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In The Beginning

The point of this blog is to share the joy I get from pursuing what is becoming an all-consuming passion for me – musical composition. I have been in love with music as long as I can remember – my first memory being a jazz piece by Count Basie’s orchestra. From my youth on, I have played many instruments you would find in a concert band i.e. clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, French horn, baritone, and tuba, to name a few. I was mostly known as a guitarist and bass guitarist in my high school years. As a young adult I became a professional electric bassist, graduating from the Armed Forces School of Music in 1976. My musical ability was expressed primarily in performance, composition being the furthest thing from my mind.

As I moved on through my life past the Navy, I moved on to become a communications engineer in the WAN/LAN world, working with four companies and moving into management. Music was in the background, and for about 15 years, I was pretty much in absentia from the music world – I had to pay bills, and I had been unable to figure out how to do that as a musician.

Through a series of events, I was removed from the IT world as a mid-level manager in 2001. In a complete desperation move, I blew the dust off my music theory books, and dug my bass and guitar out of the closet to become a music teacher in private academies. One of the courses I began teaching was a Music Appreciation course where we took a whirl-wind trip through the various eras – Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century. In the process of teaching this course we listened to a TON of music representative of each era. I found myself falling in love with classical music – for the first time. As I studied these composers and their music, this crazy idea started to take root in my mind that maybe I could compose music like that. 

I researched and decided that I would go back to the cradle of Western Music –  where all of our modern music started… Medieval music. And as I learned, I began to see music theory unfold before me, morphing from what I used to think of as a “necessary evil” i.e. “stuff we need to know so we can play the cool stuff we want to play” into a fascinating historical approach to understanding music. I started composing music in the early medieval style, learned about the Church Modes, and progressed from Gregorian chants to polyphonic music and onward. 

It was then that I realized that maybe music theory can be taught in a different manner… from the beginning. In other words, perhaps music theory can be taught along a more historical trajectory but with the added feature of actually composing music using what we learn! For instance – in the beginning, it was just whole notes and a single mode (think scale for right now… some folks get upset by calling a mode a scale, but they can get over it). Everybody can draw a whole note, right? And with several basic concepts that are REALLY easy to learn, the student can be composing original music from the very beginning.

So…. In the beginning… there were whole notes and a scale. We can start there.  This blog is dedicated to that musical journey, and I will present videos, pictures and examples of my journey as I “re-learn” music and music theory.

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Written By:

Paige Garwood

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