My housemates and I started talking this morning about music and how instruments were made. It's a fairly simple science at it's most basic level and notes are generally formed by something vibrating. Notes are often changed by the size of whatever is creating them, guitar strings are shortened by fretting them which changes the pitch, and strings inside a piano sound different because they are different lengths. Similarly, while drums are not generally a note based instrument, they create a sound that is changed by the dimensions of the drum casing and also how much the drum head (or skins/ plasticy bit on top that you hit) vibrate.
While we were actually talking about the limitations of certain instruments, the point that we sort of accidentally landed on through our talk was that music was not invented, but discovered. Notes have obviously been around since the first sound was made (whether that relates to anyone being around to hear, you can tall me, but either way) and that means it predates humans by... Oh, a fair way. As mankind developed we found ways not to create music, but to access it. Notes are a fact of the universe, they are a governed by physical law. Things make sound when vibrating and they vibrate when they are hit, the sound changes based on density, size, etc. When man first made it's attempt at a musical instrument then, they were not creating music, but were in fact creating a means to access the music.
Think about it this way. In magic lore, wizards, we'll called ours Barry Trotter, often use wands and they perform magic with the wands. However, the wands are not actually the creators of the magic and while the source of the magic varies from tale to tale, from the soul to a great stream of untapped energy in the universe, the wands merely access the magic that already exists and it is then shaped and developed into some sort of spell.
Magic in the world of our Wizard Barry is a creation not of himself, but of the universe and what he is doing is discovering it. In this way, when we play notes, we are not creating, we are utilising what was already there. The physical law governing music exists either way, and we choose to use it by creating the instrument with which to use it. A guitar is merely a tool to use a law of the universe.
A very interesting example of this in action is watching a theremin player. The theremin is an instrument based on the principle of moving ones hand within the sensory range of a large antennae that responds by making sounds that change based on how close you get to it. Think of it like a really responsive radar. Or watch this video
While it never really gained much mainstream attention other than as a novelty act like above, the theremin is actually capable of producing some beautiful tones when played by someone who knows what they are doing. Check out this cover
of over the rainbow for some idea of what it's really capable of as an instrument with some true emotive capability. The theremin is interesting because this instrument, while giving access to the same physical response as a guitar in that you hear sound from playing it, doesn't need to have strings to play. This instrument, more than any represents the magic of music because every one who sees them understands that it is manipulating an anomoly in physics, that magnetic fields when interfered with will give a response that can be turned into sound, but when playing guitar the same isn't really believed.
To get back to the point music was not invented, in my mind it was discovered. To most this is a minor semantic difference, but it is important as it changes how we really interact with the instrument. I have known sculptors to believe that their work was not made, but rather it was revealed. The block of marble that someone may use to carve a statue is not a blank canvas, but rather it is a block containing a statue and the sculptors job is more in excavation than creating.
The overall message I want to impart with this article is twofold. The first is that the world is actually full of magic, we are just too accustomed to see it, but you should really take another look at your instrument and realise what you are doing and how amazing it is.
The second message is something dearer to me. When you play music, what you are doing is accessing a formalised system for accessing sounds that already exist, you are revealing music as much as the sculptor is revealing a statue. This is important to understand because we are so often caught up in believing that something is difficult, or that something is the right way to do something or that we shouldn't be doing something because it doesn't fit with what we think it should, but the truth is guitar and it's uses so far are all based on how the guitar has been used up until now. The guitar is an interface for music in that it allows us to access music in the same way that a modem allows us access to the internet, but the interface has been developed based on existing requirements of music. If you want to do something different with music, don't see it as a struggle, it's already done. All you need to do is find the right interface to allow you to see out your vision and the sound you want to achieve.
I hope you all have a good new year, and I hope that a different view on what guitars actually are will help you to create something you might not have done otherwise.
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