I am also a very big Fan of the lyricism of Vaughan Williams and share his love for English folk songs.
The melodic sensibility of this composer is absolutely amazing. I have discovered some works by him that I am certain, I will keep coming back to them
We all know: It arrives when it wants. However, we as musicians have to seduce it. To know how to invite it at any time, to have it at its best all the time. This is achieved by letting us fall. The muse likes renunciation, likes simplicity. When we make music we inhabit the melodies, harmonies and rhythms, we move away from the everyday world and we start to communicate with spheres that remain silent in the day to day life. What we do is activate a sixth sense to enter a state of absolute sensitivity and inner singing. This is an extremely important notion for music in all its areas. When we listen to a melody we can only understand it if we sing it internally while listening to it. This is the difference between listening actively and passively. This is the difference between having access to deeper works or staying on the surface. Singing is the beginning of all musical activity and is present in all its expressions. Why do some musical works do not manage to touch us and leave us cold in a slight intellectual satisfaction but nothing emotional? The answer is in large part: because they do not awaken the internal singing in us, because they keep us away and do not force us / invite us to sing internally. It would seem that good music is an invitation, a seduction to become with the line, to sing internally. But I would dare to say that good music forces you with a soft violence, with a violent tenderness to enter it and to renounce one’s will to submit to the will of music itself.
It could be said, then, that the inspiration state is a renunciation and letting go to sing. Precisely that availability is what ignites in us a childish enthusiasm, an indescribable joy.
The Pythagorean notion that music was not restricted to the play of tones but that everything in the universe was music, is diametrically contrary to the false belief that all sound is or can be music. Sound itself is not music, and neither its raw sensuality.
It is true that hearing is the most optimal sense with which we count to perceive relationships and therefore to understand music.
But what makes music music?
Without pretending to respond fully to this question, which is largely a mystery, I want to present some ideas:
Music transcends sound to create a plane of relationships, a structure and a form. However, any kind of structure can not be imposed on tones (like for example twelve-tone music does). It has to come from the melodic structure of the singable, from the traditional melody, which is capable of being transmitted orally. This is the first and most important resistance of music. Sound is nothing more than the way we perceive this musical information. The music defines a constellation and the resistances between its elements that are the melody with its horizontal relationships, the harmony with the vertical relationships and the rhythm with the metric relations in time. It is necessary to clarify that these elements are only separable in theory. In practice they are dependent on each other. (Terms such as harmonic rhythm, melodic rhythm, harmonic melody, etc. give testimony of such dependences)
The wonderful thing about our sense of hearing is that the numbers as relations of their elements (their mathematical structure) coincides with the quality since our ears understand simple mathematical relationships in tones and rhythm as very basic and unique qualities. Put another way, our spirit gives a color to each relationship and understands the numerical architecture without being aware of it. It is precisely this point that makes us believe that the ear is our window to the divine world, to the spiritual world that underlies the material.
What differentiates music from any collection of sounds or tones is a sublime intention and a careful and supremely conscious construction, even when the sources of inspiration are unconscious.
Hindemith was determined to find a musical language that was so successful and developed so much resonance in all contemporary composers, that as a consequence, all of them would have to adopt it as universal. This claim may seem petulant and even megalomaniac. However, this is the common mental state of the composer. With each work he tries to get even closer to a language that is increasingly clear, plastic and that covers the entire emotional spectrum. The perfect balance is sought, the logical game between melody, harmony and rhythm. But most of all, we look for the feel of the game that children feel and the lightness and naturalness of this. When writing music we seek to be free by becoming masters of musical resistances and knowing how to use them to overcome them: an hermetic principle. By doing this we come up with a series of individualisms whose totality makes a language.
The musical language is a precipitate of experiences and assimilated musical contacts. Each relevant musical experience that has been internalized and absorbed is part of the gestation of this individual language. At first glance it may seem that some composers adopt foreign languages and imitate them. The composer of vocation and who has dedicated himself to explore his musical powers does not worry about not sounding in some way or another; He worries about the effective channeling of his musical energies through a suitable language. And if you insist enough, originality will always come out after this hard work.
Sometimes we listen to the music of others and we think: this seems like I would have written it. We enter into communication with a musical entity and resonate with it. But we also recognize that musical language as something necessary, something maternal, something cosmic and platonic in it. We feel that in order to come up with it, the person who brought it to the life had to have a process similar to the mineral formation: something slow, patient and above all true. That is the certainty transmitted by the refined musical language, that of naturalness and sublime enjoyment.
This is a good place to share thoughts about music. Music is something impersonal. It lives with or without humans, then it has its own intelligence, it own life. And we know we are confronting an intelligence when we hear great music. The most simple folk song has it. We sense the depth when we hear melodies, harmonies and rhythms. As if we where sailing, we move with its surface, but we can never think of embracing the whole content of the music. It is infinite.
What is the building block of music? Not tones, as Webern said but intervals as Hindemith said. We do not hear tones, when we hear musically, we hear always relations
The content of an interval is mathematically definable. Yet, cosmologically speaking, the is no stable Intervall beside the octave (and the unison). All Intervalls engage in a fight or dance for the unity. This is the source of everlasting movement in music.
So, music is the language of the cosmos. It is language, machine and being, altogether. This is a Pythagorean knowledge, I am myself profoundly Pythagorean. And that doesn’t make me less Christian. Music is the means by what the beauty expresses itself.
The conclusion of this small flight of thought is that music, as a divine gift it is, has to be treated with (religious) care.