In an earlier post “Making it Fun to Play With Another”, I described two stages of a person’s musical journey:

  1. This thing in my hands is a ridiculous creation and it is even more ridiculous that you think I can do something with this.
  2. How do I work with more than one instrument especially when I am not playing both nor do I know how to play the other one

I think that calling them stages is already introducing implementation bias i.e. we need to solve (1) before we can start on (2). I propose that it is helpful to consider them as two related, but independent tracks. One of my goals is to build a person’s skills with an instrument but there’s no reason to hold off on musical colalboration.

The Everyperon’s Instrument

Can you spot the bias in my wording of Track 1 above? Take a moment.

I specifically refer to “this thing in my hands”; however, virtually every person comes equipped with a built-in handless instrument: their voice. If we remove the pre-requisite of being able to play a hand-held instrument from Track 2, then we can pursue both at the same time. Singing still requires a little bit of training, but much less than a guitar or saxophone.

Collaboration through Composition

Making music with others (I believe) require an understanding of composition. The definition that I will be using is from my good friend Jean-Benjamin de Labored:

Composition consists in two things only. The first is the ordering and disposing of several sounds…in such a manner that their succession pleases the ear. This is what the Ancients called melody. The second is the rendering audible of two or more simultaneous sounds in such a manner that their combination is pleasant. This is what we call harmony, and it alone merits the name of composition.

It seems that the following would lead to meaningful exploration:

  1. Teach a person how to produce a sequence of pleasing sounds
  2. Teach a person to produce a sequence of pleasing sounds with a supporting set of pleasing sounds
  3. Put two such persons together to explore the bounds of their knowledge

I imagine step 3 needs to be fleshed out further, but it’s a start. The maint thrust is that we enable people to collaborate by exposing them to some principles of composition.

Explicit vs Tacit Knowledge

Teach a person how to produce a sequence of pleasing sounds

How does one perform this teaching? One can expound the music theory concepts backing pleasing intervals and transitions, but without practical application its usefulness becomes suspect. Just because a person can verbally articulate the principles behind a pleasing sequence of sounds does not mean that they can readily put that information into practice. We call that sort of knowledge, explicit knowledge or more colloquially: booksmart.

What is a minimal set of knowledge that we can explicitly provide to enable an enjoyable and ideally social musical producing experience?

The motivation for getting someone to actually produce a sequence of pleasing sounds quickly is to build tacit knowledge.

the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it

This includes things such as what your muscles feel like producing the sounds, and what it feels like to hear the intervals between them. These are things that a person must discover for themselves and we can only facilitate this discovery process not achieve it for them.

What do?

I have a hunch that the quick and dirty formulaic improvisation of jazz and blues provides an entry point into a musical landscape that is easy to walk around and satisfying to explore, especially with others. I’ll layout some concrete aspects of jazz and blues in my next post.