I learned a huge amount from one friend who is musical, just by listening to him describing his experience.

"Firstly I hear the flavour of the note, and then I figure out the range -- which octave it is in"

(he has perfect pitch)

"Right now the music is screaming out G MAJOR to me"

"...the bottom of the scale"

(where I would have expected him to say "the tonal centre")

From simple expressions such as these, I start to get some idea of how his mind works musically, and this is valuable understanding.

Are there any well-known examples of musicians attempting to translate their experience into language?

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    friend of mine is synaesthesic - he describes music in colours.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 11, 2015 at 15:08
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    I think far more of us have some synesthesia than we recognize. In my case, for example, C-natural sounds "square" while C-sharp sounds "oily." :-) Jan 11, 2015 at 15:31
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    @user2808054 - they say that guys would ask Thelonious Monk theory questions (he was a jazz theory guru) and he would answer their questions without words - he would just play something that answered the question.
    – Stinkfoot
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:14
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    @user2808054, Now if only I could find a teacher who could teach me in this way!
    – P i
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:29
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    @Pi This is why I always take my cat to jam sessions ;-). I think this question brings out a fundamental aspect of music which is almost paradoxical: It's clearly not just notes and rhythm, and yet that's what you play to create it. The 'extra' bit is the feel or mood of how you play the notes which is pretty much just as important - and you have to use inventive language to get that across, otherwise you're really back to stating notes like a MIDI transcript or something. Jan 13, 2015 at 9:47

1 Answer 1


John Cage: Notations

That is an amazing book of musical scores that John Cage collected from 269 different well-known composers. Seeing how each composer chose to express himself on paper gives great insight into the various ways people intellectualize and conceive of music.

John Cage and Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Sound??


) A documentary on the perception of sound and music from the perspectives of John Cage (an avant-garde classical composer) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (a blind jazz musician). Also awesome

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