Explaining Music to a Non-Musician

Last night my husband and I were discussing what it meant to interpret and polish a piece of music. As a non-musician, he didn’t understand why one couldn’t achieve perfection by playing a score accurately. Doesn’t the score have detailed instructions from the composer — notes, dynamics, tempo, all those funny symbols? If two musicians are following the same instructions, why would their performances be different?

I struggled to explain the nuances of musicality, but I finally came up with the right analogy. If Morgan Freeman and I read the same story, the content will be identical. We’ll observe the words and punctuation in the same sequence. However, Morgan Freeman’s narration will be different from mine because of the way he emphasizes certain words and syllables, the pacing of his speech, and the inflection from his emotions. We can both deliver 100% accurate readings with very different results.

“That’s a good analogy,” my husband said. “You should blog about it.”

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