I remember my Latin professor laughing at a joke in Horace one semester as class began, and then asserting that the best way to recognize your fluency is when you “get the joke” in another language.
I was reminded of this the other day, when I was able to make some members of The Real Group laugh with a sentence I had learned from Duolingo: “Jag behöver en advokat!”
“Getting the joke” doesn’t need to apply only to humor – or only to languages. Part of how I can tell a student’s musical fluency is how well they “get the joke” in the music; that is, can they see the big picture, understand how the details and parts relate to one another, interpret with natural musicality, relate the music to other musical experiences?
All of those things, and more, are pat of “getting the joke” in music.
Until you can get the joke, you aren’t really speaking the language.