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This 50 message thread spans 4 pages:  < <   1   2   3  [4] 
  Re: Algebraic complexity in music  Misuc at 11:54 on 05 March 2010

Martin and Ian make an interesting point re Quantz' remark about earlier composers who wrote their adagios out plain and unormented "leaving for the performer what the composer should have done for himself" and about the composer's urge to have the last word.

There is a sort of rule that the ornamentation of one period becomes the compositional material of the next (cf Swing to Bebop)

The fight between composers, patrons and performers ('stars' also goes back a long way. Up to renaissance times the character and meaning of a piece, its phrase structure, contours, harmonies, its length and very existence was determined by the nature of the occasion - carnival or church service etc. and this depended on who was putting on the event and what for (to win land by marriage and put on massive banquets to impress would-be in-laws, to distract the mob, to retrench political, military and religious alliances etc. On the verge of the 'Classical' period Quantz was still putting great constraints on composers, giving them limits to how long their ritornelli should be, how complex their counterpoint, how chromatic their harmonies, how difficult their solos etc. as a matter of social courtesy: as though there were no distinction between musical aesthetics and etiquette. But within the court hierarchy (at Frederick the Great's enlightened court) he stood up for composer/musical director's rights. As the century wore on composers started to feel they could invent their own social context/history......

This is the problem we now face when we want players to be responsive to and to share some responsibility for the creative process. I too have tried to devise all sorts of ways of involving them. Apart from outright improvisation around motifs etc. I have sought to devise notions of tempo/rates of change that depend on players' mutual interactions and hardly at all upon a notional 'beat'. This can sometimes be quite easy to do 'live' on a comparitavely small scale, but is harder when larger scales, more compositional input and more notation is required. This is a feature of the divorce between player and composer: perhaps the price we paid for asserting our rights over performers....

  Re: Algebraic complexity in music  Zak at 21:28 on 06 March 2010

"But is "God Save the King(Queen)' a more interesting tune than 'La Marseillaise' [where there is no such 'schema'] ? There is no comparison between the staid and constipated anthem of stuffy Imperialists and the elan and brave, optimistic fervour of the greatest of national anthems, with its bold gestures and much more pregnant, unpredictable phrase-structure."

"Bold gestures" and "unpredictable phrase-structure" might be nice, but "La Marseillaise" seems too much to me--but somehow very French. I for one am quite happy with "The Star-Spangled Banner".

"...harmonising a folk song must usually destroy its complexity."

Sometimes, yes. Some melodies--folk or otherwise--just sound "better" unaccompanied or only very sparsely accompanied (a countermelody or antiphonal "echo" here and there, maybe--nothing that could give a clear sense of harmony), "Wayfaring Stranger" is very good example of this (sorry, don't have any links). However, I agree with Dr. Good that sometimes harmonizing a folk song can be interpretive, if done with a good ear and great attention to the melody--if it sounds to you like the melody has changed (or should change) tonality/modality, then let the harmony reflect that.

I must agree to an extent that simplicity can be complex. There are few things that can move one as much as a "simple" folk melody, or a melody over a pianissimo (or even pianississimo) harmonic background (the opening of Sibelius' Violin Concerto comes to mind), or a melody over a pedal chord or very slow harmonic rhythm. These could all be examples of "simple" music, if melody is the chief factor under consideration.

However, complexity can have a variety of meanings and manifestations, and there are various kinds of complexity. There is complexity in following a "schema", and complexity in not doing so. But, is it possible to not follow a "schema"? If you aren't following an existing schema, aren't you creating one of your own?

  Re: Algebraic complexity in music  Zak at 04:31 on 25 March 2010

Simple textures I should say. And of course the completely unaccompanied melody goes in there too. (The medieval church was certainly aware of the power of "simple" melody to move to contemplation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haw_WJGOi-0&NR=1)

I suppose this really is about the complexity of perception, though, and that is a different issue that relies upon the complexity of the ear and brain; interesting, but probably useless. If I remember correctly, though, it has been discovered that at least one of the areas of the brain responsible for language is also in someway related to musical ability. Perhaps, then, Stravinsky was right, and music really is "incapable of expressing anything"; we simply perceive it as expressing something because of music's relation to language in the brain. Or perhaps music's relation to language is what makes it capable of expression. Irrelevent, of course, but interesting nonetheless.

  Re: Algebraic complexity in music  MartinY at 09:24 on 25 March 2010

Sorry I have been away from the forum for so long. Firstly scrap thieves have stolen our village's telephone cables so we had no internet or telephones for a week causing big problems like all the social services monitoring devices failing, though somehow the national lottery machine stayed working!? It is obviously so important it has a backup radio connection. Secondly I have been in France (but not to IRCAM...) though I walked down Boulevard Sevastopol.

However - Music as a language or not? Some musics as a language others not? It is a big and still controversial subject. Leonard Bernstein gave a lecture on it years ago and academics have still a little industry writing articles saying Berstein was wrong. I think we should start a music as a language? thread. I have lots of things to say, including something about complex numbers but I think that should go in Spectralism because it is probably the case that serious spectralists should know quite a bit about complex analysis whether they want to or not.

  Re: Algebraic complexity in music  Zak at 09:00 on 01 April 2010

Musical language...

There have been attempts at creating a musical language before. See:



There are some obvious comparisons between music and language--motives could be compared to morphemes, pitches to phonemes, and rhythm, timbre, dynamics, and articulation would be the phonetic aspect--, and by the simplest definition language is music. But is music language? I would have to say no because music lacks anything definitely comparable to syntax in a linguistic sense, and it is syntax that differentiates language from forms of communication like pidgins and animal calls which have only semantics. But not all music even has semantics, so the music/language comparison only goes so far.

This 50 message thread spans 4 pages:  < <   1   2   3  [4]