Broaden your musical horizon by unlearning


How we see the world around us is for a high degree determined by what we have learned. Sometimes we have to unlearn to be able to give our creativity a boost, to broaden your musical horizons.

Looking into the mirror
Have you ever seen a baby in front of a mirror? The baby has to learn to recognize the image as belonging to him/her. When we look into a reverse mirror we experience something similar. In a ‘real mirror’ we don’t the a mirrored image of ourselves, we see what others see when they look at us. We get really confused, like babies do when looking into a mirror for the first time. Here a clip about people on the street in Portland, looking into a ‘real mirror’.

Riding a bicycle
Riding a bicycle is another example. See clip below. How better we know how to ride a bicycle, how more difficulties we will have with the backwards-brain-bicycle. It’s a great clip about learning and unlearning:

Western music
With music it works the same. We hear what we’ve learned to hear. And what we’ve learned to hear can be quite different, depending on the music we grew up with. In the west, the diatonic scale is the basis of everything we hear. An octave is divided in 12 semitones, of which we use 7 notes for creating harmony, major or minor. When Schönberg developed 12-tone-music in the ’20s of the last century, it sounded pretty awkward to the listeners. He used the 12 common tones, but he used all of them equally. The first time I listened to Schönberg, I disliked it for the absence of harmony. Thanks to my music teacher, I learned to appreciate it.

Arabic and Indian music
You can have a similar experience when listening to Arabic or Indian music. In Arabic music, they use a 24-tone system with quarter-tone intervals. In Indian music they use a movable 7-note scale. I always wonder if western music might sound a bit simple in the ears of people grown up with Arabic or Indian music.

The Beatles
The Beatles showed us how to make the best from the culture clash between western and Indian music, how unlearning what you’ve been told to like can result in great new songs. The clip with the reverse bike shows us that unlearning is only temporary. In the end we broaden your creative horizons.

” The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” (Gloria Steinem)

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