Re: A brief essay on development

Subject: Re: A brief essay on development
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Wed Aug 25 2004 - 18:24:29 EDT

Eldad Sabari wrote, quoting me:

> "an elaboration of existing music in the creation of new process that
> increases a sense of directional movement."
> A few questions:
> 1) could a sense of direction be created without elaborating existing
> music (without development) - say, by introducing new elements
> continuously?

That's a good question. There's a loophole in my statement about
INCREASING a sense of dm., so as to
distnguish a crescendo, which moves in that it gets louder, from, say, a
crescendo with a sudden burst at the
end, which could be sensed as a development of the preceding motion. In
other words, development is
a kind of second-order motion that takes place between comparisons.
{Then one can have second-order
developments, etc.) So I'm leaving it open as to whether motion itself
should be regarded as development. In
that case, my statement is consistent with the possibilities inherent in
your suggestion. But I think the real answer must
be a piece of music showing how this kind of non-developmental motion
could work.

> 2) perhaps introducing new elements continuosly will create a sense
> of movement, but not of direction - is direction important for our
> listening experience?

I think so, for a number of reasons. It seems to be an essential
component of storytelling, which seems to
be a base paradigm of thought or even perception. And I don't see in
what way a story that
completely lacked direction could be said to be a story at all. So
because we're all expert story-tellers,
we perhaps expect narrativity in human works, esepcially insofar as we
seek in them an acknowledgement
of our own stories.

A second issue is that a sense of
direction allows us to make abstractions of what we're hearing. These
abstractions help build memories about where we
were and a sense of expection in the need for resolution, the wish for
greater climax, etc. So it contributes
very strongly to our feeling about being within a piece, as opposed to
just hearing what's happening at the present
moment, which sounds a bit like Zen.

> 3) why?


> 4) could music be non-linear? say, like a painting where all the
> elements are available for us at once and we choose to view the
> painting either by looking at its entirety or by examining individual
> elements.

Well first of all, I think music IS non-linear. I disagree with the
Lerdahl and Jackendoff precept that music
is hierarchically organized. I see music as multiple process and we find
even in simple tunes groups of
purposes or transformations that are simultaneous or overlap in
non-reduceable ways. It's
just because we can't reduce music to a central meaningful assertiion
like "d major" that we're compelled
to experience it.

I may not iunderstand what you mean by non-linear. Should this be called
non-linear: a piece is ABC
and a listener hearing C is reminded of A

Your second idea seems to revolve around the problem of choice. Of
course everyone's free to choose
how they'd like to engage something. You could think about some piece,
for instance. Is thinking about
music a way of making music? Is it possible to make music that
elaborates upon someone's way of
thinking about a section of another piece? Can we go the whole hog, and
discover ways to transmit
music-thinking process, and would that experience be like music? This
seems to be related to your question.

-- eliot

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