I have been writing about music in this form or another for more than forty years now. I try to communicate what I hear and what I feel when I come across a moving song. But it is frustrating. Music doesn’t write well. This is probably why we use a complicated code to put sounds on paper. Those quarter notes on the staff in keys with four sharps, and that bar with different alliteration. The previous sentence doesn’t have that many words, but you need to have studied music a bit to understand it. Musicians talk in codes. We don’t have a choice. Music is very difficult to describe. Imagine describing the latest beat on the latest song of the latest pop-star. Try writing the groove. Yes, with words. No, not with notes. Difficult, isn’t it?
But it doesn’t stop there. Try now, describing a painting, let’s take the Mona Lisa, with music. That doesn’t work either. Should you do something soft, moderate, or fairly loud? Should you make it a little sad or a bit joyous? A lot of bass maybe? How about the texture of the instrument, would you go for something brassy and explosive or a discreet and muted vibraphone? The same with litterature. Many have tried to paint the Mona Lisa with words. “This is a portrait of a brunette, we can see her hands, she’s got a faint smile on her face, in the background we have a river and a mountain.” Great job there, Sol! You have managed to capture the very essence of Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Next up you should tell us about the Michelangelo’s David, you’ll reach new heights!
Our senses are not transferable it seems.
Yet, we experience life with all our senses taking on the scents, the sights, the sounds of our existence. Sometimes, it does cross over though. When I hear the song “Silent night”, I see snow falling on a snowy landscape where there’s only one house, and the light is pretty low. Or, when I smell the burning wood scent that comes out of the chimney of the neighborhood, I immediately go back to my childhood home where that smell indicated the beginning of the cold season and more time inside with my family.
So, you might ask, why do I keep reading books about music? Oh, you thought you got me there, didn’t you? The answer is simple: I read those books for the infos, the data, if you want, but mainly, I read them because it pushes me to listen and practice more music.