Daniel Levitin - Musical Quotes
10 Sourced Quotes
When a musical piece is too simple we tend not to like it, finding it trivial. When it is too complex, we tend not to like it, finding it unpredictable—we don't perceive it to be grounded in anything familiar. Music, or any art form... has to strike the right balance between simplicity and complexity...
It is only in the last five hundred years that music has become a spectator activity—the thought of a musical concert in which a class of "experts" performed for an appreciative audience was virtually unkown throughout our history as a species. And it has only been in the last hundred years or so that the ties between musical sound and human movement have been minimized.
Paul McCartney may be the closest thing our generation has produced to Franz Schubert — a master of melody, writing tunes anyone can sing, songs that seem to have been there all along. Most people don't realize that "Ave Maria" and "Serenade" were written by Schubert (or that his "Moment Musical in F" so resembles "Martha My Dear"). McCartney writes with similar universality. His "Yesterday" has been recorded by more musicians than any other song in history. Its stepwise melody is deceptively complex, drawing from outside the diatonic scale so smoothly that anyone can sing it, yet few theorists can agree on exactly what it is that McCartney has done.
Memory for playing a musical piece... involves a process very much like that for music listening... through establishing standard schemas and expectation. In addition, musicians use chunking... tying information together into groups, and remembering the group as a whole rather than individual pieces.