If I ask you the question ‘Do you like
music?’, I’m pretty sure that 100pc of you will say ‘Yes, I love it’.
What about learning music? For those in the room who had the chance to learn
music, I’m pretty sure you have, like, bad memories of music lessons, so this is
what I would like to talk to you about. I see music as a big party. As you can
see, these are my friends I play music with in Europe, in Asia. There is a profile we created in Hong Kong, you see it’s very happy, and I see it as a
celebration of something, yeah, great, that playing music is a great way of
expressing yourself. It’s a great way of never being bored also because you
always have something to learn. It’s a great way to meet people and to bring
people together. But the party is a bit ruined because we have to learn music,
we have to go through music theory, understanding how music notation works,
practicing through repetition. And all this is tedious, boring and sometimes
painful. So I’m not here to give a lesson, because music is my passion, I’m not
professional, but I would like to share with you a different way of looking at
music that can help taking shortcuts and accelerating music learning for some
some, some kids. I had the chance to meet someone who inspired me deeply. He was
called Janov Adrian and he used to give me piano lessons in in this little shop in
my hometown. And he was very talented very humble, and he was teaching me music
without talking about music notes. He would talk about textures, he would talk
about emotions and he would show me how to make them happen.
And that was great. And this, why do I share this with you? Because it leads to
the observation that we have a lot of great musicians who can play music but
are incapable of reading a single note of a music score. So how how do they
do that? It means that there are probably other ways of understanding music, other
ways of seeing music. I kept on, so, our paths went different ways, Janov
unfortunately passed away, and I kept on learning music by myself, but always with
asking to myself what kind of, what form of learning would work better for me. And
this is when I started drawing shapes, and I realised that it was helping me. It
was helping me making progress, understanding things that I couldn’t
understand before in music. And I kind of developed that kind of self-made method,
personal method, that was helping me get further in music. So I’m gonna try to
make it, keep it simple, but there is one big concept in music that I want you to,
that is difficult to understand in music, is the fact that music is linear and
periodic. What does linear mean? You have, imagine like you’re standing in front of
a piano, when you have all these keys that range from the low keys to the high
keys. Those keys, we can spread them underline right. We’re going to say that
melodically, music will be linear from the low to the high, but harmonically we
have different notes that are the same harmonic value. I’m gonna give you an
example: So, [plays piano] that’s what I call linear, melodically,
but we have notes [plays piano] that have the same harmonic value, because of the harmonics.
And this is what we’re gonna say, it’s harmonically, music is periodic, and the
simplest form to represent periodic endowment is a circle. And my way of
seeing music is based on that circle, what we call the chromatic circle. So
it’s very, very simple. You draw a circle and you put the 12 notes on a circle. In
the system we use we have 12 notes. 12 is a good number because we can divide it
by two, we can divide it by three, we can divide it by four, we can divide it by
six, we can divide it by 12, of course. But we start seeing shapes appearing, we see
like intervals between notes appearing, and imagine that we play
different notes together and those notes, will link them together. Then we’re gonna
create shapes. So this is how I see music, when I play this how I see it. So this
is how music started taking shape for me, and I was happy to see that he was
making sense. So how does shapes apply to music? Imagine that they’re play at three
levels; structure, harmony and melody. So this is how you can see the brain of of
a musician, a big round cake with three layers. You have the structure of the
song, you have the harmony and the melody. The structure is the arrangement of a
song. The harmony is notes played simultaneously that will create the
texture through vibration. So we can show you an example, we can play a texture
that is happy, a texture that is sad, a texture that
is light, something sad maybe, oh melancholic. This
is what we call harmony. And the melody is it to understand, it’s a sequence of
notes that are played one after another, and that are perceived as an entity by
the listener. So all the shapes that I’ve shown you, they can apply at those three
different levels. And the funny thing is that for me, it helped me understand some
of the musicians that I really like, so you see Miles Davies, Herbie Hancock and John
Coltrane, I will give you just few examples. So this is ‘So what’, one of the,
one of the most famous songs, it’s called ‘So what’ and it’s based on a chord. I will give you an example, it’s based on
that, [plays piano], this chord. And this chordis kind of difficult to
visualize on a keyboard, but when you play it through geometric representation,
as you’ve seen, it’s a pentagram. Another example,
it’s a harmony that Herbie Hancock uses all the time, it’s this one. When you play geometrically, it creates
a shape that has a symmetry. Another example, the structure of the blues.
