Re: Fwd: from Eliot who ...

Subject: Re: Fwd: from Eliot who ...
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Sat Feb 05 2005 - 15:57:25 EST

Kevin Austin wrote:

>> EH wrote:
>> ... I personally have no real interest in "multi-channel"
>> productions. If you happen to dig this that's ok, we can agree to be
>> bored by each other's point of view.
> I have a number of specific interests that join here, a central one
> being the way the mind processes sounds in integration and
> segregation. Multi-speaker systems are almost ideal for this kind of
> study.

I agree that the problem is extremely interesting, but then we may have
different ideas about what integration and seg. might mean.
For me I think the crux is about things no longer heard -- in other
words, how we go from a sensory input array to an experience of big
chunks. All music begins wth our propensity to link things together
perceptually in such a way as to create a purely
brain based continuity. Without this, for instance, we wouldn't have any
kind of rhythm perception. AT higher levels,
ie, bigger tikme spans within which different kinds of continuities
emerge, all sorts of analogical and pattern-matching constructors
seem to be brought into play. Continuity is attained not merely as a
perceptual artifact but as automatic brain-constructed
narration. And this to me is the major event of our musical perception.

You might ask what does this narration look like -- if we were to
attempt to frame it in
terms that would seem to fully articulate the experience ofg a piece of
music. Is it, for instance,
like the story of Jack and Jill? Perhaps not. Is it necessarily
ineffable? Deryck Cooke didn't think so
-- though I'm just reading his book now and I must say that so far I
find it to be a crock. He thinks that
music basically is about arousing emotions, for which there is, he
thinks, a kind of musical language
of arousal. I think that music sometimes arouses emotion, but not
necesarily always -- even in Chopin
there's too much that seeems to be too indefinite in adding up to
"arousal" of any kind. But IU think he's
rigfht in addressing the issue of the existence, whentehr structural or
learned, of bigger elements of
musical interest -- what I call "shapes," The problem is how we connect
things, narratively or however -- and
that's what I mean by "integration." And if you asked me, I;'d say the
ideal way to study this is to
try to construct a computer model of music-narrating processes, and then
test that against music.
You might be able to get at this in other ways by studying spatial
perception of sound, but I think this
doesn't address our musically advantageous propensities.

> I have a number of ear-training studies that place a number of sounds
> in different speakers. At first the speakers are arranged in a spatial
> pattern, and are slowly moved closer together so that (possibly) at
> some point, the segregated quality becomes an integrated quality. (The
> reverse procedure is also possible.)
> My first application in this will be with four (or more) part harmonic
> dictation where each voice can be heard from a separate speaker to be
> able to learn how to clearly hear individual parts, and the whole.

What service is being rendered by this? Anyone can turn up and down a
slider on a midi sequencer and
isolate a voice. I don't see the advantage of placing harmony exercises
in space.
 Al. Bregman contended in his perception seminar that we
never hear more than one line at once -- we can shift our attention as
rapidly as you like but the operation
is still serial. What happens if we happen to knwo exactly what's
going on in the inside of a 4-part chorale? The
central problem for me is "what is a line from a musical point of
view," not "separate these things about
which I have nothing to say."

>> You ought to be teaching your students, Kevin, why, despite some
>> technical problems you see, Cardiff's piece is a GOOD example of
>> something that can compel the interest of a diverse audience in a way
>> that "listen to this sound" type music apparently doesn't.
> I would have liked the choir to sing in tune and the producer to
> figure out what kind of sonic ambience(s) was/were going to be
> present. I prefer success to failure.

we're talking about art fer chrissakes! You describe these in terms of a
business venture! There's no
:"success" or "failure" -- the very purpose of its existence is
indeterminate! When you lumber
in w\ith your audiophilic crits, you've reduced the piece to commodity
status -- you've dealt a way
of getting around an essential ambiguity in art -- "that it should be
well-written." This is such a
cliche, dismembered by Warhol and Rothko among many, and is so often
exactly the difference
between something engaging or meaningful and something else that's about
the demonstration of
your chops. It's just false to say "you cannot have art unless it's
technically well executed." Back in my
dayt at princeton, Bortez and Randall were adamant about cancelling out
everything in music that
spoke of technical skill. Jim had a great piece that he played on his
basement piano that
sounbded as though coming bfrom the broken-down beyond -- noit abou
getting a steinway, you see?

> I too felt that the work was over over-conceptualized and under
> materialized, but that may have been what it was about, in which case,
> a lot of money could have been put into other projects if there had
> been even more conceptualization and a great deal less materialization.

I s this resentment, Kevin? Is the world not big enough for this other
and better piece?

> If a sound artist proposed the equivalent quality of production
> control and "conceptualization" within the visual arts community, I
> don't think they would get through the door.

You're not suggesting tthat visarts is about technical execution? As for
conceptualization, I found it interesting --
whatever she herself says I'm always free to allow her work to touch me
in whatever way I empathize with.

-- eliot

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