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04. Hearing things

After the first three pieces I wanted to figure out different ways of incorporating counter hegemony in composition. Less literal, less antagonistic. More ingrained, more organic. I decided to center my own experiences and aha moments. I was also drafting the introduction to this thesis in a word vomit of memories. I remembered that I refused to learn to read sheet music for years because I had what is often called “perfect pitch.” I could and still can hear sounds and match them to relative pitches, rhythmic patterns, and expressions. I naturally used this skill instead of learning to read. When I was given a new piece to learn I would hear and memorize what the teacher was playing and repeat it. I fooled everyone including my parents and teachers for several years. 

I am proud of my first organic defiance in music schooling. I also wonder what would have been like if I never learned to read sheet music. Would I have gravitated toward non-Western classical music making? What would that have sounded like? This piece “Hearing things” does not answer but addresses these questions.

I spent a few days composing the main theme in my car during my work commute. I sat silently as I drove, not listening to podcasts or radio stations, sounding out the notes, rhythms, and harmonies all in my head. Once I had something more or less solid I made a quick notational memo and started recording directly on GarageBand. While I was sounding out the theme in my head it kept blending with the song "You Are My Sunshine,” probably because a portion of the theme very loosely traces "you ne-ver no-tice [how much I love you]" (C-D-E-F-A), probably this is an only-me inside joke, probably no one else hears it. Still I put “You Are My Sunshine” as I hear it in the transition section of the piece to center my hearing experience. Thus the title “Hearing things.” 

Another point of counter hegemony is that I didn’t use real counterpoint. In Bach’s music I was always interested in how he broke his own rules and not how he adhered to them. I didn’t get to study those derailed moments in school and so I wrote a piece that was all about derailing. I went with what sounded good to me and never counted intervals or wrote out proper fugues. I ignored time signatures and let phrases finish when I thought they ought to finish. This felt like a more organic form of counter hegemony so I continued to conceptualize my own experiences and aha moments in music. 

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