What do you have to say?

SquirrelSmSomething to say?

One of the common problems in written communication is the lack of vocal tone and inflection. This can lead to gross misunderstandings when the receiver does not interpret the message with the same intention as the sender. Take today’s subject line: What do you have to say? Which word gains your attention most? You? What? Have? Try reading it over several times with the stress on a different word. Are there versions that are more aggressive than other options? Does the picture of the squirrel change your interpretation of the phrase? What if instead I had used one of the pictures of Uncle Sam pointing at “you”? How much does seemingly unrelated context change our interpretation of what we see or hear?


I was always a shy quiet person growing up, and while I may be more comfortable in social settings now, I don’t think anyone would expect me to be the life of the party! As a musician, however, when I play, I must have something to say. While we may be able to convey some sort of meaning with words on a piece of paper (or through cyberspace), music doesn’t exist on paper. There has to be a person and personality involved. Even if we are playing the composition of (as a friend puts it) a long-dead European white guy, it will be up to us as performers to communicate using those notes from the page. Which are the important words (notes) in the phrase? Is this playful or serious? Accusatory or inviting? Why did we choose this piece? What do we hope to communicate through this music? Chances are we will never know precisely what a composer was intending to communicate with a composition, but do we have a message that we can communicate with the notes that the composer has provided?


As a composer and improviser, I strive to use music as my language for communication. Have I mastered the language of music? Will I ever master the language of music?I believe the answer is no. Just as there will always be new words to learn in English and new sentences to create, new experiences to describe, there will always be new music to explore. Even with the seemingly limited musical vocabulary of twelve chromatic pitches, new music is being created every day, imbued with the spirit of each individual creator. I expect to continue to use those pitches to create new music, play the compositions of others, and share what I have to say. I believe everyone has a message to convey. Your language may be music, art, English, or simply being there to listen to a friend at the right time. Sometimes we may fumble over our means of expression, but I believe the key is that we all have something to say, so I ask again, what do you have to say?

Wishing you all the best,
Newsletter Issue 27 – 2014 08 19
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