Recently, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on how I write about music—and how music is so hard to actually put into words. I mean, think about it…without using the title or saying any lyrics or humming any tunes, try and describe a song or a piece of music. Now, if you happen to be a musician or musicologist, you *might* be able to use enough musicological terminology to get another person with similar education to figure out which song you’re talking about…but it’s not very likely. For instance, check out this description of a VERY famous piece of classical music—one that I’m sure you’ve heard on TV or in the movies, if not in the concert hall:
It starts out with two dramatic fortissimo phrases, the famous motif, commanding the listener’s attention. Following the first four bars, the composer uses imitations and sequences to expand the theme, these pithy imitations tumbling over each other with such rhythmic regularity that they appear to form a single, flowing melody. Shortly after, a very short fortissimo bridge, played by the horns, takes place before a second theme is introduced. This second theme is in E♭ major, the relative major, and it is more lyrical, written piano and featuring the four-note motif in the string accompaniment. The codetta is again based on the four-note motif. The development section follows, including the bridge. During the recapitulation, there is a brief solo passage for oboe in quasi-improvisatory style, and the movement ends with a massive coda.
Well, if you said Beethoven’s Fifth, you’re pretty amazing—cause I couldn’t have figured that out and I have a Master’s degree in music!
So, when I need to describe a piece of music, I might use one of several tactics including describing the musician—or even the instrument the musician is playing. That’s what I did with this scene from Reverie:
I take a deep breath and try to suppress the wave of panic that is rising within me. I’m just going to have to play something from memory.
It’s okay. I’m okay. I can do this.
With that thought, I close my eyes and give the slightest nod of my head as I set my fingers free to dance across the fingerboard. In my right hand, the bow is an extension of my arm. I swing it effortlessly over each string, digging in; grabbing hold, pivoting and leaping like a gymnast on the uneven bars. I coax and tease and pull the notes from my instrument, fingers rocking back and forth from string to string.
Ah, now there’s something a reader can get a good grasp on—a visual that enables them to get an idea of what I’m trying to describe—even if they don’t know the first thing about music. Check out the video below to see how I envision the comparison in my mind…
What do you think? Do you see the similarity to the bow on the strings and the gymnast on the uneven bars? Does seeing this image enhance your reading experience?