It’s maybe simpler, maybe you have musicians in the room who play the blues,
that’s the structure of the, of the song any blues, yeah. ‘Giant Steps’, another
very famous song by John Coltrane, the whole song is based on a division of the
scale by three, and it’s a, it’s a song that is very difficult to memorise if we
don’t understand the structure, and this is how it looks on a music score, right?
So when you see that you need to know how those notations work right. But
believe me or not, this is all the shapes that he is using. Remember the cake? Put
three layers, then this is, this is a song, that is entirely geometric on the
structure level, on the harmonic level and the medic level. The thing that is
very interesting about this song is the name, it’s called Giant Steps, the whole
song is structured on a division of the scale by three. It creates three … twelve notes we divided by three, right. And this in-, so it
creates three intervals that we call a major third, and what he does is he develops
melodies and chord progressions, little sections, and he transpose them by
this division of three. And the funny thing is, in music you take a melody, you
transpose it by this interval, so it’s like going, doing a big step, and you do
it a second time, and it’s like doing another big step.
It sounds a bit unnatural, so at the back of my head I’m like ‘This is maybe why he
named the song Giant Steps’, so this is kind of interesting to, to see how like, the
perception of John Coltrane in this song, like he created the song entirely
geometrically, and so few months ago I I discovered that in 1967, the year of his
death, he shared with his friend this diagram. He gives it to Yusef Lateef, the
saxophonist, and it’s not the same visualization as the one I’m using, but
it shows that he had a geometric understanding of the music, and John
Coltrane is one of the guys who was like, taken music to its highest form. So that’s one,
one example of what I wanted to share with you, that shows that maybe there are
different ways of looking at music, less conventional. This being said, so this
vision is this visualization is very personal,
okay, it’s it’s just my own, but I asked myself, maybe it can help other people. So
I developed an interactive interface, a first interactive interface, and I wanted
to test it. So the whole idea was like to test it on people who don’t know music,
right? So I took a sample, representative sample, of the global population who
doesn’t know music, and I took my favorite guinea pig, my niece, she’s three years
and a half in on the picture, and she has never touched a key of a piano. She
has never played a lot of music, and what I do, I put her in front of the keyboard,
show her a shape, so here it’s a pentagram you see on the screen, and I ask her
without any further explanation, ‘Could you please
play this shape?’ So I’m going to show you the first notes that my niece has played.
I timed it. So she takes it as a game at first. All the people who have
had the chance to learn music, please keep your memories at the back of your head when you watch this. She discovers the
game and I explain her the rules very briefly and then the game starts. Look at
her behavior, she’s like very focused, right, she keeps looking at the screen
and the piano. And I’m not touching the keyboard much, right? Actually I’m not
touching it and what’s happening is, within six minutes, she discovers this
shape, that is the pentagram, and she will intuitively learn something through
visualization. It means that this representation maybe can help kids.
