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playing by ear

playing by ear

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Published by dwita_harahap
a publication by c.a.m.b.r.i.d.g.e i do not own this.
a publication by c.a.m.b.r.i.d.g.e i do not own this.

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07/02/2013

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On Playing by EarAuthor(s): Lars LilliestamReviewed work(s):Source:
Popular Music,
Vol. 15, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 195-216Published by:
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Accessed: 26/04/2012 03:51
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PopularMusic(1996)Volume15/2.Copyright(1996CambridgeUniversityPress
On
playing
by
ear
LARS LILLIESTAM
The vastmajorityofall music ever made isplayedbyear.Tomake musicbyearmeanstocreate,perform,rememberand teach musicwithouttheuseof writtennotation.This isatypeofmusic-makingthathas been little observedbymusico-logy,which hasmainlybeen devoted to notatedmusic. Eveninthe researchonfolkandpopularmusic,which hasexpandedin thelasttwentyorthirty years,questionsofmusicalpracticewhenyouplay byear arerarelytreated: how doyoulearntoplayaninstrument,how doyoumakesongs,howdoyouteachandlearnsongsandhow doyouconceiveof musictheory?Wedo not even haveagenerally agreedterm forwhat Icall'playing byear'.Terms like'folk music','improvisedmusic','orallytransmittedmusic','un-notatedmusic'and'notation-independentmusic'allhave their weaknesses anddonotcover the samemeaningsas'playing byear'.Aterm like'un-notatedmusic'leavesit alltooclear thatWesternthinkingaboutanddefinition of music emanatefromtheassumptionthatmusic issomethingthat is writtendowninnotes.Whenwespeakofthebyfarmost commontypeofmusic-makingwe havetonegatetheexception!MusicologistPeterJefferyelaborates on this:Oraltransmission isnotaparticulareature of some music atcertaintimes,butrather auniversalcharacteristic f almostallmusic atalmostalltimes. What we call'oraltransmis-sion' is whatmosthumanbeings throughout historyhaveknownsimplyas 'music'-somethingtoplayorhear rather thansomethingto write or read.We modernWesternersare theones whodothings differently,andourpreferenceforwritingisourhandicap.(Jeffery1992,p.124)This articleisasummaryofsome ofthemostimportantideasinmybook,pub-lishedinSwedish,Gehdrsmusik.Blues,rock ochmuntligtradering (Playing byear.Blues,rock andoraltransmission)(Lilliestam1995).Thebookisthe resultof aresearchprojectthat IhaverunforthreeyearsforTheSchool of Music andMusico-logyinGoteborg.The aimof thebook is topresentexistingresearchonplayingbyear andtoanalysehowplaying byearreallyworks. Theanalysesandexamplesinthe bookmainlycome fromrock andblues,butparallelsaremade tobothSwedishfolkmusic andjazz.Themusicalpracticeisillustrated withexamplesfromguitarplayingandnumerousquotesfromrockandbluesmusicians.Thepracticeofplayingbyear differssomewhatbetweendifferentgenresormusicworlds(forinstancejazzorrock),butthere are basicsimilarities. Rockmusic,then,shouldbeseen as oneexampleof musicmadeby playingbyear,butmusi-ciansfrom othergenreswillsurely recogniseboth theargumentationandtheproblems.195
 
196 LarsLilliestam
There aremanyreasonswhythere issolittleresearch onplaying byear.Oneisthat thereis atendencybothinresearchandjournalismto observetheexceptionalandthespectacularandlookawayfrom the trivial andobviousactivit-iesof theeveryday.Playing byearis,generally,equivalenttofolk orpopularmusic,and theseforms ofmusichave beendisregarded bymusicology;theyhavebeenoutside the traditionalacademicsphereofknowledgecultivatedinschoolsanduniversities-whatanthropologistssometimescalls the'bigtradition'-butinsteadbeenapartofthe 'smalltradition'ofpopularnon-literaryculture(Burke1978,pp.23-6).Sometimes the musichas beenlookeduponas'toosimple','notworthyof research'ormaybe 'uninteresting'.This isalsoaconsequenceofthefact thatmusicologists,to agreatextent,havebeen recruitedfrom stratasofsocietywhere 'music'hasbeenequivalentto'artmusic'('classicalmusic').Inrecentdecades this haschanged,andmany present daymusicologistshavebeenbroughtupwithpopularmusic astheirbackgroundsandfields ofinterest. Theresearchon thepracticeofplayingbyear, however,hasnotgrowntoanyappreciableextent.It isstillakindofmusic-makingthat isoverlooked.This issurelyaresult ofwhatLeo Treitler(1986,p.39)has called'thepara-digmofliteracy',thedominance ofwritingintheWestern culturalsphere.Inmusic thisis manifestedinwhatPhilip Tagg(1979,p.28)has called'notationalcentricity'-the fact that weequate'music' withnotated music.Itisacommonpracticetosaythat we'writemusic'or'write asong'eventhoughweuse neitherpennorpaper,notes nor lettersto write down whatwecompose.The normsfor 'music'-how we listentoit and thinkaboutit,how'normal'music isconsideredtobe,etc.-emanatefromnotatedartmusic.Accordinglyitisacommonnotionthatknowledgeofmusicmeans thatwe can readmusicalnotation and mastertraditional Westernmusicaltheory.Whatone thendoesnotrealise is thatspeechandsongareprimarytowritingandnotation:justas we canspeakwithoutbeingable to writeorknowgrammar,we cansingandmakemusicwithoutbeingabletoreador writenotes orknow musicaltheory.Anotherconsequenceofnotationalcentricityisthe idea thatnotation containsthe finaltruthabout music. In(bad)pedagogicsituationspeopleshould'playasitsaysinthenotes'. TheNorwegianmusicologistJonRoarBjorkvoldhaspara-phrasedThe TenCommandmentsinthefollowing way:1.You shallnot have othermusicalgodsbesideme.(...)3. Remembertokeepholythenotatedpicture(...)5.You shallnotplaythewrongnotes.(...)9.You shallnotcovetyourneighbour'splayingbyear.(Bjorkvold1991,p.229)Itisalsoa factthatmusicologistsusuallyhaveto transcribemusic thatisplayedbyear,namelywriteitdowninnotation,togetagripofthestructure andformof themusic.Practicallyalloftoday'smusicpedagogyisformalised inwriting.Musictheoryistoagreatextentformulated withthehelpofnotationinbooksandnormativeanalyses.Musicpedagogyisfoundedinnotatedmusic,and apedagogyofplayingbyear isdevelopedverylittle.Thelack ofresearchonoralmusicmayalso bedueto rock and folkmusicians'reluctancetospeakabouttheirmusic-makingandthedifficulty theyfind indoingso.Becauseresearchers andjournalistsdo notobserve thisside ofmusic-makingitremainshidden.1Iwillreturnto thisproblem.Thedifferencesbetweenplaying byear andbynotes isalsoafield thatisfilledwithpreconceptions,misunderstandingsandjealousies.Ifyouare agood

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