“What is Music”: Reading Response

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

The opening chapter of TYBM is an incredible, seemingly breathless, highly educational list of all that we take for granted as “passive (non-theoretical) listeners.” Levitin explains almost everything I’ve been trying to intuit out as a singer, guitarist, and keyboardist that has mostly played by ear. Underneath his enthusiasm things do seem scientific, but rather that making the act of music production restrained or less magical, for me it opens it up immensely.

Defining the patterns that we’ve come to know, the tonal relationships that I’ve come to love at a gut level but have never been able to grasp conceptually, or even linguistically, makes creating music more like a stimulating challenge and less like a reckless bit of taste-oriented guesswork. His statements about exploring the relationships between sounds, the way they relate to one another and in doing so affect the larger whole, resonated with me. Although he is simply putting his finger on what tends to happen naturally with quite a bit of music, his statements lend a narrative edge to this instinct that I find kind of cathartic and… true.


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