Against the flood

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Thus young man is working on a concert score, he’s actually writing music, note by note.

There are probably more musically-literate people in Dumaguete than in any other town in the Visayas. Even so, probably only 100 people really qualify. And there are even that many here, only because Silliman University has a professional level music school.

That means that from a general population in Dumaguete that can read and write words, only one tenth of one percent of them can read and write notes.

When an idea, or even a stray thought occurs to most people, they can easily write it down as a sentence or a paragraph; it can develop into a letter to a friend, or even an essay.

Many people at college level can also deal with numbers — simple equations in algebra, physics, chemistry or symbolic logic. If they can’t write these down from their minds, they can at least follow them on paper.

But if a tune, or a drum beat, or a song by a favorite band runs through their minds, they would have no idea, could not even begin, to write it down as notes on music paper.

Even popular local rock groups are often musically illiterate, or at best, can barely read music, much less write it. They learn to play “by ear”.

Being able to write music is just not a skill that has much value for most people. Only those who intend to become serious, professional musicians bother to learn it.

Probably, this is just as well.

Computer keyboards and the internet publishing make it easy for people to call themselves “writers”. Modern cameras allow people who can only hold one up and push a button call themselves “photographers”.

It’s all very democratic. The airwaves are open to everybody. The result is a tidal wave of bad pictures and prose, flooding across computer screens around the world, most of it boring and pointless. Real talent becomes submerged in this wash of mediocrity.

But only those people, like this young man, who have learned to write music, can call themselves “composers”. Only those who can play from printed scores can call themselves “concert musicians”.

It’s a small group. Some have more talent than others, but since their total output is small, it’s fairly easy to sort them out, and a great talent is not likely to be ignored.

___________________________________________

Author’s email: [email protected]

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