conjuring the space that is music

Music is a space. Here is my evidence.

I am a musician and I’ve long been aware that, when the playing is good, I have entered a unique and familiar space. There are unlimited places to go, but all are contiguous. [Music theory describes the lay of the land and the myriad ways to traverse it.]

A related ethnomusicological tidbit: The Sundanese people of Java know that a proper performance of music includes welcoming the music in. That is, the music is right there, you don’t “start playing,” rather you invite the music to manifest itself. In the case of Sundanese Gamelan music, this welcoming-in is done with a loud gong. Appropriate.

Today I came across a YouTube of the classic fiddle tune, “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” played by guitarists Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge. Their rendition begins with a long, outrageously atonal, polyrhythmic introduction that will likely strike you (as it did me) as totally unrelated to the titled tune. Only when the seemingly random frenetics segued into the tune did it occur to me: What they had done was to conjure the space. Pre-heating the oven, as it were.

Nothing short of wizardry here: