Philippe playing at "National Night Out"

Facts Of Music® Productions in action…

IMPORTANT: If you did not read the last post, “Spring Has Sprung Forth,” please go back and read it first — it’s an important precursor to this article.

I’m very pleased to share concepts that will revolutionize the way your mind and ears process sound…in particular: all (any/every kind of) music…in “3-D.” Here are the basics of how:

Last time, I started to present how we hear things — and music (i.e. voices, noises in the street, TV, movies, etc.), generally. The purpose for these posts is that you may learn to hear and understand (particularly music) more thoroughly. I posited the idea that we hear music only to the extent we can process it — i.e. from a superficial perspective initially (this being a “Fact Of Music” that we hear sound as a “wall” — see last post).

At first, we hear music (and all sounds, in real time) as a kind of “monophonic” wall coming at us. Let’s now continue…with specifics

Think about it this way: When you hear a language you do not understand — you hear the sounds, but their meaning is not understood by you. The meaning is not comprehended, and yet you may even think or say it sounds nice or “beautiful” (to you…though your friend thinks it “stinks” — and your friend doesn’t understand that language or know what is going on either!!!). For this reason and on this basis, people may initially say that musical taste is very subjective. I DISAGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY (at least on one level). I can say this objectively because some aspects of music are very quantifiable as to their EFFECT.  Also, this is true with regard to the way music can be used AFFECTIVELY (i.e. to make everyone feel a particular way/feeling — let’s say the composer has to make it sound “scary,” or” beautiful” in a particular spot in a movie). Music does this — and CAN be used/crafted to affect us in exactly such ways. All musicians/composers learn to do this.

Now, you may hear a piece of music and think it’s great, but you may really not know much about it (if anything) — unless you are a “trained professional.” You don’t necessarily know what “KEY” it’s in (and whether or not it modulates, what kind of key or scale), what notes are being played, what and how many instruments and voices (singers) there are, any audio effects and processing that went into it…NONE OF THIS…or maybe you ARE able to “catch some of this!” If so, GREAT! This is what I’m talking about and where I am going with respect to, and in the direction of “3-D MUSIC.”

“3-D MUSIC” is not a “kind” of music, but rather, “a way of hearing and understanding what (ALL THAT) you hear!”

I wrote just a bit about the “Mozart Phenomenon” last time (not to be confused with what a few years ago was being tossed around — “The Mozart Effect” — that children would “get smarter” by having Mozart and other classical music played for them in the background!!!). I want to point out now that most people are hearing music in a way that is VERY INCOMPLETE. I call it the “music in black & white” way of hearing, in contrast to “hearing music in color.” WHAT DO I MEAN?

I promised last time that I would elaborate on “hearing in a polyphonic way.” You have probably noticed I’m using some technical vocabulary, and may even notice it’s been of Greek origin. The ancient Greeks had a lot to do with “coining” these terms during their “Golden Era” (about the 5th century B.C., or B.C.E, if you prefer)…

We have all seen video and/or movies that were NOT in color. This means that if we see red shoes (i.e. Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz”), they would NOT be RED — they would be a kind of “grayish.” Even in the early days of computer monitor screens, this was referred to as “monochromatic” (one color, from the Greek compound — the adjective “monos,” meaning “ONE,” and the noun “Chromatika” — meaning “COLOR.” So, we are NOT seeing the real color (i.e. all the colors, or, “the whole thing,” the way it really is). This is what happens with music as well. We are “HEARING MUSIC IN BLACK & WHITE!”

How do we remedy this? First of all, someone has to introduce us to, and “name” the colors. Music even uses the word, “Chromatic” in naming the musical alphabet (all the notes — there are only twelve), as in the “Chromatic scale.” Allow me to explain this, because the use of the word “chromatic” in music is a mixed-metaphor. We don’t really “hear colors,” do we? We see colors with our eyes. But in what good way can we describe “hearing?” We have a problem here in trying to describe the sounds in an adequate way. Fortunately, the Greeks had the problem first, and solved it for us before we got to it!

They decided to “borrow” the idea and term for color, and kind of use this idea to represent the different sounds. There are only 12 different sounds (and their repetition in octaves): A through G, and the accidentals (our black keys on the piano). This is why we say that the noun “chromatic” is used as a “mixed-metaphor” in music. Think of it in the same way for boats and ships — they “navigate” (from the Latin, “nave” — pronounced, “NAH-VAY” — which means “boat”)…now you “get” where we get our word, “Navy!” Well, why do we say that airplanes, space shuttles and jets “navigate” also? That’s a “mixed-metaphorical use” — shouldn’t they “aerogate,” instead? I guess that’s another story! Back to “3-D MUSIC.”

