Epistemology, Logic and Syllogisms

Epistemology, Logic and Syllogisms are terms relating to philosophy and are somewhat foreign to music-making. Epistemology refers to the theory of knowledge “what can we know”. Logic was thought to be part of the theory of knowledge until the German philosopher Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) demonstrated that logic was not “laws of thought”. Logical relationships were independent of human thought. Syllogisms are part of logic and linguistic analysis. This essay seeks to apply the conclusion gained from the syllogising of music, to the making of music from origin to manifestation.

Syllogisms contain a major premise, minor premise and conclusion. The conclusion does not necessarily validate the premises. Below is the outcome of the attempt to syllogise to music.

Major Premise

Music is sound presented in messages, either visually or aurally.

Minor Premise

The messages contain the notation, pitch and rhythm patterns of the music.


Therefore, the messages are the origin of music.

The syllogism clearly indicates the need for practising the messages and not the music. Practising the music appears to “put the cart before the horse”. Music cannot be practised previous to the messages being sent which contain the necessary information to produce music. That is, music is made not practised.

Perhaps an assertion of “splitting straws” could be made at this point with some legitimacy. However the mental preparation prior to the “making of music” may be very different from simply “practising music.” Rather than an exercise in semantics and pedantry, the preceding postulation relies on the logic presented by the syllogism. The “practising of music” is not only impossible but it can lead to a predominance of the fingers acting without the pre-requisite messages.

So called “finger exercises” could be easily misinterpreted to indicate that the fingers are the instigators of the messages.  “Finger exercises” are in fact “brain exercises”, with the fingers being the receivers of the messages.

That is not to say that practising with the fingers as message makers will not work; it does, in kind. The flaw in this type of practice shows up in performance when the pressure to reproduce the previous practice results is present. There is no reliable process to rely upon other than repetition, and perhaps it should have been practised one more time. This routine will produce accuracy, but if the messages are absent it will also produce anxiety.

Nervousness and anxiety are sometimes confused with anxiety being confused with nervousness. Anxiety is signals from the brain alerting the performer to inadequate preparation for the task in hand. Nervousness is generally about environmental circumstances, including the audience and venue, and it passes. Anxiety does not and remains in continuum.

Preparing the messages rather than the music, can be divided into two major categories – a category for practice and one for performance.


Practice is the time for making music through the gathering and relaying of messages containing the relevant information to the instrument. During practice the following order of events will guarantee successful outcomes:

Message gatherer – the brain

Message receiver – the fingers

Message demonstrator – the instrument

The logic of this order of events is self-evident. Most errors are caused by incorrect messages being sent, or in the worst case scenario, none at all. The none-at-all scenario is when the fingers take on the role of gatherer and receiver. Our messages are drawn from the three pillars of music – technique, sound production, and rhythm and rhythm patterns. Message gathering is the main reason for practice, and the skill in this process reveals the reliable practitioner.

One line of music will contain a varying number of messages represented by the notation. Each message contains the name of the symbol, its pitch and length, not to mention interpretation. This is a challenging task for the brain and no hope for the fingers and instrument which do not have brains.

Extrapolate one such line to the length of the average concerto or symphony. If you have an error you simply correct the message. There is no need to become involved in hours of repetitious fruitless practice.

The best way to gather messages is slowly, and provided the epistemology of music is in place, the outcome will be successful.


This is the moment of truth when the gathered messages are sent to the instrument. Your performance rests completely on the quality of the messages you have loaded into your brain for the fingers to receive and execute. Without fear or favour, your instrument will demonstrate the quality of the messages. During performance the brain is functioning as a “ticker tape”, giving out a continuous stream of information to the final demonstrator, the instrument. The manner in which the information was gathered is vital to every performance.

Knowledge without understanding is very problematic. Epistemology is the world of knowledge, and logic represents understanding. Knowing and understanding are very different states of mind; there is a propensity to know lots of things and understand very little about them.

Logic introduces the processes that underlie skill, from origin to manifestation. Our society tends to place a value on knowledge which may be beyond its worth.

Practice the messages and make music; you are as good as your messages.




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