Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson

Subject: Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson
From: lawrence casserley (
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 16:34:49 EDT

On 4 Oct, 2005, at 18:42, Richard Wentk wrote:

> Most verbal narratives, in the sense of novels, dramas, films,
> mythologies, and so on, aren't just stories with characters and some
> kind of a plot. The defining element is that they're really *fables*
> with a definite moral premise.
> The narrative exists to communicate and illustrate this premise, and
> not as a structural entity for its own sake. (If you study fiction
> writing this one of the first things you learn.)
> A surprising amount of writing, from journalism to novel writing to
> literary criticism, has this idea as a basis. It's not just about
> creating structure and dynamics for the sake of it, but about
> suggesting that the world is a certain way and that there's a right
> and useful way in which to relate to it.
> Now, the author may be dead [tm], and this doesn't mean that verbal
> narratives are accurate or reliable or can't be questioned. That's a
> different topic.
> But it does mean the foundation of verbal narrative and musical
> narrative can't be so very closely related. Because creating a fable
> to communicate a premise in this way through sound alone (never mind
> song, which is a hybrid form) is something that doesn't seem quite so
> fundamental in composition as it does in story telling. And it's
> certainly not the same as creating perceptual tension in the abstract
> and suggesting possible resolutions to it.
Perhaps a good illustration is in the world of opera, and its various
subgenres (operetta, musical, etc), most particularly (but by no means
exclusively) in late romantic Italian opera (Verdi to Puccini). The
text provides the explicit narrative, but the music establishes another
kind of narrative, in particular the inner feelings of the characters.
The expressive aria or the dramatic ensemble express emotional levels
that are not explicit in the text itself. OK great actors can bring out
these elements in, for example, a Shakespeare play, but Verdi's Othello
narrates underlying emotions in quite a different way. I think this
_implicit_ sense of narrative is something music can be very good at,
but is this only possible in the context of an explicit (textual)
narrative - cf romantic "tone poems" - or is this idea of "inner"
narrative something that can be implicit in music without an explicit



Lawrence Casserley -
Lawrence Electronic Operations -
Colourscape Music Festivals -

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