Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Constantly Evolving Musical Fingerprints

I can’t believe it’s the middle of August already. I assume you all know what that means. It’s time for another somewhat philosophical essay on music! Hip hop hooray!

So here’s what I’ve been thinking. Each and every one of us has a brain filled with different music and different amounts of familiarity these works of music. We’ve been exposed to music in hundreds of different ways, often by complete coincidence. For example, John Doe grew up the child of parents who worshipped Neil Sedaka. By age eight, he could sing “Calendar Girl” forwards, backwards and sideways. As he grew up through the 1980s, he played percussion in the Millard Fillmore High School band and he heard about the Smiths from a fellow drummer and absolutely loved them. This led to all kinds of discoveries of his own (including the Stone Roses), developing a unique musical palette.

John Doe has a musical fingerprint like no one else. Because of this, when he hears a new song, he’ll have a different take than anybody else. He compares this song to what he’s heard and what he likes and develops an opinion based on this. But the cool part is, it’s always changing. For every bit of music one discovers, that opens the door to more and more possibilities. You might compare this to Pandora’s box, without all the evilness. Oh wait, crap, that metaphor’s already been taken.

This idea seems to make sense for any music lover but I recently started thinking about it from the perspective of a composer. No music is written out of thin air. Like a great cake, it requires many different ingredients mixed together. Each artist is equipped with years of stockpiled ingredients and the taste of the cake depends on what he/she chooses to mix together. For instance, today, I discovered I’d used part of the melody from Eels’ “World Of Shit” on my trumpet and organ piece, which was a rather odd sensation.

This is yet another reason why music is so magical. Each of us is on our own, lifelong, individual exploration for the best stuff we can find. Whether you are a 5th grade hillbilly or an 80-year-old erudite, there’s always something out there that will strike your fancy.

*Last week's sub-heading was from Crosby, Stills and Nash's "I Give You Give Blind"


  1. 5th Grade Hillbilly

  2. I like this idea, it probably holds some truth to. We should kidnap some children, expose them to music, and then analyze them... Or maybe like hire some psychologists. That might be easier.