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[Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created



I was delighted to read and ponder Larry's comments, and will try to speak
to the points I feel most clear on.

First, parenthetically: As people likely understand, when musicians say
"interpret", the word has a specialized meaning. That is, more the way a
builder interprets a blueprint or a chef interprets a recipe. I have
studied and applied some of Heinrich Schenker's musical hermeneutics within
music theory. These help musicians understand how tonality is heard over
the long, immediate, and middle-ground time-scales of a piece. But when I
interpreted Bach's cello suite in G last night, it was to imaginatively add
color, pacing, line, and articulation to his charts of rhythm and pitch.
This thread has worked its way through some impressive semantic thickets,
so please howl if I am inadvertently making them any deeper.

Objective links between music and time include vibration - anyone playing
or singing concert A is making air oscillate 440 (and its multiples) times
per second, meter (cycles of numbered beats), rhythm (patterns of stressed
/ unstressed, short / long sounds), form (recurrence, divergence and
adaptation of musical gestures), and stylistic era. It may well be that
part of the power of music to arouse and soothe feelings, relates to the
great range and depth of our time-scales it can engage.


Subjective links include the recall of past hearings / events and their
contexts and moods, wishes (fond or embarrassed) for future do-overs,
recognition of parallels / quotations / parodies, or the desire to begin to
dance, march, or otherwise enact what the music “suggests”. In this it
strongly resembles the flavor of Proust’s madeleine.


The threshold of cacophony, whether of ideas or tones, is not a unitary
place. Admirers of Stravinsky have had since 1911 to chuckle over this
sadly anonymous bit of doggerel:

Who wrote this fiendish "Rite of Spring"?

What right had he to write the thing?

Against our helpless ears to fling

Its crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang bing?



And then to call it "Rite of SPRING,"

The season when on joyous wing

The birds melodious carols sing

And harmony's in every thing!



He who could write the "Rite of Spring,"

If I be right by right should swing!

(Those with any doubts that such arguments go back centuries, may enjoy
Nicholas Slonimsky’s “Lexicon of Musical Invective.” Some of the most
beloved works we now treasure, emerged to very harsh reviews.) Some prefer
Mendelssohn, or Nine Inch Nails. Surely this is a matter of personal taste,
and one’s expectations of what constitutes listenable complexity versus
noise.


The question of understanding intent, touches on a lecture I heard Elliott
Carter give at Sarah Lawrence in the late 1970s. During the Q&A a baffled
woman in the audience asked him the classic question, “but, Mr. Carter,
what does your music mean?” Quite readily he responded, “if the music had a
meaning in words, I would have written an essay instead of a piece.” There
is a level of wordless mystery to musical intention that inheres in music
itself.


That said, the case of the finale of the late Brahms Fourth Symphony, and
connections to and within Bach’s early cantata 150, “Nach dir, Herr,
verlanget mich” suggests much about both composers’ intentions. Briefly,
the cantata is in seven sections. The first uses a well-known yearning
gesture (also found in Purcell’s “When I Am Laid In Earth” and numerous
earlier works) of a leap up then a slow descent. The last, a set of
variations on a repeated bass, uses a text of Christian hope, and turns the
gesture upside down, into a leap down then a slow rise. The final chord is
in major.


Brahms studied, arranged, and edited Bach’s works. In the last movement of
his last symphony, also a set of variations on a repeated bass, Brahms
clearly speaks of final things. The bass is now a reverse of the longing
figure: a slow rise to a leap down. There are many shades of dark moods in
the variations, and at times a sense of looking back. A sweet, major-key,
pastoral scene unfolds but never resolves, it is clearly cut short. Then
the opening minor-key music returns with a fierce energy and a sense of
implacable fate. It does resolve, with an almost cruel briskness, but stays
in minor.


My sense is that Brahms has built on Bach’s practices and symbols, to
construct music that speaks and stands on its own. If the listener to the
symphony also knows the cantata, there are extra layers of meaning to
savor. But Brahms was a realist facing personal mortality, not a believer
with hopes in the beyond. So he offered his own message, not that of the
music he borrowed and modeled from.

On Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 4:18 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> Michael, Daniel,
>
> As I was reading this thread I was asking the same question about the theme
> of "progressions" as deep pattern perceptions across modalities. Michael
> wrote:
>
> "Yet for whatever reasons there don't seem to be attempts made to maintain
> these connections, recognize that these are variations on a theme - that
> perhaps are made richer by understanding the relationships between Lewin's
> "progressions" and Cobb's "progressions."   It is the Internet that helped
> me tie these things together - but when does the ability to tie ideas
> together lead to a cancophany of sound that overwhelms rather than supports
> our mission"
>
> This general question of "themes" that run through deep pattern perceptions
> [as background that recedes towards invisibility] but is NECESSARY for the
> various "progressions" to proceed.
>
> Daniel's answer that carries forward the conversation was thought
> provoking:
>
> "So we navigate connections between works by seeing likeness and meaning in
> them. People will listen for such meanings, just as we see faces in clouds
> and constellations in the night sky - our minds seek them out even when
> there is no original formative intent. As a musician I feel that people
> with musical training, sensibility, and feeling should have something to do
> with making meaningful connections happen"
>
> I want to highlight [bring to the fore] the comment "our minds seek them
> [likeness AND meaning] OUT even when there is no formative INTENT"  The
> question I play with is the relation of "intent" residing invisible AS A
> THEME [in the way Michael used this term] with multiple "progressions" but
> with the "moves" constrained and CONTAINED within this THEME.
>
> Now "intent" also may be perceived as the individual "listening for such
> meanings" [progressions on a THEME] just as we see "faces in clouds"
> [imaginal presences] that are NOT REALLY THERE and are "fictive" and
> "created".
>
> The question of the link between "intent" that resides in the individual
> imaginal realm AND the link that resides in deep pattern perceptions that
> "run through" THEMES.
>
> "thinking" and "thought" as "intent" seems to have this PRO-found "link"
> that has an imaginal ASPECT [creative, imaginal, phenomenological] and
> also thinking and thought has this deep pattern recognition that
> "progresses" WITHIN THEMES.
>
> I will pause here but I hear the same question in David's recent post on
> "chess" and movement  of the pieces constrained and contained by NECESSITY
> within THE "progressions" on a "theme".  This question of temporality and
> duration [deep pattern time AND phenomenological in the MOMENT event time
> that are LINKED.
>
> Daniel, I agree that people with musical training sense-ability and feeling
> [for moods]  should have something to do [and say] with making meaning
> connections happen.
>
> I would add a question exploring  "progressions" as having various
> qualities of expression as they are EX-pressed with "intent".
>
> Progressions may include BOTH  spatial connections and temporal
> connections at different "scales" [double meaning].: For example -
>
> * narrative dynamics expressing INTENT [as progression in dimensional
> time and space which is the more common sense experience of
> "progressions" THIS expression may include the "themes" that are invisible
> in the background while the progressions are expressed in the foregoround
>
>  AND
>
> *  "event" dynamics that may have a different "quality" or "character" or
> "value" within our expressions. in contrast to "narrative
> dynamics" Expressions such as the event of "faces in the clouds" that "show
> up" and have a quality of being immediate AND."im-pressionistic expressions
> happening in the "moment".
>
> WHAT is the "link" and HOW do we understand the "intent" of these various
> pro-gressions [in time and space]?
>
> I hope this stream of reflections is a "progression" on this theme and not
> mere cacophony.
>
> Larry
>
>
>
>
>
> On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 12:39 PM, Daniel Hyman <daniel.a.hyman.0@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Hi, Michael -
> >
> > Now that I've read the Times Spotify article and re-read your posts, I
> > think I'm a little closer to grasping your point.
> >
> > Classical musicians as I am and as I know them, often see parallels
> between
> > music and wine. A work is not just a series of sounds - it's an
> experience,
> > hopefully highly pleasurable, conveying character, origin, context,
> skill,
> > refinement. Rarity and effort are not disadvantages but badges of value.
> > And the "label" and atmosphere, terroir if you like, are key to
