Where does music come from?
“Where does music come from?” – one of those age old questions. It is about as old as other comparable theoretical questions. Or the whole humanity and stuff. What? Don’t tell me you have never asked yourself this one. Are you really a musician?! Anyway. Some people just claim to know the answer. Even if it means a different answer to many of them… many of us. Others remain completely clueless about it throughout their entire lives, even if it doesn’t seem to bother them all that much. But I’m in the former bunch, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the bus ride.
So what do we know about the origins of inspiration? Some say it comes from God. Others say it comes from nature. And there are ones who think music originates from aliens. Because aliens are hip, man. Have you heard the story of the lightning struck man, Tony Cicoria? He was a doctor, a surgeon. Then a lightning almost killed him, and he’s become a pianist. Obsessively so. Even he thinks now that music comes from outer space, from God. From outside, and flows through us. And what about us, humans, man? Are we just not cool enough to be the roots of all music? My take on it is, music comes from us. How does it work? It emerges in our memory. And a lightning can surely fuck up that brain, doctor. So it kinda explains how it can free up something inside. Something that was already there. Does that answer the original question already? Not yet? Darn.
Memory rings a bell
Let’s think about it a little. We hear music from very early on. Quite a lot of music, actually. It gets ingrained in our memory. So if we are the composer kind, it’s only natural if we pick from that basket of music that we already know. Music that influenced us to the greatest extent. We will create something similar, something along those lines. Or we can create what I call avoider music. It’s when we create something deliberately different than what we know. Allan Holdsworth said once that he just tried to avoid playing the well known blues licks. Whenever he caught himself reaching for those notes, he deliberately strayed elsewhere on the fretboard. You can catch that kind of composition technique in all kinds of different genres, actually. The “let’s do something that hasn’t been done before”. As well as the “let’s surprise the living crap out of these n00bs” method. They all work, but they all build on what we already know. The music that’s got stuck in our memory. So where did it came from? It came from us.