Foot-tapping – What is Music | WEEK 02 | The Musical Sequence
While Levitin cuts down on the breadth of topics he covers, I still feel he struggles through the chapter when trying to find a voice. While the first chapter felt like an overview, I didn’t feel that the second chapter established anything different that separated it from the previous chapter. It felt rather concise until he spoke about Gestalt psychologists. While I felt that may have been the more interesting part of the chapter, it didn’t feel as if it had anything to do with the rest of the chapter, feeling more like a tangent, an oddly placed reference to a unique history. While he attempted to tie it back into the main purpose of the chapter it still felt a little labored.
Levitin’s writing doesn’t truly feel like a narrative as much as an information dump and I struggle to engage with it. As I may have mentioned before, his preface was far stronger in its presentation. There is something to be said that the dryness of presenting music in a book in such a format does it no justice. When I learned about music, it was never through a textbook, instead I would sit down with an instrument and engage it. I feel that it’s hard to go through many of the minutiae in Levitin’s book without a foundational understanding of playing an actual instrument. How can one learn to compose if they aren’t used to interacting with music?
While it could be said anyone understands music by just listening to it, it’s a very different relationship between a musician and someone who appreciates music. It’s like asking someone who listens to bedtime stories to write a novel. Without learning the ability to read, they cannot even begin understanding the process of writing. When we learn how to read we don’t learn the grammatical structure first, we carefully go through a book (sheet music) and we read aloud over and over until it finally sticks. Then we learn grammatical structure much later after the process of reading and writing becomes natural to us. No one ever told me I was a good writer because I had perfect grammatical structure – except for the SATs.
In some way it would feel more benefiting for the music lessons to be structured similar to the ones that most kids were forced into in elementary and middle school; handed a recorder and taught the basics of music theory. When we learned about rhythm in the earliest years, ta-ti-ti-ta, everyone was given a drum, even a triangle, so that we could play along.
It sort of makes me wonder who is Levitin’s intended audience. It sways been giving a strong definition of most terms at such a basic level while also delving into more of the history of each term. Perhaps with stronger formatting, as at the current moment it reads more like a textbook, it could be more clear. For now it is too robust for beginners, too rudimentary for experienced musicians. Granted it is the extremely hard challenge at ITP to find something that could meet both the needs of the experienced and those just beginning.