> > understanding and enjoyment.
> >
> > The Spotify article seems (to me) not so much about music as about the
> > music distribution industry. And that they are trying to go well beyond
> the
> > idea of disintermediation. Can you picture millions of bottles of wine,
> of
> > all different origins and levels of quality, hooked to the same
> industrial
> > network of pipes? The consumer opens a tap (one for red and one for
> white,
> > I guess) and has no idea what comes out. At first I felt that Spotify's
> > concept of using common threads of mood could only be good for classical
> > music, which is normally so underrepresented. But I didn't see any
> > classical examples named in the article, so perhaps not.
> >
> > That said, Schubert and Mahler happily used Ländler (country waltzes) in
> > their instrumental works, Bach adapted Palestrina's "stile antico" in
> his B
> > Minor Mass, Stravinsky famously said that good composers borrow, while
> > great composers steal, a very large part of the hip hop genre seems to
> > consist of samples taken from earlier recordings, much of George
> Gershwin's
> > "serious" work has flavors or styles of jazz, medieval French church
> > composers overlaid popular tunes with liturgical words and learned
> > counterpoint - music has been re-emerging in such ways for centuries if
> not
> > millennia. But such expropriations have usually been taken as having
> > meaning and purpose, drawing parallels in the manner of intentionally
> > constructed similes and metaphors. I haven't been on Spotify lately to
> > sample the connections described in the article. But these music
> > distributors seem to be joining materials together in a way that seems
> > pretty random, or at least superficial, to a musician.
> >
> > So we navigate connections between works by seeing likeness and meaning
> in
> > them. People will listen for such meanings, just as we see faces in
> clouds
> > and constellations in the night sky - our minds seek them out even when
> > there is no original formative intent. As a musician I feel that people
> > with musical training, sensibility, and feeling should have something to
> do
> > with making meaningful connections happen.
> >
> > On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 7:04 PM, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > Hi Daniel and Valerie and whoever else might be interesting,
> > >
> > > I guess my original point was only using the idea of breaking down what
> > > are perhaps artificial barriers between music as a vehicle.  That often
> > > times differences between pieces of music, ideas, concept, research
> > > methodologies (I'll get to that in a minute) are variations on a theme.
> > I
> > > know emergence is a big topic, but is it possible what we are really
> > > talking about re-emergence, take a created artifact that already exists
> > and
> > > applying it to a specific context, need, trajectory.  But by allowing
> > > ourselves to maintain the ties to the earlier variations of ideas they
> > > become richer and more easily manipulated in their re-emergence.  If
> you
> > > are listening to a pop tune and are then able to tie the chord
> > progression
> > > back to an earlier more complex jazz piece or classical piece it makes
> > the
> > > experience (at least for me) much more enjoyable.  The few times I have
> > > been able to do it, or more often had it pointed out to me, it was
> > > thrilling.  It means giving up a certain amount of ownership and/or
> > > tribalism.  And I have been wondering if the Internet will break much
> of
> > > that down because differentiation can so easily be put in the hands of
> > the
> > > user.  Or do we need these social categories to give our thinking
> > > structure, to make sure it doesn't go flying in different directions.
> > How
> > > much is too much?  What is the right balance between the centripetal
> > forces
> > > of social categorization and the centrifugal forces of the Internet and
> > the
> > > choices it places directly in the hands of users.
> > >
> > > Anyway this perhaps is something I have been struggling with over the
> > last
> > > few weeks.  For a number of reasons I have been looking into this new
> (or
> > > not so new) phenomenon of design experiments.  I think some people on
> > this
> > > list may have more knowledge than me on it.  But for the life of me I
> can
> > > tell the difference between design experiment methodology and Lewin's
> et.
> > > al.'s early action research approach.  And reading Cobb's original 2001
> > > article it seems both can be traced back to Dewey's book on Logic (I'm
> > > pretty certain action research can and Cobb's article reads like a
> Cliff
> > > notes of Dewey's book).  Yet for whatever reasons there don't seem to
> be
