Lester Allyson Knibbs, Ph.D.
Music, Mobilization & Strategy

The Power of Intelligent Listening
With the Name of the Gracious and Compassionate Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
How does music relate to strategy?
In recommending that African American men listen to symphonic music, I am not suggesting that we stop listening to other kinds of music.  In fact, I am suggesting that we start listening.  Most people not only do not listen to music; they have lost the faculty for listening to music.  They are able to react emotionally, but they cannot actually hear.  So, start listening.  It's work.  Listen to swing, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, rhythm and blues, soul music, rap, gospel.  Listen.
In recommending that African American men listen to symphonic music, I am not recommending that you listen to opera.  If you like opera, fine, that's your business.  But the strategic advantage I'm discussing comes from listening to symphonic music, an almost entirely instrumental (not vocal) repertoire composed between 1700 and 1900 (for the most part).  I'll be discussing details of specific works as we go along.  These web pages are the initial stage of a work-in-progress.
Next:  "Going in Circles"
Music is a language, a precise and sensitive language, and not a universal language (whatever that means).  You need to actively and intelligently listen to music in order to learn its language.
Language is symbolic.  No language is literal.  Mastering language is the mastery of symbols and the mastery of translating those symbols into other symbols.  The words moon in English, luna in Spanish and qamar in Arabic all denote that object in the sky, but the object itself is a symbol, with many meanings.  A description of the battle of Gettysburg uses symbols (words) to describe that event, but the event itself is a symbol.  A businessman or a politician might be able to use the battle of Gettysburg as an example, a symbol, of what can be done in his own field of endeavor.
By way of illustration, in many symphonies there is a traditional "staging area" just before the return to the main theme (the "recapitulation").  This is true of the first movement of Beethoven's third symphony and the first movement of Brahms's first symphony.  The first movement of Beethoven's ninth symphony has no staging area before the main theme returns.
In military strategy, southern England was the staging area for the Normandy Invasion, and the hills around Makkah were Prophet Muhammad's staging area for taking that city (without a fight, which is the value of good strategy).  The Zulu were known at times to run into battle without stopping to regroup - no staging area, a strategy for catching your enemy off guard.  At the battle of Isandhlwana, the Zulu parked their army in a totally unexpected location, an unusual staging area, unbeknownst to the British force that they subsequently annihilated.  A musical counterpart is found in the first movement of Tchaikovsky's sixth symphony which uses a non-traditional staging area seemingly far removed from the home key, but then in two or three smooth steps - swoosh - we're back at the main theme in the home key.  Strategy means catching your adversary off guard.
(A work-in-progress.)
(Last update:  December 9, 2003)