Written by Stefan M. Oertl | Categories: Optimal Music Experience
This article will approach the concept of an optimal music experience. Learn about the potential of music to carry you from familiar emotions to ecstasy and even beyond, the disintegration of reality.
What I write here may be quite different from what you have previously believed to know about music. Most of it cannot be found in books. Even though I will keep making references to scientific concepts and ideas to illuminate the bigger picture. It is a result of my lifelong scientific examination of the subject, combined with the practical application of my findings.
I will discuss different views of music theory and psychology, as well as the human mind and brain. I will go into detail about the role of altered states of consciousness, and the strong powers our mindsets and belief systems exercise on us.
The goal of this blog is to expand your musical universe, to intensify your individual experience of music and provide you with the knowledge of how to make your compositions more effective and compelling. This is not just about theory, but mostly practice.
Let the exploration begin ...
Seeking the Optimal Experience
All my life, I have always been searching for the peak experience in music.
A good friend of mine, an accomplished professional flutist, once told me that for her, music was a matter of life and death. At the time, I was working on my doctorate in Psychology (with an emphasis on music cognition), with a Master's degree in Computer Graphics and Animation in my pocket. Additionally, I had already completed a postgraduate program in film scoring at USC in Los Angeles, and had made it through nearly two decades of a formal education in Classical and Jazz Piano as well as Harpsichord.
I had acquired a fairly decent background in music and scientific thinking, but looking back, I realize I really didn't know much. I have come a long way since then, digging deeper over the course of another decade into the essence of what really matters in music.
Brain-Friendly Reality Breakdown
If you have never cried helplessly listening to a song, if your mind hasn’t been totally blown at a concert, if you have not gotten weak in the knees by the sound of that one special note, if you haven't danced your shoes off at a rave with the pounding rhythm making you fly like a rocket, if your perception of reality hasn't been distorted or even completely broken down by music, then you definitely have something incredible to look forward to: the impact of the perfect musical experience. Any kind of music can produce these sensations.
Profound moments exist in every type of music: from contemporary rhythm-dominated [1 (techno/minimal), 2 (alternative rock)] to tonal [3 (blues), 4 (country)], and further back in time [5 (baroque)]. The underlying compositional patterns triggering cognitive responses that lead to an optimal experience are always strikingly similar. They are made up of hierarchical interrelationships of sonic, tonal, and rhythmic events of the strictest order.
If brain-friendly grouping is neglected in a composition, the intended powerful musical effect and message must fail. I will discuss those principles in detail in upcoming articles.
Descending Down the Cool Rabbit Hole
An exact definition of music is as elusive as cloud in the night sky. We all know what music is when we think about it. But if asked to define its general nature and purpose, we’d probably fail miserably.
I would like to take you on a journey towards a better understanding of why this is so, and then travel even further.
From a psychological point of view, music is one of the most powerful forces affecting our feelings and transforming our conscious and subconscious thinking. Ideally, reading this blog will make you wonder just how deep the rabbit hole really goes. And then you may want to climb down the ladder one step at a time, towards an intensely enhanced musical experience, and the knowledge about the design of powerful tonal and sonic structure.
Ultimate coolness awaits!
Continue reading part II of this article series.