Friday, July 23, 2010

Musical Intuition

I have always compensated for a lousy memory and poor math skills with a highly-developed sense of intuition. I do not believe intuition can be learned by studying, and I do not think it can be learned by practicing. It is either inborn, or it develops (out of necessity) in childhood. Trusting it (if you have it) takes a while. Intuition is not celebrated in academia, particularly in musical academia, where "hunches" are not as respected as tools of analysis. Intuition should be respected in academia, because teaching, particularly private teaching, requires mountains of intuition in order for a student to accomplish anything. When I write music, I do it intuitively. What is not intuitive is sensual, and what is not sensual is practical.

I had an oddly intuitive moment today. I was talking on the phone with my cellist-friend Danny Morganstern, and he mentioned that he was practicing the Grieg Sonata. It has been years since I listened to the Grieg Sonata (perhaps the last time was when I heard Danny perform it). I told him that I have been listening to a lot of Grieg, and that I had three CD's worth of Lyric Pieces (played by Aldo Ciccolini) on the ipod that I take on my daily walks. I spontaneously sang a melody from one of the Lyric Pieces. Not only was the melody exactly the same as one of the melodies in the Grieg Cello Sonata, it was the very melody that Danny had been practicing right before our phone call.

During an unspecified time, somewhere, deep in my unconscious, I must have made a connection with a particular Lyric Piece (I don't even know which Lyric Piece it is) and the Cello Sonata. Out of the three hours of Lyric Pieces, I instantly (and innocently) happened to pick out the one that mattered for that moment, even though I didn't know its name.

I call that intuition.


Ben said...

Either it's intuition, or Leonardo DiCaprio implanted the little musical motif in your subconscious while you were dreaming!

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Jung talked about there being the four modalities of thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation, with different folks having different combinations, to go along with the various mixes of introversion and extroversion, as ways of talking about personality types.

He would have called your experience with the tune one of "synchronicity". One place he wrote about it was in an introduction to the I Ching, as that's why the "chance" hexagrams can have meaning.

Not sure how rigorously valid all this is, but until something better comes along, he seems to offer some handy terms for things like what you're talking about in this post.

He also gave us "archetype" and "the collective unconscious", which offer a way of explaining why some pieces of music work with large numbers of people and others don't.