Friday, August 15, 2003

I was reading about coded phrases in music, in this case Miles Davis and his musicians. A tight musical outfit always struck me as the perfect example of how different people can work synchronously, almost as one - even more so than the rapidly intertwining legs of a tango dance.

Music also forms a nicely closed system. As in the coded phrases, musical language is being used to talk about music itself, laying out hints of what the next series of progressions will be, future changes in tone and key. The remarkable thing is that even these phrases were never articulated or translated into language. As the author says, "The "explicit verbal instruction" in Miles's music never existed, not even in the preparation of pieces... it is clear that the so-called "coded phrases" were never formalized in the sense of a priori agreements or even arrangements. "

The musicians, like the listeners of a piece, were acting on instinct. Its hard to describe how a piece of music really makes you feel. It communicates directly with the language of emotions which is much more rich and complex than the pale language of words. To say that a piece is mournful or joyous is to burglarize it of everything but the obvious.

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