Painted Music? Underscored Painting? Actually Both! Backstory Early in 2020, Jeremy Harrison contacts me out of the blue on Instagram. We last saw each other in 1981, but I remembered him instantly. At that time, 39 years ago, I was studying (briefly) at Indiana...
Piano Diaries 2020 : #1 : January by Peter Saltzman Twelve years ago I started a kind of piano blog called Piano Diaries. It was a website with blog entries in the form of improvised solo piano music, and a few lines of text to go along with each improvisation. I kept...
Chicago Musician Fuses His Memoir with Piano Composition for a Unique Reader-Listener Experience via a Custom-Designed iOS App and Universal Web App Download PDF of Press Release CHICAGO—July 12, 2016—Composer-pianist-author Peter Saltzman conceives a new form of...
In “Improvisations on the Ledge,” award-winning composer-pianist Peter Saltzman searches for universal truths by stumbling upon them—both with words and music. The basic premise is simple: he improvises on the piano, then talks about what the music tells him. Then makes music about what the talking tells him. Then…well, it goes on like this. Droll, funny, dramatic, musical, short.
The moment a theme is stated, it wants to do something. What? Like all lifeforms, it wants to replicate, mutate, transform…become something. That something is musical structure.
How we get from a single note to a theme (motif), to a full-blown musical structure (song, free improvisation, symphony) is seemingly a mystery. And yet it’s not.
Due to a naturally occurring acoustical phenomenon known as the overtone series, one note is not actually one note—there are in fact many notes vibrating above the single note (the fundamental) we think we’re hearing exclusively.
But consciously or not, we have an innate awareness of those other notes, the overtones that ring out from the fundamental. And that awareness, at some point in human history, led us to pluck those notes out of the air, string them together into themes.
And then what did we do? We repeated those motifs, and they become something larger. First simple melodies. Then, as we repeated, we varied: shifted a pitch here, altered the rhythm there, played the motivic idea from another starting point in the scale.
In no time (though nobody knows how many centuries or millennia “no time” took to unfold) we had the beginnings of musical structure. Music exists in time, evolves in time. As soon as you repeat something over time, and then vary it, you are effectively creating an incipient structure—whether you intend to or not.
At some point in musical history, humans began to mean it—to order notes intentionally. But that intention always leads back to one note which has within it the potential to become all notes—themes, melodies, songs, and larger structures.