> > > attempts made to maintain these connections, recognize that these are
> > > variations on a theme - that perhaps are made richer by understanding
> the
> > > relationships between Lewin's "progressions" and Cobb's "progressions."
> > >  It is the Internet that helped me tie these things together - but when
> > > does the ability to tie ideas together lead to a cancophany of sound
> that
> > > overwhelms rather than supports our mission.
> > >
> > > So that is a long way of saying, how does this simple article on
> Spottify
> > > makes us think about both the bood and bad of connections - the thrill
> of
> > > recognizing the connection, the danger of being caught in the web
> > (forgive
> > > the pun)?  How do we navigate it?
> > >
> > > Michael
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: xmca-l-bounces+mglassman=ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
> > > [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+mglassman=ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu]
> On
> > > Behalf Of Daniel Hyman
> > > Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 3:24 AM
> > > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created
> > >
> > > As a music educator and (mainly classical) musician, I'm delighted to
> see
> > > a musical topic here, even though I sense a web of somewhat misty
> > questions
> > > rather than one discrete one. Anyone's help in clarifying them or
> parsing
> > > them out would be much appreciated.
> > >
> > > Most Aprils (Jazz Appreciation Month in US schools) I have taught from
> a
> > > 2000 PBS video, Preservation Hall: A Night In New Orleans. It
> > intersperses
> > > various early jazz genres, e.g. 12-bar blues, ragtime, marches, gospel,
> > > with brief bios and interviews of the band members. Nary a mention of
> > > activity structures giving refuge from oppression, though they are
> > > generally literate and university- or conservatory- trained. What I do
> > > glean is more along the following lines:
> > >
> > > - Certain instruments, such as trumpet, clarinet, or singing voice,
> > > produce one tone at a time and thus lend themselves to melody (unless
> > > combined in big-band format, which Preservation Hall is not). So one
> > looks
> > > elsewhere, to upright bass for chord root tones, and
> piano/banjo/guitar,
> > > for instruments that can play 3 or 5 or 10 chord members at once. Those
> > > musicians carry the role of setting the chord progressions the others
> fit
> > > into or around.
> > >
> > > - As to some extent with classical genres such as symphony, ballet,
> > opera,
> > > or chamber music, the venue and the genre connect, and somewhat govern
> > the
> > > sound. Ragtime originated in brothels, blues in bars, gospel in
> churches,
> > > marches gave celebrants or mourners a beat to set their pace. Listen to
> > > "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" and you will hear chromaticism not
> wholly
> > > unlike what Bach did with the simple Lutheran tune "Sleepers Awake".
> The
> > > tempo resembles blues but the chord progressions are more complex.
> > >
> > > - Jazz is a family of styles; blues and its close relatives /
> descendants
> > > are usually considered within that family.
> > >
> > > - Most accomplished musicians can switch styles; they may be famous for
> > > one or another, but the exact style varies from song to song and
> > > performance to performance.
> > >
> > > Thoughts?
> > >
> > > On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 3:18 AM, valerie A. Wilkinson <
> > > vwilk@inf.shizuoka.ac.jp> wrote:
> > >
> > > > Hi!  I am doing one of my dives from the abstractions of General
> > > > Systems Theory.
> > > > Actually, since I am always "on the fly" I don't have time to write a
> > > > well-developed thought this time, either.
> > > > When I read Aristotle's Categories at school, the first part of the
> > > > work is essential. It sets up the frame. Essence or accident, a
> > > > singular representative of a species - or the whole. (I can see that
> > > > I've set up a bit of homework for myself) In that work, it sticks out
> > > > like a sore thumb that the list of "categories", when we finally get
> > > > around to it, is made of incidental and accidental "properties."
> > > > Color and length don't tell one much about the animal.
> > > > Being a generalist means I'm not going to dig in deep here.
> > > > But in this short (so far) thread, Huw has replied with
> > > > circumstances/environmental conditions being causal, whereas Michael
> > > > starts out with looking for some fundamental sense in the progression
> > of
> > > chords.
> > > > (Harmonics is an ancient thread)
> > > > Michael's first observation, that categories, which "someone" sets
> up,
> > > > seem provisional but are soon treated as set in stone...
> > > > And he said, "Not only for Jazz ..." (Even right brain (RB)/left
> > > > brain(LB) are provisional distinctions in an extremely specialized
> > > > field.) Does "that's how humans think" cover the topic?
> > > >
> > > > It's a rabbit hole. Gotta git before anyone asks me any questions!
> > > >
> > > > -----Original Message-----
> > > > From: xmca-l-bounces+vwilk=inf.shizuoka.ac.jp@mailman.ucsd.edu
> > [mailto:
> > > > xmca-l-bounces+vwilk=inf.shizuoka.ac.jp@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf
> Of
> > > > Glassman, Michael
> > > > Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 0:43
> > > > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > > > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created
> > > >
> > > > Hi Huw,
> > > >
> > > > Just off the top of my head I would say the blues more so.  I wonder
> > > > if a music historian has ever taken an Activity Theory approach.
> > > >
> > > > Michael
> > > >
> > > > -----Original Message-----
> > > > From: xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13=osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> > > > xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13=osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of
> Huw
> > > > Lloyd
> > > > Sent: Wednesday, June 03, 2015 11:26 AM
> > > > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > > > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created
> > > >
> > > > The impression I have is that the roots of jazz stem from an abeyance
> > > > from culturally perceived unpleasant/oppressive conditions and that
> > > > patterns in chord progression would be derived from that activity
> > > > structure, not from anything inherent in the music per se, i.e. an
> > > orientation.
> > > >
> > > > Huw
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > On 3 June 2015 at 15:53, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>
> > wrote:
> > > >
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > > I found this article from the New York Times incredibly interesting
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > >
> http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/technology/personaltech/spotify-se
> > > > > es
> > > > >
> -a-future-where-music-genres-dont-really-matter.html?hp&action=click
> > > > > &p
> > > > >
> gtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=to
> > > > > p-
> > > > > news&_r=0
> > > > >
> > > > > Having developed a very nascent knowledge of music late in life
> > > > > because my daughter is studying to be a jazz guitarist and I don't
> > > > > want to feel like a complete idiot when I discuss one of her
> > > > > concerts with her - the article reminds me that we (or the media
> > > > > trying to sell us stuff) creates categories that then for some
> > > > > reason become set in stone until they aren't anymore (but the
> > > > > decisions always seem to come from some place else) and the ways
> the
> > > > > Internet may be changing that faster than many of us can
> understand.
> > > > >
> > > > > If you read the first paragraph and the children of the writer
> going
> > > > > through different types of music as a stream -  I wonder though if
> > > > > the writer has it wrong, that if you went back and listened closely
> > > > > you would find they shared chord progressions taken in different
> > > directions.
> > > > >
> > > > > I may have this wrong the way I'm talking about it (I can see my
> > > > > daughter rolling her eyes in my mind), but jazz has its developing
> > > > > chord progressions, blues has its chord progressions, they swap
> back
> > > > > and forth, rock and folk and new wave takes from both and from
> > > > > classical, and derivative pop takes and simplifies from all.
> > > > > Perhaps there is a natural flow as they move between each other,
> > > > > something we can never hear when there are strict category
> > > > > boundaries.  The steaming music phenomenon makes these boundaries
> > > > > transparent, almost as if they don't exist, so we traverse them
> > > > > without thinking we are making some type of transgression.  How
> will
> > > > > appreciation of music change when we don't have the gatekeepers
> > > > > (using Lewin's original
> > > > concept) determining what we listen to?
> > > > >
> > > > > This of course is not just music.  In the academy there has been
> > > > > greater and greater move towards particularization and strict
> > > > > boundaries - AERA isn't one big conferences but hundreds of small
> > > > > conferences.  Will the boundaries start to break down so we can see
> > > > > and appreciate the "chord progressions?"
> > > > >
> > > > > Interesting to me, wonder what others think.
> > > > >
> > > > > Michael
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> >
>