Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Lost Chords

About a couple of months ago I wandered upstairs and took from the philosophy section of the study shelves a very old favourite, Jacques Maritain's Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, but I only read an initial page or two, then left it in the shelves beside my living room chair until I was truly ready to give it fuller attention, something that could not happen until I was closer, very much closer, to my goal with the music research. Maritain's writing is always a comfortable challenge to the mind, but so was the music research, relying as it did utterly on the intelligent application of the wisdom found in the books of wisdom: "I have ordered all things by measure, number, and weight." And in fact at that point I had actually not yet found the absolute heart of the complete application of measure and numbers as it applies to the keyboard and the fingers that play it. Providential timing wished, I think, for Tim McDaniel to have a real summer holiday. This latest, and I hope, last, major discovery will require the most concentration of any of the study units we so far have come up with, so it is best left for the fall and the energy that returns to a task after a good holiday. Besides, that gives me more time to apply my own concentration to seven distinct three-note patterns, each so close together as to leave plenty of room for mutual confusion.
I have, of course, designed a lot of patterns over the years and decades, especially for the left hand, which is the first and best place to learn this one. That is, it is studied three notes at a time in the left hand, but actually applied by using only two notes in the left while the third note is that of the melody, played by the right hand.
I am quite honestly astounded that such a musical, intriguing, and practical method for learning the essence of harmony and deadly accurate fingering should never have turned up before, in some curious mind other than my own. I can only explain the lack of such common sense to myself by thinking that learning by rote is much more popular with more teachers and students than it has ever been with me. Or perhaps that most people who are happy learning music via letters and/or solfage believe themselves too artistic and creative to bother with grubby old arithmetic, reminding them of long, boring, hours with long division, book keeping, or counting returning salmon. There is something so utterly plebian about plain old numbers.
And yet, once you see and hear them at work within the challenge of learning an instrument, especially an instrument built to provide harmonies, you realize the sheer and utter magic of plain old one, two, three as they unlock the mystery and the great overburden of befuddlement that greets the untutored and probably much frightened beginner.
The fallen minds of men have quite possibly never created a more impenetrable mental jungle than music theory and advice as they can appear to the average beginner. (Now that I can wander blissfully around the summit of the mountain and the forest I have been climbing up and through for so many years I can't really call the directions all those texts attempt to give "instruction". The best title I think they can claim for themselves is advice, and we all have had experience of how much easier it is to give advice rather than really teach.)
But a little concrete improvement, outside these blogs, may be on the way. Now that the world knows that John Paul II, my old spiritual client, is to  be canonized in December, Nelson and district seems to be returning to its pre-1982 modus operandi, and Providence has been very busy helping me find useful associates, here and elsewhere. Some very satisfying meetings, formal and informal, and the inspiration for a number of provocative emails.