Re: Virtual Concerto

Subject: Re: Virtual Concerto
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 09:53:10 EDT

"Tonality" is one of those useful words with so many meanings that
discussions can easily become equivocal.

I agree with Handelman on this one, but I would not limit tonality to
"common practice harmony" or use of the major and minor scales or anything
like that. I would take it to mean "having a tone that is a center" and
Asian music certainly qualifies, while serialism is trying very hard and
perhaps sometimes succeeding not to do this.

Similar arguments can be made with respect to tessitura, dynamic range,
tempo, and meter, not to mention typical instrumental and vocal timbres.
There is a common vocabulary that is so common that, like the forest not
seen for the trees, it escapes critical notice. Why are notes so long,
neither longer nor shorter? There are physical and neural substrates to
musical perception. To deny this would be absurd. The question is to what
extent these substrates have a properly musical function, whether they
suggest musical vocabularies, whether they have higher-order implications.
I suggest that consideration of meter with respect to gait and dance, and
the possible elaborations of meter, shows very clearly that perceptual
substrates can have semantic implications. Another example would be rhyme
in poetry, which is a kind of music. And I certainly do think that tonality
is such a perceptual substrate that has many important semantic
implications - this is not at all to deny musical validity to atonal music,
which I love.

This is all extremely interesting with respect to computer music, since the
computer gives the composer an intellectual assist in identifying, working
with, and/or subverting these substrates and perhaps developing entirely
novel vocabularies that are still grounded in how people hear. I think this
applies both to "sound" and to "scores" although with a computer that
distinction is only one of many ways of dividing the pie.

Original Message:
From: Kevin Austin
Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 23:36:31 -0400
Subject: Re: Virtual Concerto

At 11:04 PM -0400 5/20/04, Eliot Handelman wrote:
>Kevin Austin wrote:
>>This is the opposite of the proposition made. Response to cultural
>>stimulus is learned. I meet many people who think that tonality is
>I don't think it is 'natural', but its immense popularity,
>historically, culturally, pop-culturally, film-musically,
>elevator-musically etc., suggests that its structure reflects
>dispositions that are enormously widespread. Not everything else is
>equally learnable.

I think partly of more than 2,500,000,000 people currently living in
Asia who may feel differently, and the hundreds of millions who lived
before 1600 CE who never experienced 'tonality'. For a sense of
oriental adoption (sic) of tonality, might I suggest half an hour
with the Twelve Girls Band.

Try tracks 13 and 15 for starters.

... and then there is Bollywood

We may find that western european musical influence will wane rapidly
in the next 50 years as the east adopts and adapts western idioms.

>For instance, Beckett makes direct sense if you've ever encountered the
>kind of bleak reality he describes, in which nothing is ever really
>learned anyway. Some people might confuse this with high culture.

Waiting for Godot is a play in which nothing happens. Twice.



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