What’s happening in six minutes is actually bigger than just like drawing
shapes. She discovers what we call the pentatonic major of B flat, so the
pentatonic major is this [plays piano] right? And this is a fundamental concept
that helps understand melody music from a melodic point of view, and this is also
the starting point of music improvisation. She’s starting to form
like a mental representation of music geometrically, and it’s going to stay in
her brain for the rest of her life. This kind of leads to question the way we
envision music right, music notation, and the process of learning. Music notation
has been created to document music until the 17th century, there was a lot of
improvisation in music, but there was no electrical or digital way to record
music, to permanise music. The only way to pass music from one generation to
another was by writing it. So along the centuries then, music notation has been
developed, but improvising and creating gave way to more composition and
interpretation. On one side, the composer who spends time writing music, and the
interpreters who play music. Less improvisation, less experimentation less,
maybe, understanding from the people who play music. So it led to a kind of
dogmatisation of written music, which is what? Learn how to read music, read music, copy,
repeat. Experts in process of learning, they break down the education into three
elements: codification, mental representation and expression. The
challenge of learning something is to form a mental representation and
an abstract concept. Music is very abstract, right, how do you learn it? We’re
going to use the codification. To explain you this process I will give an example,
I will use the example of reading, speaking, reading and writing. The
qualification that we’re going to use are letters, system of symbols, right. And
the mental representation will be, we put letters together, we create words. We put
words together, we create expressions. And when, once we have understood the hard
work, then we can create our own expression. We can express ourselves
freely. And in music, it should be working the same, right? The problem that,
in music is that the codification that we use, the music notification, with the
staves, right, the little dots on those lines of not intuitive. So the effort of
learning is mostly focused on being able to read those notifications, and once we
know how to read then we just play, what’s being written and we are told
that this is the expression of music.We completely bypass the understanding of
music, the fundamental understanding of music with the structures. Learn how to
read, read, copy, repeat. For me, that’s how it works right now. The idea
that I shared with you, that, you know, to see music, it’s what we call synesthesia, visualizing music. So in my case, it’s like using shapes and textures. Seeing
music, what does it mean? If we describe synesthesia from a general
point of view, it’s about so, synesthesia, it’s about creating bridges between
senses. Here, we’re talking about seeing music, so
it’s about translating music parameters in visual parameters. And synesthesia
what is it? It’s about creating bridges between those elements. But put
like that, then we create, we can create an interface. So this is what
we’ve been working ob. We’re working on interface that uses shapes, as I’ve
showed you, as we’ve discussed. Colors, so each code is associated to a color. Light,
so in harmony you can play calls that are happy or sad. It’s a city to light,
when you play a sad chord, then it creates like, shadow effects. When you play a
happy chord, it creates like a bright light and textures. So here we have used
textures to modelise consonance and dissonance. This is what we, so dissonance expresses harmonic instability. So we use a texture on the objects
that are rough, non-reflective and a bit chaotic. And for chords that are
consonant, that expresses the harmonic stability, then we use a surface that is
sleek, reflective and smooth. So this is how it looks, and I will give you some,
it’s not a lesson, okay, so it’s like that. So we’re using real-time 3D, so it’s, it’s
all interactive. And if I go to the top view, I going to play shapes. I can play for
instance the diminished chord. The diminished chord is something that I see
as red velvet, like the seats you’re sitting on. You know, it’s melancholic, it’s a bit sad.
I can resolve it, like that. Okay, so the shapes [plays piano]. You see, you can see the
chromatic circle. When I play notes together, I create shapes. The colors: I will
give you some examples. So the yellow is to modelise what we call the
major chord, which is the simplest harmony. But I can, by adding one note I
can make this harmony a bit lighter. If you, if you, if you close your eyes, this is lighter, then you see the yellow
becoming a bit lighter. If I add another note, I can make it warmer, then it
becomes an orange, warmer. The consonants, that’s the same, this is consonant. So the
texture is reflective, smooth, but if I play this thing, that is more dissonant
then you see that the texture becomes non-reflective. These are just some
examples of the process that we, we are working on. This is something that I’ve
developed for myself and it helps me like, explore music. So I’m not sure to
give a lesson, but if that kind of approach can help someone else, just my niece
for instance of all the people, I’ll be super happy. If it can help take
shortcuts for accelerate music learning, I’ll be super happy to share it. So to
conclude, this, this talk, I would like to say, when I was a student and a kid, I was
struggling a bit at school, especially music, and what I would like to share
with you is that if you’re facing a situation where you don’t understand
something, instead of thinking that you’re done and you will never succeed,
understanding maybe you should think of ‘Am I using the right method?’ And if this
method doesn’t exist, maybe you should invent it.
Now we’re gonna, would like to leave you with a bit of magic, and so we’re going
to present you a performance with interactive content that celebrates
Inspirefest and all the great people who came here
for inspiration. Thank you very much.