Category Archives: Musical consideration

When is an apple not an apple? (Or, What do you want it to be?)

We all know the old joke about the accountant who .. yeah that one.

When is a perfect fifth not a perfect fifth?

When is an apple not an apple?


No, ”

why would I ask that question?


There’s a simple “rule” in basic 18th Century “Western Music” music theory (part-writing, counterpoint) rules (about which we all should know): don’t write parallel fifths.

As in all great rules, they’re meant to be broken. WHEN YOU’RE GREAT. Continue reading When is an apple not an apple? (Or, What do you want it to be?)

Where is today’s Brahms?

I have been asked a few times, “So, Chip, what do you think of today’s music scene? Where is the Brahms of today?” My answer has been, “There is none. There never will be again.”

Technically, that is still true. There will never be another (fill-in-the-blank individual’s name that is dead). But my answer is different today.

Brahms was a composer. By that I mean: when he woke up in the morning, he already knew that he was going to write down music that day. It was a habit that had grown to predictability, created by a perfect blend of circumstances that placed his psyche in his body, surrounded him with the perfect blend of other individuals, and caused him to study a topic and find satisfaction in living this habit. He was a composer because he had to be.

Brahms was not a pianist. He played the piano. I am not a composer. I have written music down, but I do not wake up needing to.

“Where is today’s Brahms?” My answer today is, “He hasn’t left.” The creative force that was unleashed through Brahms affected his circle of friends when they gathered to hear his songs. His friends’ creative forces mingled with his, each shaping the other. Some of the sounds they heard – some of the stories they told – some of the life they lived – was written down in one language or another – marks on pages – that musicians have brought to aural life a hundred years since.

Last night I sat with Brahms. He was in Brooklyn. His storytelling and soul-cries, weaving speech-sounds with textless ones, transported a different circle of friends outside of time and into another’s soul-life. He still uses Ab, Eb, Eb minor, and Bb minor – and matches those keys with their expressions. What is it about Bb minor…

Thank you, Julianne Mason, for sharing your music.

2 + 2 > 4

Musicians are accustomed to counting to four.  A lot.   Cycles of four-measure patterns are by far the most common pulse.

overlayBut music, like sound, is not linear.  That is to say: just as the natural harmonics of sound is based on a logarithmic scale, so the rise and fall of music – the invisible “pull” that gives the music its shape – is also logarithmic.  The difference between linear structure and logarithmic content is part of what makes music magical.

A 16-measure phrase could be broken up in four 4-measure phrases. Put two of those together, and you have (4+4+4+4)*2.  Music theories may condense the idea of [ (4+4+4+4) * 2 + (4+4+4+4) * 2 ] to [ A B ], just as a computer programmer encapsulates functionality.

The figure above shows a recording of a work in binary (AB) form.  Each of the two parts is repeated, and the four sections are visibly distinguishable.  But where do the points of magic occur?

Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” begin with a [ A B ] song.

By itself, it sound like this:

Steve Reich, Glenn Gould, Charles Ives, and John Cage may have collectively published something like this: