[Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion

Michael Gogins michael.gogins at gmail.com
Wed Apr 1 07:07:32 PDT 2009

> For testing whether a listener actually perceives tonal closure in m.
> 3, one might consider the following experiment, though it has a
> deficiency. Listen to the progression (1) as written above and (2) as
> a truncated version, breaking of after bar 2, beat 2. If one finds
> (1) embodying more convincing closure than (2), this speaks to
> prolongational perception. The deficiency in this experiment is that
> (2) does not include all the information that supports perceiving bar
> 2, beat 2 as subordinate to the surrounding dominant, since part of
> this information comes retrospectively through the return of V (2^)
> at beat 3. Nevertheless, even without this retrospective information,
> I find (2) less satisfactory than (1) in terms of closure.

I like the suggestion for experiment. Normally this kind of experiment
would be done using subjects who have some experience with Western
music. I would be extremely interested to hear of similar experiments
done with listeners from randomly selected musical cultures. I am
always wondering how much of this kind of expectation is culturally
learned, and how much is innate.

About recursion in music, I feel it is a good idea to keep in mind
that recursion can be used in generating form, or in recognizing form,
or in both, and in either case it is not always the case that the
recursion is obvious on the surface. All that is necessary is that the
generating or recognizing function call itself.

In composing, I have used recursive systems extensively, and with for
example a Lindenmayer system, it is easy to generate forms that are
audibly recursive, and almost as easy to generate forms that do not at
all sound recursive or that sound utterly random, although the
generators in all cases are completely recursive and completely

Michael Gogins
Irreducible Productions
150 West 95th St 4-D
New York NY 10025
Michael dot Gogins at gmail dot com

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