Actually, there is so much more to cover about “3-D MUSIC,” I’m going to have to do it on the next post. Let’s cover at least the next important aspect: BREAKDOWN OF PARTS/ASPECTS. This gets back to Mozart.

When Wolfgang was a very young child, his musician father started him on violin, and then piano (more significant and important information about these two instruments next time — they are “harmonic” and not “melodic” instruments…hmmm, what does this mean/do?). By the time he was 6, he was performing on tour across Europe — playing for heads of state (and anyone else who would have the privilege of a concert ticket!). What did he learn in his infantile and toddler years? His father taught him basic rudiments, but you can bank on the fact that little Wolfgang was hearing the parts individually (from the whole). He was born with a great gift (the talent) to naturally hear “parts.” 3-D MUSIC is the idea of hearing music this way — parts as whole, and the parts in the whole. He probably didn’t think of it that way, but that is exactly what he was doing! That’s what I do, that’s what my friend Nick Vincent (who also has “Mozartian Perfect Pitch” — named in Wolgang’s honor, and based on his virtuosity in his day!!!), and this is what I am asserting you will want to learn to be able to do, and MUST do (well…at least you should WANT TO be able to do so…).

Let us continue this article next time. The next one will elaborate on parts and tracks…how can we learn to hear all these things individually — and all at once? How do we use our technology to help us with this advance?

I hope you will enjoy these “Facts Of Music” as much as I do. They have made my musical life much richer and more exciting/fascinating. It is a wonder and pleasure to be able to pass these nuggets of wisdom and musical wealth on to you! Keep growing with music, and you will be the richer and happier for it. MUSIC IS A GOOD THING. Use and enjoy it in the right way(s) — it’s a great tool and friend!!!

Musically yours,

Philippe :-)

Spring is time for something new, and…musically speaking: Here’s something a bit new for you (Part 1 of 2)…

Are you “on the move,” musically? You can and should be! I hope these 2 posts will help you to understand a couple of things, and I’ll try to present it briefly but fully in two parts. Next time, I will conclude with some of the detailed aspects of what we can do when we use our current technology in this way.

There are many special and wonderful musical opportunities these days: new ways to learn and enjoy music; new technology to help us accomplish things we couldn’t do in the past…because there was no way to do it (i.e. playing many instruments beautifully from your own home computer, or even on a laptop in any location…well, just about any location!).

What are you learning or doing now that is moving you musically into a forward direction? I want to tell you about a new concept that will help us all, as musicians/music aficionados — as well as the audience/listeners…SO LISTEN UP:

How about this for a concept: “3-D MUSIC…”? What on earth am I talking about (yes, Virginia, it is ON EARTH, and even for the whole universe — and yes, it’s a sort of “3-D” for/with music!)?

Let me explain for a moment how we all hear music (at least originally), and how the idea I’ve been developing proposes to enhance “what,” and “the way in which” we hear and experience music — generally, and then specifically. Let’s only focus on the general in this post…


We start out hearing music in much the same way as we hear language — the whole thing is coming at us like a “wall of sound.”

A human voice is, for example, “monophonic” (two Greek words put together, meaning: one [mono]; sound or voice [phonos]). Music is often/usually “polyphonic” or many voices or sounds. THE INTERESTING THING IS…BOTH STILL COME TOWARD US AS ONE “WALL” OF SOUND.

If there is a person speaking or singing on a stage, that is only one sound coming from one place. But if it is a band, an orchestra, or even only 2 people (on that same stage)…we have a situation where there is more than one thing “coming toward/at us” at that moment. STILL, it comes toward us as a wall; as one thing, all at one time.

This is experienced as “1, or 2-D” in the sense that we can experience either some or maybe all of what is coming at us “at once.” How much we experience is based on our ability and frame of reference (to absorb this “wall”)…

Not unlike watching a movie — which is on the screen or wall, the music is coming toward us, and we see it for what it is (or what we are ABLE to “see/understand”) — all at once. Our eyes can only process as much as our mind can “understand…IN ONE LUMP SUM“.

Ever watch a movie a second time (or even multiple times) and see things you missed before? How about with music? Ever hear a song or piece of music, where there was an instrument or a vocal part you missed, and then you suddenly heard it the second or third time you listened? THAT’S MY POINT HERE.

This article has in mind the developing of our musical perspicacity and auditory acuity (how’s that for a mouthful?) so we can catch more of what’s coming at us. THERE IS A GREAT AND SAVVY WAY (thanks to technology) to “hear more.”

I have done it this way in an older form (before computers were readily available…and did it with tape recorders and such). In the past 10 or so years the NEWER WAY (computers!) has arrived, and this new way is working even more effectively. YOU CAN HEAR MUSIC IN “3-D” IF YOU JUST GET SOMEONE TO DO WHAT I’M GOING TO BE SAYING HERE.

