After about 800 C.E., Medievals began writing music down to make it easier to remember. Around 1020ish, Guido of Arezzo used a staff and described the scales as working like hexachords.
The point is, you can do a thing for two hundred years before you name it. Once you name it, you’ve got definitions to which to adhere, which may very well mean, for better or for worse, you feel more inclined to keep it the same.
I’ve written about the value of a conducting journal, and certainly explained my belief that the work of a conductor goes beyond musical responsibilities and even necessitates investment of one’s personhood. That’s what this whole blog is for: explication of the unlimited sources of inspiration for conducting and being a conductor. Meaning, music, and conducting, ya know?
It turns out there’s a name for this. Heuristics.
I’ve been talking with my therapist (of course I’m in therapy!) about my Tai Chi work and wondering how I might study it as part of my dissertation, and she gave me a book: Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology, and Applications.
Some of what it says: Heuristic research is an investigative process that is designed to discover the nature or meaning of a thing or state or experience. Instead of resulting in measurements or objective data, the “answers” come in the form of experiences, qualitative evaluations, and even creative expressions like poetry. It involves self-search and inner awareness, so that the final product ends up being at least partly autobiographical. The investment of the researcher is part of the deal; the writer must, by definition, experience the phenomenon being studied.
As I said, this is exactly what I’ve been doing all this time, and I’m pretty tickled that there’s a name for it. With a name come rules, guidelines, help for doing it better! Also, not least, validation that this road might be the right one, because it’s a road with some other traffic on it and a few sign posts.
It does sound a bit fruity. Touchy-feely. But also seems very much the right way to go about examining the inescapably human experience of conducting and being a conductor. I mean, it’s art. How could the study of art avoid being sort of touchy-feely?
This is a thing I’ve been wrestling with: studying conducting so often involves score preparation, OR gesture, OR rehearsal technique. But where all that comes from is conducting, the whole, which is the presentation of the self as expressed through the music. And I’ve been trying to take all the pieces and make a whole. Which is part of the heuristic process, it turns out.
So, hurray. I’m doing something official now, something named, which is going to direct how I go forward. Hexachords, solfege, eight-note scales, real octaves and fudged fifths… and then nothing new for four hundred years until ethnomusicology? We’ll see.