I am always amazed at what twelve sounds can produce. I am talking about the chromatic scale here. The whole of western music was written with exactly that number of notes. Now, the laws of harmony restrains the use of some of those sounds. For example, it is advised not to use minor seconds, or to make a harmonic progression that makes sense. How do you know if you’re on the right path? Your ear. Because, you see, your ear are so accustomed to hearing those twelve sounds in certain mathematical orders that it’ll tell you when you’re straying and becoming nonsensical. Even young Mozart had those sounds in his ear. He composed at 5 years old some marvelous little pieces that made perfect sense.
Twelve sounds doesn’t seem like much. But you got, just on the piano, some genius who paint an infinite catalog of mood and feelings. The Nocturnes of Chopin, the last few Sonatas of Beethoven, the Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach propose a large array of emotions. Those composers, among others, were masters of sounds. And, again, I am not talking about texture here. I am not talking about marrying an oboe with an electric guitar. I am talking about the piano, just the piano. The one Jelly Roll morton played as well as the one Liszt thundered upon. Piano is a great leveler of sorts. You always get one instrument that everyone uses at a certain time. Nowadays, it might be the voice.
Anyway, those twelve sounds are amazing because not only can they express moods and sentiments, they can also express someone’s personality. Who is Miles Davis? Who is Dizzy Gillespie? Both are famous bebop trumpet players. But what a difference of personality! Miles was blowing one note at a time, versus Dizzy (as the name indicates) poured an avalanche of them in his solo. They were still using just the same twelve sounds, but their being was pushing in different direction.
Music is an infinite language. I just wrote about the twelve notes of the chromatic scale and its impossible depth, but there is also the texture, the dynamics, the chords, the energy, etc. Dig, my friend, dig. Beauty is from the crust to the bottomless bottom of the well.