Preface - A Fable
A voice teacher went to a recital given by a well-known singer. The teacher liked the performer's artistry and began to analyze the vocal technique. The teacher noticed that the performer's ear wiggled, the left elbow had a twitch, and the big toe of the right foot went up and down. The teacher went home and told every student that if they learned to wiggle their ear, twitch their elbow, and make their big toe go up and down while they sang, they would become as great singers as the teacher had heard. Inspired, the students all went home and practiced their wiggling, twitching, and toe bobbing very assiduously, but most of them never learned to develop their voices to any satisfactory degree. Many got discouraged and quit because they felt they were not good enough to become successful performers. Others went doggedly on in hope, and new students were readily persuaded by the teacher to take up the challenge. Some, more gifted in physical coordination, achieved success as performers and had busy careers for a while. However, they were never comfortable with the hard-physical labor, and soon they ran into vocal trouble and had to leave performance. Then they applied to college and university music schools and music conservatories and became voice teachers who taught their students to wiggle, twitch, and toe bob because that is what they thought made their careers successful.
The moral to this tale, gentle reader, will be found in what follows. We will ponder anew old subjects, but the moral will not be found in traditional terms and definitions, for traditional terms and definitions produce traditional results. Further, the moral will not be a discovery of knowledge, for, like all morals at the end of fables, it will lead us to a deeper understanding of that which we already know.
As stated above, we will rediscover that the musical ideas of great composers have an emotional context which is given to us by relative weight of beats in a bar and by the relative weight of the first beats in the phrases of bars. We will also rediscover that the active addition of weight to notes higher on the staff not only contradicts what the great composers have said to us, but that doing so induces tension in the performer. Tension interferes with the ability of free musical expression to touch our hearts as well as our minds
This essay deals with the art of music and not entertainment. Although forms of entertainment which use these musical processes could and would benefit by what we are about to examine, the focus of our inquiry is great music, the root and source of nourishment for all musical expression in Western civilization for more than three hundred years.
Lest readers think this fable unrealistic, a student read it and exclaimed, "That was my teacher at ......!" She named a leading American music school.