Certain people are very mental. They need to have rules and concepts and directions and scales and theory in order to play. But that’s not what music is about. Music has the same significance as beams of light coming out of the clouds and giving information to plants. Every note should be like a beam of light. You’re giving information to the listener, and you’re reminding them they also have light and significance. That’s improvising to me. The other stuff is just like going ‘da-da-da-da-da.’ It’s nothing” – Carlos Santana
I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Talking Heads star David Byrne: How Music Works. 358 thoughtfully written and researched pages, plus Acknowledgements, Footnotes, Suggested Readings, and Discography. Byrne has done his homework and writes engagingly about the creation of music, both his own and about many styles and genres, including pop and classical. I like the book so much that I have made it a required text for my fall course for non majors, Creativity in Music (i.e. where music comes from: improvisation and composition). I want to share in successive quotes some of Byrne’s thoughts on the subject. Here’s the first one, from Chapter Nine, Amateurs!
Improvisation should be at the core of the music curriculum. It should come first and should remain at the core of music education throughout the later years of increasing expertise. Musicians educated with improvisation at the center will have a better-developed ability to think musically —to deeply understand music as well as be better prepared to interpret written scores.
–R. Keith Sawyer
Creativity, which is nothing more or less than imagining something and then executing it, has been virtually removed from all but the most innovative curricula. This raises two questions: If the continuing presence of music is the cause of continuing to learn music; if the cause of music is human creativity, why is creativity not at the center of the music curriculum? Why is the act of thinking up music left just to a select few specialists, while re-presenting it, or over-verbalizing about it, is the province of so many?
–Harold Best, Music Curricula in the Future