Kevin Bleich - Musical Sequence - Assignment 1: Your Brain on Music - Fall 2011

What I most appreciated about the first chapter, “What is Music”, in Your Brain on Music, is the authors ability to tease apart traditionally controversial definitions of music and music related terms, into an organized language that traversed the subjective and objective qualities of music with ease. Even as a long-time musician myself I found his approach rational, balanced, superbly scientific, and yet still somewhat mystical about the qualities and elements of music. He broke apart all the elements, defined the realms for each of the terms (e.g. pitch as subjective, frequency as scientific/measurable), and made it easy for both musicians and non-musicians to understand what is truly fantastic about music as an art-form; that it isn’t necessarily the mathematical and scientific underpinnings that make music what it is, but rather its how these elements are used culturally and emotionally that make music what it is. I appreciated the clarity around the subject.

What I found most inspiring about this chapter was that as a musician that attempts to write  and record expressive music of my own, I began to question whether or not I approach music with more of a regard to the structure and base tonality of my music, and in the process have left behind the importance of playing with timbre. The author did a fantastic job of instilling in me a new appreciation for the creative possibilities inherent in the use of the overtone series, and inspired in me a more thoughtful approach to using different sounding instruments, tones, and audio processing. Personally, in the past I think I haven’t been attentive enough to these qualities of music making, and thus when I listen back on my work I hear a dryness and a dullness that to me never seemed to fit the emotional energy of and inspiration behind the songs when I recorded them. To me at this moment, there are as many potential unique sounding “instruments” in the world as there are human voices.