In part 2, I’ll elaborate on the details from which we can all benefit by hearing more in a “polyphonic way,” such that the results are “enhanced hearing” (which I also call “hearing in color” — taken from the idea of the Greek word, “Chromatika”).

You will hear parts you didn’t before, and the music will sound “larger” (fuller and richer) than what you could initially hear/understand. As we individually develop our hearing by using this technique…we can hear more the first time. This gets better and better as the process is repeated over and over again.

Something then happens that someone like Mozart was able to do as a small child.

Mozart had perfect pitch (he could hear and remember the sounds like most of us “see colors” — i.e. we see reds, oranges, blues, greens — he could hear a Bb and know it from let’s say, an “A” or “G”). And, he continued to develop both his perfect pitch as well his “listening skills.” There were no recordings in his day, so whatever he heard was performed live, and he could hear the individual notes/voices more and more…and to the point that, even as a very young boy, he was able to go home and write down what he heard…ALL THE HARMONIES (i.e. all the parts!). He is most famous, and that’s for more than just the music he wrote. People have marveled at this noteworthy phenomenon, and we will develop this more in the next segment. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and are already thinking about/wondering where this will go in part 2…

Carry on, and keep on making music wherever you can!


Philippe :-)

Before I begin, yes, it’s been almost 6 months (again) since my last blog! Looks like I’m down to 2 comments a year (at least for this year) — then again, HOW MUCH does it matter up to this time — that I write these suggestions and thoughts? Well, I guess it depends on where you stand/sit at this time! How is your “use of time” working for you? Let’s examine a couple of things that could improve our production output/productivity.

O.K. I have a number of people telling me lately that they haven’t had much time to play music/their instrument(s), etc. I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND THEIR (OUR) PLIGHT! The reality is, if we want to have a productive, balanced and healthy life, we need to organize our lives so we can distribute all the necessary things and have them be a priority, in a routine and disciplined way (admittedly, there are many things competing for our attention).

It gets harder as we become more and more proficient on multiple instruments, become “engineers and producers,” and continue to keep everything “up.” Does this mean we are over-doing it, somehow? Are we being a bit “unrealistic?”

As I face this “almost nightmare” on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis (lifetime, etc.!!!), I have observed that IT CAN BE THAT we put too many things onto our “daily plate.”

It is more probable (and possible!) at some point or time, to only pick a few things to work on and be consistent with them for a (short/temporary) determined amount of time. Let’s say we pick, for example, a period of about 3 months (like a semester). This, of course, does not include the basics of eating, sleeping and exercise — these 3 are “essentials” and need always be on “the plate.” If we can allow for occasional exceptions, not being too perfectionistic (too type A about it), we can actually take very good care of ourselves, not get burned-out and be most productive!

During the past 5-6 months since my last (early-November) post, I decided to rearrange every room in my house. I needed to re-organize each room, so I could be more focused throughout the day and have more order — each room would be more “individual” and not seem like “extensions of each other” (basically, because there were all kinds of things in every room). Everything was “everywhere” and I simply couldn’t continue to function productively and focus, kind of a “fung-shui” (pronounced “fung-shoo-way”) problem. It turned out that it took about 6-8 weeks (from December into January), and during that time, I basically didn’t produce much output, musically or “effectively.” BUT, I did continue to study, create and practice (not at the normal pace, though). The end point/result was having the joy of now being able to move forward and go back into the sketches and creative sparks that I couldn’t really focus on…and work on/finish them!

THE BOTTOM LINE: Even though it was a transitional and mostly unproductive time (creatively), I was happy to feel as though I didn’t lose any “skill” and kept moving forward — but it did feel like it was all going much slower. My early and main mentor (in my teens), Ted Greene, once said: “Think of it like the bow-and-arrow principle, where you go backwards to go forwards.” I went backward a bit, to plan for a more productive environment that would propel me in a forward direction, and for that matter, in a greater and increased rate once I had my proverbial ” house in order.” For the past 2 months or so, I have felt so “free” and I now get more done in less time — what a great BUZZ!

If you need more help with this kind of thinking, in a personal and individual way, contact me and we can tune-in to it. I think you’ll be really happy you did — I’M ECSTATIC. Things haven’t been so nice in my “pad” in years. And, it feels great. I hope you will be more motivated to accomplish even greater feats as you continue to better organize your life AND YOUR MUSIC! It’s a really cool thing to have “all things in their place” (as much as is humanly possible…especially these days!).

Carry on, and keep on plugging…

Musically yours,

Philippe Willems :-)