Re: Narrative and Semantic (I)

Subject: Re: Narrative and Semantic (I)
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 11:16:46 EDT

>Richard Wentk wrote:
>I'll be more convinced if you can offer examples.

I'm not trying to convince you. From your postings I deduce that you
believe your perception to be right, and, that it is shared by
others. I do not believe my perception(s) to be right, and I do not
believe it is /they are shared by others.

My world is very rich for having narrative in the BBC News,
Schubert's Erlkoenig, Sibelius's Nightride and Sunrise, Sibelius
Fourth Symphony, Shostakovich Fifteenth String Quartet, Dvorak
Slavonic Dances, Boulez Second Sonata, Nude Descending a Staircase,
Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Mark Rothko's The Omen of the
Eagle, Calder's Mobile (1941), Stockhausen's Studie I, and indeed in
a sunset -- whether visual or aural. (And, oh yes, I do have a
narrative for both the Montreal Metro and London Tube.)

My point has been that the construction of narrative is perceptual /
interpretive and unique to each individual.

There is an excellent student in my third year class ... well, that's
not quite right as they are all excellent, who created a voice study
entirely 'by eye'. A discussion ensued before the presentation as to
whether it was (even) necessary to listen to the piece.

It was decided that it was not necessary, for any text that was put
through the process he designed and executed would be "the same".
(The identity of the piece was in the algorithmic narrative, the
'sounding' being the surface representation of the process. See also
the Mozart Dice Minuets.) We listened to it twice (three times
perhaps?) and it was never the same.

At 11:11 +0100 2005/10/11, Richard Wentk wrote:
>At 05:28 11/10/2005, you wrote:
>>I don't agree with this statement. I find 'music' no more devoid of
>>explicit semantic content than verbal language.
>I'm finding it hard to imagine how a piece of music contains as much
>explicit semantic content as - say - the BBC news website.
>I'll be more convinced if you can offer examples.

>When I say explicit I mean of strictly limited ambiguity.

Again, we live in entirely different perceptual universes. I have the
inability (or lack the ability) to understand the concepts of
"meaning", "strictly", "limited", and "ambiguity". A demonstration of
my failing is my clear failure to buy into your proposed model of

For me, you propose a model of (one of many) reality/realities; for
you, if I understand you correctly (which I am clearly patently
unable to do otherwise I would have agreed with you years ago), your
statements are not about "models" of reality, but about real reality
really is, as it is.

I think you believe 'reality' exists outside, and I believe 'reality'
is an internal construct of each mind.

>Anyone can make up stories about music, including the composer. But
>it's astonishingly rare for the stories that listeners make up to
>match the ones that a composer makes up - unless there's a swathe of
>supporting *text* to explain what's going on.

Well, yes. That's my point. Stories do not have 'one' narrative. This
is (for me) a central component of analysis. In preparing analyses in
my classes, I do not insist that the student find the "correct"
interpretation, but rather that they be articulate, clear and
well-researched in the presentation of their position.

Although it is not often clear to first and second year students, my
educational philosophy is one of the development of processes of
understanding and articulation. A study of a wide range of
symbol-to-idea transducers has led me here ... first from
(articulatory) phonetics, to my painful (but not brief) encounters
with european languages (french thru bits of Russian), and my
Sisyphian task of studying Chinese calligraphy and vocabulary.

For a glimpse into the conditions of (dis)agreement about radical and
character formation in Chinese (making up stories), sample: Ping-gam
Go "What Character is That?", Wilder and Ingram "Analysis of Chinese
Characters", Harbough, Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary .

>Not so the BBC website. When it says 'Major earthquake in Pakistan'
>everyone with a basic grasp of English knows exactly what that means.

I have never visited a disaster site in a third world country. I am
unable to conceive of trying to move half ton blocks of concrete off
the faces of dying children. No, I don't even start to have a basic
grasp of what it means.

>Meanwhile if you want to argue this as consistency of subjective
>interpretation - well, that's very much the point.

Perhaps in the past decade and half I have spent too much time with
old people and living through the decay of many human mind and
bodies. I may have at one time supported your view, but I have had
experiences which deny the persistence and consistency of anything.
But that's _my_ shortcoming, and the shape of my head.



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