[Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion

mmorse at ca.inter.net mmorse at ca.inter.net
Wed Apr 8 08:01:18 PDT 2009

Quoting Fred Lerdahl <awl1 at columbia.edu>:

> Intuitions of tension and relaxation seem to be widespread if not  
> universal, and they are by no means confined to music. In our tonal  
> tension project, Krumhansl found mutually consistent responses using  
> two contrasting experimental methods, indicating that these  
> intuitions are robust.
   As the following list of greatly variegated musical phenomena  
suggest, the universality of "tension intuition" may be being  
purchased at the expense of jamming together disparate phenomena under  
a single rubric. If the tension of Akan drumming is differently  
constituted, [presumably, in the absence of detailed and  
adequately-defined empirical evidence] physiologically as well as  
acoustically, from gamelan pieces, rural blues, and Bruckner  
symphonies, what is it that makes a single noun applicable to the  
processes of all these musics? Is a singular concept really the way to  
go here?

> So I agree that tension applies to all kinds of music. It would be  
> valuable (if daunting) to investigate empirically how indigenous  
> listeners in different musical idioms register intuitions of  
> tension. Assuming consistent and robust responses, the modeling of  
> tension across idioms would require theoretical modifications  
> according to features of the idioms. For Machaut, for example, one  
> would alter somewhat both the pitch space and the measures of  
> surface dissonance. For Balinese gamelan, one would incorporate  
> timbral features; these might outweigh the role of a comparatively  
> simple Balinese pitch space. For West African drumming, a theory of  
> rhythmic tension would have to be developed (such a theory is needed  
> for standard tonal music, too).
   My own suspicion is that the experiential discrepancies in these  
musics cannot be resolved into any single model. Wittgenstein's notion  
of family resemblance would be a great help, conceptually--but would  
likely stymie rather than enable the "empirical investigation" of what  
is, in my view,the temporal processes of cultures.

MW Morse
Trent University
Pbgh, ON

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