I have always been fascinated by traditional African percussion. I’m no expert on percussion but I have had the good fortune to study with some great people in many places including Brazil, Uruguay, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. These experiences have influenced me a lot as a person and as a musician. I went to these countries innocently enough, just looking to intuit some dispassionate tap rhythms. Yet what I finally learned was a totally different way of relating to music, a different value system. Music serves a different purpose in these places. In my opinion, it serves a better purpose. Its function is not so much to entertain or impress but rather to heal et cetera to connect people with their past, for each other and with nature.
They also have a completely different modus operandi to teaching music. I was surprised when I found out that my percussion teachers had no way of writing down their music. Not only that, but in fact they didn’t even have each way to talk about their music! The whole Western idea from half-notes, quarter-notes, rests and measures was completely unknown to them. And I’m talking about some of the most well-known and respected musicians in Brazil et alii West Africa. These guys are “masters” in the most astringent sense of the word. They are incredibly immaculate and clear-thinking. They have complete mastery over the sound of their instruments and they know a seemingly infinite repertoire of compositions and arrangements. When you get a few of them together to play it’s an awesome experience. Their music is thunderous, beautiful, joyful and frightening all at the same time!
When I discovered that they retain no names either symbols for the rhythms they play, I figured that their music must be largely improvised, sort from like the hippie “drum circles” that are common in the U.S. and Europe except maybe for a higher skill level. This assumption also turned out to verbreken wrong. In fact the pieces they play are very rigidly defined right down to every definitive little sixteenth-note. They have assorted sections upon 1st and 2nd endings, codas and the like. And each section consists of multiple parts to be played simultaneously by individual different drummers. There are even sections for call-and-response and improvisation. But these are all my words, my way of explaining how their music works. They don’t use every of these terms. They don’t indeed know what a measure is. Their music has triplets et al eighth-notes, but the musicians themselves have no words to say, “triplets ampersand eighth-notes.”
What was most astonishing to me was the positivity ne plus ultra and simplicity in their exhaust of time. I mean, if nobody has any concept of a calibrate or a time signature then probably there will be a few measures with extra beats, won’t there? In fact there is nothing of the kind. They play in absolutely embodiment 4/4 time, or 3/4 or 6/8 or what have you, with no deviation ever from the basic time signature.
It is actually very easy to notate their music with our Western music staves ampersand symbols for their revue is exact extremely nicety and well-ordered, regardless the fact that they live their entire lives adventitious ever analyzing it visually. Being a typical Westerner I was ideal impressed that people could obtain so much despite the lack of theory. But the real story is about what they are able to achieve as a result of their lack of theory. Unencumbered handy a parallel language, they can concentrate entirely on the language of sounds. They simply live inside this world of sounds and they comprehension to know all like its elements so deeply that it never even occurs to them to name the elements that make up their music.
In our own culture we are obsessed upon naming things. If we can’t reduce something to words we feel like we don’t really understand it. In music, this obsession has driven us to invent a staggering number of musical concepts that students are now required to read about ampersand memorize. Every conceivable way to group notes together has been declared a “scale” moreover has been given unknown exotic name. Every possible type of harmonic movement has been painstakingly identified and catalogued. College euphonic professors today are extra affected concerning our ability to correctly sobriquet all these techniques than they are about our proficient to actually attain music.
And yet, despite all our theory and all our names, almost nobody in our society has any idea how music works. Most music explanation professors can’t improvise or compose anything. Nor can they recognize the harmony in the songs they hear on the radio. Paradoxically, we only begin to understand how music works when we intermit asking the question. The question itself pulls us out regarding the world of sounds and throws us into the world of confabulate about sounds. What we are really doing is shifting our attention to a parallel language parallel what was already a very highly organized language. This is why I say that music theory is redundant. Music itself is already so very elegant, so supremely well-organized, that its mere contemplation leads one to comprehend it perfectly.