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How Do Cultures Create Good Music Without Reading Music?




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#1 Motion

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Posted June 11 2016 - 07:13 PM

I was checking out this video on Haitian Vodou drumming. It dawn on me that the drummers here are very good with the music they are playing but I doubt if any of them can read music. So my question is how are these musicians able to put this music together when they probably don't play using notes like most trained musicians do?

 

 


Edited by Motion, June 11 2016 - 07:31 PM.

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#2 Pressed Rat

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Posted June 11 2016 - 07:18 PM

You don't need to be able to read music to make music or even be a great musician.  Many of the best musicians never learned to read music.  Some of the best music comes from simply improvisation.


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#3 guerillabedlam

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Posted June 12 2016 - 04:20 AM

Teaching probably gets passed down verbally and through demonstration. Really in what we would call a chromatic scale, a scale that covers every note in an octave is less than 20 notes for most instruments, so even if they don't inherently understand the instruments and notes by music notation, it's not a ton of notes to learn and they likely train by ear and pick up these types of things through repetition. 


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#4 Asmo

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Posted June 12 2016 - 04:57 AM

Indeed, creating music and learning how to play just by hearing and demonstration can work at least as good as going from a basis where you use sheet music. I thought for the observational music lover this was evident.


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#5 Meliai

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Posted June 12 2016 - 05:28 AM

No offense but this strikes me as a silly question. It is almost like asking how stories existed before written word.

Music was around a long time before sheet music. Rhythm and the ability to identify different tones is ingrained in (most) humans, it isnt really something we learn only after learning to read music. Most musicians I know can't read music. Whereas I actually can read it but it doesnt really translate into the ability to play it well.

Edited by Meliai, June 12 2016 - 05:29 AM.

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#6 guerillabedlam

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Posted June 12 2016 - 05:56 AM

No offense but this strikes me as a silly question. It is almost like asking how stories existed before written word.

Music was around a long time before sheet music. Rhythm and the ability to identify different tones is ingrained in (most) humans, it isnt really something we learn only after learning to read music. Most musicians I know can't read music. Whereas I actually can read it but it doesnt really translate into the ability to play it well.

 

To be fair to the OP, Music theory, for instance such musical concepts as say  a " Perfect Fifth" date back to Ancient Greece. It seems that in the Western tradition, at least, the idea that there is a structure to music, that it can be notated or formalized in a structured way perhaps goes nearly far back as written word.

 

So I like your analogy, but at the same time I think OP highlights that we may not really have the reference point to separate Music Theory from playing Music.


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#7 Motion

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Posted June 12 2016 - 11:23 AM

Just to add on to what I'm asking. How do these musicians structure or organize what they are playing to keep it from sounding messy when they aren't playing from written music? There are several drummers in that video so how are they making it all sound "tight" like they do and not sounding "all over the place" if you know what I mean?

 

If you gave six Americans who couldn't read music those instruments used in the video and told them to play something more than likely it would sound like a mess because they wouldn't know how to structure their playing to make it sound tight and together like those Haitian musicians. So how do those Haitian musicians,who also probably don't read music,make their playing work without it sounding messy?


Edited by Motion, June 12 2016 - 11:29 AM.


#8 Tyrsonswood

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Posted June 12 2016 - 12:12 PM

People were making music sound tight long before there was written music.


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#9 Reverand JC

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Posted June 12 2016 - 03:35 PM

Can you listen and carry on a conversation? It's the same thing. If you've ever been in a band and rehearsed you will know that almost nobody reads at them but arrangements are discussed.  If you go to a drum circle you will sit listen and add your voice. It is all the same thing.

 

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#10 Motion

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Posted June 12 2016 - 06:51 PM

This seems close to answering my question. Since I highlighted some Haitian music I looked for some related west African music. This explains how the Ewe people of Ghana play their music.

 

 

 

 

Music is never written down; it is taught by elders and parents to their children. Rhythms and melodies are taught at a very young age. Songs are memorized meticulously over the years and then improvisation is extrapolated from learned knowledge...

The ensemble is able to create the intricate songs by beating different rhythms on the drums. These rhythms conflict with each other but integrate into a single form called cross rhythms. Cross rhythm is the combination of different rhythms that interact in a single piece. The Ewe can do this on drums by drumming out a 4/4 and 6/4 rhythms against each other. While using different time signatures, the rhythms combine to create a cohesive and artistically beautiful sound. Normally, drummers play a repeated pattern until given the signal to change to a different one. But when the master drummer plays, he is able to improvise during the song...

 

http://africanmusicc...drummer_16.html


 


Edited by Motion, June 12 2016 - 07:00 PM.





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