two things, the more clear it becomes why great music is great, and how to start creating some of your own.

Here’s a great example of what I think might be the 6th part of musical speech… context.

First, brilliant marketing campaign all around [yes, I downloaded the game and played it all the way through], but that’s a topic for another blog.

If you haven’t seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (movie) then the irony of this might be lost on you.

But if you HAVE seen the movie, you instantly pick up the deeper, subversive message behind Fiona Apple’s rendition of this truly beautiful song.

Here’s the original.

Here’s a bonus version.

(via wnyc)

Behold, the pure joy of sound.

(via fastcompany)

The world’s ugliest music: Scott Rickard at TEDxMIA

Here is a great example of the power of context. What do I mean by that?

I wasn’t supposed to like this piece of music. In fact, it was EXPRESSLY written to NOT be enjoyed. But the speaker spent over 7 minutes explaining the composition to me. Not just the theory of the piece (he actually hardly mentioned any actual music theory), but telling stories about mathematicians, duels, navy sonar, composers, prime numbers, and more. He created an incredibly rich context for the piece.

Then he gave me a challenge: try to find repetition in this music. He turned the musical performance into a focused, active listening experience.

The result? I really enjoyed hearing the piece. Not because it conformed to some preconceived notion of beautiful music, or because it reminded me of some person, event, or emotion in my own life, but because it challenged me to find a pattern and explore the music on its own merits.

[I actually did find repetition in music, because music is much more than math. If you “speak” music then you recognize other elements like gesture and motif, octave and register, etc. and you start to construct your own expectations, which is a fundamental outcome of repetition. But I digress.]

So many musicians I know have this same aspiration for their own music (and I’m thinking in particular of those who create what they would term jazz, classical, or avant garde music): that people experience and explore their music on its own terms. Many of them are also frustrated by the lack of engagement, interest, or broad appeal their music receives.

I wonder how many of them take the time to provide this kind of context, tell great stories, give their listeners a specific challenge, and invite the audience into their unique musical world. I wonder if they would see a different reaction from their audience if they did that.

This is a great little video that hits on a pretty fundamental aspect of music.

The most profound quote comes at about 3:35. I think people tend to flip the concept… that music has repetition in it.

But really, it’s repetition—by its mere existence—that tends to make something feel like music.

So often there’s a tendency to create binary conditions in our definitions of things. You hear people say, “Well if it doesn’t have X, then it isn’t Y.” But our definitions tend to be much more like word clouds or a collection of meta-tags. A thing is a thing because it possesses many specific characteristics. So definitions are more gradual than we think, as we add or remove components the thing begins to gradually lose its thingy-ness and become something else.

Having said all that, repetition is so central to what we perceive as music that removing it seems to immediately and drastically change our perception of whether it’s really music.

Without repetition you’re just listening to an endless stream of sound. There’s very little to latch on to and it’s that latching on to that our minds enjoy so much. We are pattern recognizers. It’s a fundamental, evolutionary trait of being human. Remove the pattern and it just becomes fundamentally less interesting to most people.

DYSM on Haiku Deck

Playing around with a new (to me) side presentation tool. DYSM always a story I’m happy to tell.


Do You Speak Music? - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Here’s a pithy little infographic on form in music. Not entirely untrue.

Here’s a pithy little infographic on form in music. Not entirely untrue.

(via tartlikehoney)

LA Sunrise (at Loews Hollywood Hotel)

LA Sunrise (at Loews Hollywood Hotel)