Intuition and Memory in the Arts
I’ve recently been enjoying a specific aspect of art in the form of guitar music by a very talented guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. He is very well known for his elaborate arrangements for the guitar. I’ve been trying to learn some of his songs, but I quickly found that he does not write his own tablature or sheet music for his songs. I read more about him and I learned that he actually did not learn any music theory when learning the guitar. Therefore, he does not know how to read sheet music, write sheet music, or understand music theory despite being a world renowned guitarist.
Music theory focuses on how composers write music. Music theory touches on chords, rhythm, tuning, time signatures, and many more. I myself am not very familiar with music theory as well. I find it difficult to understand how to create chords on the guitar, find different voicings for chords, as well as identify different types of musical scales. When I learned that Tommy Emmanuel composes music without knowledge of music theory, I wonder how does he compose his songs then? Does Tommy Emmanuel have the ability to use intuition to be able to compose music?
By learning music theory, this gives a composer a form of reasoning to follow when composing music. The music that they compose is created by reasoning such that it agrees with ideas of music theory. If Tommy Emmanuel is not familiar with music theory, does he simply use emotion and intuition to play what sounds “pleasing” to him? For example, if two chords are played together, a musician trained in music theory may know they are supposed to sound “good” together by knowledge from music theory. Tommy Emmanuel on the other hand may use emotion to know that those two chords sound “good” to himself.
Tommy Emmanuel may also use memory to know that specific chords and notes sound good together to him. Again, whether music sounds good or not is largely subjective. Tommy Emmanuel may enjoy specific combinations of notes and chords that he may have remembered to sound “good” to him but may disagree with the ideas of music theory.
When Tommy Emmanuel composes, there is definitely a possibility that he intuitively thinks a specific note or sound will sound “good” or “pleasing” following the note he just played. There may also be the influence of memory as he may remember that a specific series of notes sounds “pleasing” to him.
This is also something to consider when guitarists are improvising solos. Improvisation may involve a sort of intuition as the guitarist must make up a string of notes as they play. This can also be a series of notes drawn from a guitarist’s memory as well, that he has played before, which means it is not actually improvisation.
How are intuition and memory used by musicians in art in the form of music?