Re: Science, Knowledge, Understanding, Art and Wonder

Subject: Re: Science, Knowledge, Understanding, Art and Wonder
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Mon Sep 12 2005 - 17:59:52 EDT

Pierre Alexandre Tremblay wrote:

> I don't say that understanding something kills it. I just say there
> is no relation between composition and analysis: between
> expression/creation/inner necessity and understanding the inner logic
> of the language of somebody else. An intuitive general culture (ie,
> cinema, theatre, museums, dance, etc) is way more useful to a creator
> than a specific knowledge of a very narrow field of expression. (the
> language of Mr X. during its 4th creative period)

Imagine this: there's a kind of Urmusik out there, a sort of heavenly
platonic master music thing from which all music is derived,
expressing slight aspects of the whole.

This sounds very romantic but let's call this Urmusik "human
possibilities for music," reminding us of Valery's famous
"que peut un homme."

Or a little more concrete: there is a special powerful activity some
animals have, called "music," whose
specialization is both its limitation -- music can never be more than
music -- and its infinity -- a brain-specialized music
computing module able to create entire worlds in sound.

We can't study the module directly, as yet. But we can initimate its
nature by examining its best products.
The aim isn't to know "Mr. X." but rather an image of the neurological
substrate in which Urmusik resides.

Many composers of the past were keenly interested in this. Schoenberg
commented that Brahms, when
he hit some trouble composing, would reach over to his Beethoven and
look for an equivalent technical problem. He
would then absorb "the essence" of the solution, whatever that means.

Now let';s get more real: anyone with an intuition for music has
succeeded, at some level, into breaking music
down into its combinative structures and shapes. I was listening to Blue
Jay the wunderkind composer who writes
symphonioes at 10 yrs old. He just hears his music and writes it down. I
was neverthless aware of many complex
musical techniques which, thanks to my work in AI, I could name. I doubt
seriously that BJ names them as well. But
I know, all the same, that some part of him must have extrapolated
the "essence" from other music, and this, I think, is what analysis
really is. It's some aspect of the creative brain.

It's also very possible that what's referred to as "analysis" by the
academic music world is
completely unrelated to whatever it is that the brain does when it
enjoys a tune. I'm biased: I
have my own theory about this.

Successful analysis could means you know something well enough to
reconstitute it in a new composition, as Katherine
mentioned in regards l'sle joyeuse."

We probably all differ in our senses of "what it means to know something

In my view the best thing to expect out of a music education today is
that you exit "knowing
a few pieces."

Is this always helpful? I believe it is.

-- eliot

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b27 : Sat Dec 22 2007 - 01:46:10 EST