False Relations and Muscle Memory

Emma Ayres introduces some fascinating themes in her Classic FM breakfast program. Two days ago I was listening to a Thomas Tallis composition (Honor, virtus et potestas) on her show after which she discussed false relations:

A false-relation is nothing more than a chromatic contradiction between two notes in a single chord or in different parts of adjacent chords. Within the confines of academic tonal theory this is considered a “syntax error” but it has been used throughout the ages by composers for expressive effect; a sort of a musical poetic license.

My take on what she was saying was that the listener can be surprised or have attention changed by false relations.

With my interest in the links between different kinds of performance I was intrigued to listen to Emma Ayres’ discussion of muscle memory during the same program. She was exploring ideas around how one returns to a musical instrument after decades away from it. She noted the research in sport on practice, expertise and its application to music.

Her juxtaposition in the same program of false relations and muscle memory prompted me to think about the guided discovery possibilities of play and the structured learning opportunities provided in a developmental and personal training program.

I do think the lessons we can learn from composition and performance of polyphonic music can help us explore individual difference. I wondered if acts of creativity or inspiration in sport might be a form of false relation. Contemplating the potential of muscle memory has important implications for how we plan for and support motor learning.

I realise I need to go back to Edward Thorndike‘s work now to look at his theory of learning. In particular:

  • Readiness
  • Use and disuse
  • Belongingness

What a surprising journey one radio program can initiate!

Photo Credit

Two men on a Northwest Aircraft

Stongfjorden Songlag

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