Archive for structure

Music: Melting Architecture?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I’ve noticed more than once that some people perceive two distinct kinds of music, which one might call “emotional” and “intellectual”. For instance, they might say that Fauré’s Requiem and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 are “emotional” and Stravinsky’s Symphony in C and Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge are “intellectual”. They might use different words but they still see two mutually exclusive camps.

I think this is not a valid distinction. All too often it tends to be “nice music I like” that’s in the former category and “shit music I don’t like” in the second. Some people are even disappointed to find that music has structure; they want it to be a profuse stream of unpremeditated melody. They’d be surprised, if not unwilling, to learn that Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata and Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2 have roughly the same proportion and density of melody and structure in them.

The idea that anyone would be disappointed to find that music has structure seems very stange to me, when those same people would presumably be less disappointed in the knowlege and acceptance that a painting, novel, building, play, sculpture, etc., has it – but there are all kinds of structures at play in a work of music anyway – harmonic, rhythmic, melodic, timbral – OK, some works are more overtly and consciously structured in one or more ways than others are, but that’s really rather beside the point.

When I compose the basic ideas just come straight into my head and for me it’s a highly emotional process, but at the same time you have to know how to put a piece together so, yes, the rational brain has to come into it otherwise what you write wouldn’t go anywhere and more likely than not would not make a satisfactory experience for the listener. The great composers have that special and rare ability to control and utilise both the emotional and rational and that is why their music is so satisfying and why it lasts.

I don’t accept that the composed and the constructed are somehow opposed categories. Unless one still buys into the ludicrous 19th century mythology of the composer waiting for some mystical inspiration, then simply committing this to paper – I doubt whether that could be said of almost any composer of note.

Both advocates and detractors of new music can frequently fall into the trap of judging new music in terms of how it was put together rather than what results.

Advertisements

This Modern Music

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

One of the key issues facing new music seems to be whether the use of orchestral sonorities or other manifestations of timbre provide the same expressive, structural or other possibilities as melody, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, etc.

When all is said and done, I’m not entirely convinced that, on their own, they do.

Debussy could make startling use of timbre as a structural device, but this was allied to many other melodic, harmonic and other processes. Whilst having a good deal of time for various musique concrète and other works in which timbre is central (though it’s worth pointing out how important rhythm often is to this type of music as well), I’ve not heard much music essentially based almost exclusively upon timbre and texture that has the potential to go beyond certain types of rather “archetypal” experience – powerful in their own way, but which don’t suggest much potential for further development unless other techniques are also incorporated.

%d bloggers like this: