Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - December 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

Local Quantum Wave Function Collapse and Guitar

 Fun title?

 The way humans conceptualize the awareness of the Universe has changed drastically through time.

 Copernicus was obviously a big step, but from then until now there have been many variants on how to present the nature of a simple premise:

"How Things Are".

  For the theoretical physicist, this is a very fluid and non-codified thing.  I'm flabbergasted that in the year 2019 I can no longer keep up with "what is the current best guess at the nature of How Things Are".  I thought they'd settled on 11 dimensions, hadrons organized as quarks, with large problems concerning the ratio of dark matter to "normal" matter in the universe.  

 But then this year, a lot of Big Things changed.  The universe is expanding, but the way it's closed - the process itself - is now thought to be completely different than previously thought.  The idea of dark matter in the universe is now under scrutiny thanks to the discovery of particles flying off of certain particle collisions at 120 degree angles, giving rise to the discovery of what is now being called a 5th force being carried by the "X17" particle. 

 Among what seems like hundreds of very drastic new discoveries about How Things Are.  Most intriguingly being something that makes me watch Star Trek with a completely different attitude: femtosecond light pulses altering atomic composition based on quantum states not being stepped, but transitory.  In other words, when you shine an extremely, unimaginably brief lasting laser at matter, in some conditions you get New Things previously thought impossible. 


  I've always thought in a petulant, arrogantly peasant fashion that the pursuit in theoretical physics of the Standard Model was flawed, and that the unsatisfying descriptions of phenomena in quantum physics are based on incomplete understanding.

  BUT..... this has not stopped humans from both using and exploiting physics on a daily basis.

 The way a theoretical physicist conceptualizes the universe is totally different than the person born in a third world country, who has zero education, yet uses a cell phone.  That person's conception of reality is so scant, full of Objects that just do things with Other Objects, that it's sort of scary to think about.
 Yet this fictitious person might get by without knowing about radio frequency band shifting, microwaves, cell towers, lithium battery technology, positive and negative electron flow in a circuit.  As a concept, the phone just works.

 "MUSIC THEORY" as a term is very monolithic and abstruse, like "SCIENCE".

 You don't need to know everything about physics to get through life.  Not even to do things in science, or to use science.  You can work on cars without knowing the chemistry of combustion, yet it's a technical field.  You can write computer software without knowing everything about silicon photo deposition.  You can design computer processors, without knowing everything about computer programming.  

 Because in all of the instances, people have conceptualized cognition needed to manipulate things in their reality.

 Cognition is a tool for humans. 

Humans make and use the best tools.  

 You should treat "music theory" as a tool.  You don't just acquire tools, you have to learn to use them.   The nature of the tool is how you conceptualize "music".   

 You don't need to have ALL of the tools to build a shelter.  But you do need to TRY to build the shelter.  

 When you learn a "music theory" concept - intervals for example - you should try to be exhausting in learning to USE it.  Be able to reach and find it on the toolbelt without looking, know when to do that, know when to put it back. 

 When you think of "music" intervals are a tool to help you conceptualize How Things Are.  

 You might internalize "intervals" differently.  Part of the "tool" is knowing how they sound, and how they appear as shapes on the finger board.  But do you need to know the names of them?  It doesn't hurt, but you can internalize what you're doing as "shapes".  The car mechanic that looks at your valves isn't thinking about where carbon is on the  periodic table; he knows it's a thing, but for his *conception* of "car engine" it's not necessary.  

 For the guy that wants to work on hot rods, it's a waste of time for him to study petro chemistry.  It's not necessary for him to know How Things Are on that level.  

 For the person who doesn't want to play advant garde jazz fusion, studying Gamelan tonality concepts it a waste of time.

 How Things Are differs for different musicians and their objectives.  I've had students that literally didn't want to play anything until they knew all about what would be effectively music major level "Europan music theory".  I've had students that refused to learn the names of notes and chords because "that's not rock and roll".

 In a way both students are right.  You don't *have* to know what "I IV V" means to be in the Ramones.  At the same time you're maybe missing out on appreciating the music of Frank Zappa or Claus Ogerman if you don't know a bit of music theory.  

 The listener doesn't care.

 The musician simply has to have a tool marked "This is How Things Are".  A conceptual tool.  Without concern with the noise introduced by social media and YouTube; you have to realize that using the tool properly takes time, and is rewarding in itself as you really learn to use it.  It becomes satisfying.  

 A lot of students express immediate dissatisfaction upon learning of the existence of a "tool".  It seems to make things incomprehensible in scale.  Do you need to know the ratio of the diameter of a circle to it's circumference is an irrational number in order to draw one?  No, but you need to know what it looks like.  You may not need to know "that's a circle".  You're not thinking while you're drawing "this is a circle.  This is a circle.  This is a circle".  

 The artist has already conceptualized "circle" as part of How Things Are.  The artist wasn't shown "this is a circle; now you can draw one perfectly".  He doesn't have to know it's called "a circle", but he probably has to practice.  To the degree that it's automatic, the hammer on the toolbelt.  

 At first the circle might be more elliptical, wavy.  As the artist practices, maybe he notices circles everywhere.  Circles in paintings.  Maybe he thinks about what other artists thought about circles.  Does his favorite artist deliberately think about circles compositionally?  Or in some other fashion?  Does he avoid circles?

 A year later the artist isn't thinking the same way about circles.  He moves on, as his awareness of How Things Are is more complete and defined.

 Did Jackson Pollock care about circles?  Obviously not.  Monet?  No.  DaVinci - yes!  3 very different conceptualizations of How Things Are when it came to art.  You need to know what the parameters are for you conceptualization of How Things Are; and not the hoi polloi.




Saturday, December 7, 2019

Well Worn Tools vs. Shiny Chrome

 People tend to feel they need to compress learning into as small of a time frame as possible these days, because it seems like it's possible, therefore that's what you should do.

The physical embodiment of a bar chord. Used on aluminum Cold War nails from
Poland to build skateboard ramps when I was 10, and to nail braids
 to secure fencing in my yard last week. I've never used a nail gun.

 There are some concepts in music that should be viewed as "tools".  Phrases that use a unique mechanical movement perhaps, or a particular embellishment.

 Instead of learning said concept and moving on, one should... savor it.  If you're learning it, it's probably because it's a classic, great thing.

 Having a few tools that are well worn, because you know how to use them and can use them well, makes you a better musician than having the big Snap-On tool box filled with brand new tools that you don't really know how to use, or even what they're called.

 Knowing when to use a tool, use it appropriately and well, is a great skill to have and one should take pride in it.  Taking pride in the accumulated skill is part of the reward process that makes the next thing easier to do.  If you short circuit that, you'll hit a brick wall.

 Sometimes you have to take a step back, and use the tool over and over.   You can then put the tool down, pick it up later and it will still be there.

 If you use it once, put it away - you've wasted your time.  When it does - IF if does - occur to you to use it again, it won't be there for you.  The effort you put into it to learn it initially will be gone.

 Having the toolbox with a lot of shiny tools in it can be interesting if you know that's what you're doing, collecting tools.  Being a tool "tourist" so to speak. But driving one nail doesn't mean you can use a hammer.