To Read Music or Not: Musical Tribes and Approaches

Music is like a mountain. There are many approaches to the summit (that can never be reached), and it seems impossible to view the other approaches with all that mountain in the way.

George Crumb, The Magic Circle of Infinity (Moto Perpetuo) from Makrokosmos
George Crumb, The Magic Circle of Infinity (Moto Perpetuo) from Makrokosmos

To declare my viewpoint, I am a conser­vatory educated musician (reader). I started my musical journey meeting Mister Crotchet in school piano lessons (reader) before going on to become kinet­ically musical playing punk drums and bass guitar (non-reader).

Nowadays I seem to be identified as a classical composer type and firmly in the reader camp. I run into musicians or their parents who suspect my training must have restrained as well as trained my mind. These folks seem to feel defensive about not reading music and sometimes launch into complicated and passionate defences of this approach. I see this same dialogue played out online too and I think it is worth exploring a little here.

The TL;DR version is that ultimately music is sound used to commu­nicate. The multi­plicity of possible ways to under­stand and commu­nicate instruc­tions for creating that sound are decidedly subor­dinate to the sounds and their effects. Whatever works for you is great, but under­standing some of the implic­a­tions of the path(s) you choose to climb the mountain is useful. Continue reading To Read Music or Not: Musical Tribes and Approaches