Tonality, theory, consciousness, Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson (was: Re: Computer chicken))

Subject: Tonality, theory, consciousness, Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson (was: Re: Computer chicken))
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Mon Oct 03 2005 - 21:23:12 EDT

Too many posts from me. I mistakenly sent this only to K., but
perhaps I'd hoped to say something to the whole list.

Kevin Austin wrote:

> Perhaps it is partly a function of the precision and (pitch-based
> depth) of an individual's hearing. I read the above as a proposition
> that somehow "twelve-tone music" exists in some way such as "tonality"
> exists.

I never use the word myself.

> For me, tonality is a "structural process", and is about
> relationships, and the perception / mapping / interpretation of these
> relationships.

The problem we have in music theory is very simple. Devise a theory that
explains why one piece
is good and another less good. There's no such thing as a theory of
music that isn't, in the first place.
a theory of musical quality.

For instance I have, in my bathroom, a piece by someone named Henri
Faust called "Galop Unique." I
got it off some archive of old armerican pop music. It's a complete dud
and I've been sitting in the bath
looking it over, recomposing it in my mind, and trying to see exactly
what's wrong with it.

Yet the piece is tonal, pretty well locked into a few simple formulas.
So I know that the fact that the piece is
tonal does not account for the fact that the piece stinks.

The following elements are contributive to the general stinkiness of the
piece. The rhythm stinks. The melody stinks. The melody is shapeless.
Too often it just plays off the underlying chord.

Schenker thought that harmony determined music. Someone could prove this
to me by writing a program
that, working along those lines, got me something at the level of "o
canada.". Until someone
does this it's an open hypothesis. I have no reason to believe that
harmony is the principle shaper in music, or even an essential shaper.

What I believe is the evidence of music -- that you can get a good tune
going in 3 or 4 notes. I'm speculating:

music is connected localized phenomena. We have a fast memory that goes
for about 10 seconds tops that's
involved both in consciousness and in whatever perceptive processes
underly our appreciation of music. I can demonstrate this with a program
that works along these lines in case it is able to create the kind of
relation with complex formal elements that analysts like as a secondary
effect of a much smaller window of

One thing I would like to demonstrate is that complex or even meaningful
does not require the kinds of formal constructs that are passed off in
music schools
as contributive of a deep musical understanding.

-- eliot Ph.D., running his own school of thought as always.

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