Form

Central to musical communication is the use of form. Form is the foundation upon which we can build something new. "Form provides the essential boundaries and structure for the creative act" (May 118). A performer must always be aware of form. When she deviates too much, she breaks her communication with the audience. If she never strays from the form, the communication is worthless, for the audience receives no new information. The musician must always work to create a union between form and chaos.

When communicating with an audience, a musician must start with an existing form and interpret it. For a jazz trumpeter, the form might be the melody, rhythm, and harmony of a specific jazz composition. For a classical pianist, the form might be the pattern of notes written on a piece of sheet music. The musician must then interpret this form in his own way. The musician combines this objective form with his subjective interpretation.

The form is born out of a dialectical relation between my brain (which is subjective, in me) and the object that I see external to me (which is objective). As Immanuel Kant insisted, we not only know the world, but the world at the same time conforms to our ways of knowing. Incidentally, note the word conform--the world forms itself "with," it takes on our forms (May 118).
Imagination supplies us with raw ideas, but these ideas have little or no inherent form. In order to communicate effectively, we must utilize existing forms. "Imagination is casting off mooring ropes, taking one's chances that there will be new mooring posts in the vastness ahead" (May 121). There is the risk that we might lose form altogether. A musician must keep in sight a few landmarks in order to guide her audience.

Artists, May writes, are the "frontier scouts" of society. They exist on the boundary between form and abstraction, and through their reports from that boundary they help us to look at reality in new ways. May writes of the artists, "We can surely tolerate their special dependencies and harmless idiosyncrasies. For we will be better prepared for the future if we can listen seriously to them" (May 122).