[Smt-talk] digression: pulse & s-r & free will

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Thu Nov 10 05:38:57 PST 2011

Again thanks, Jay. Your reply focuses the argument succinctly. It is my contention that any conception of pulse (and, ergo, meter) based on stimulus-response will miss the quintessential generative dimension. We are able to dance with each other gracefully, or follow a singer's rubato, or articulate a premier coup d'archet smartly, not in response to an external stimulus but through a shared capacity for sharing time feeling. If spectacular examples of rhythmic interaction such as John Coltrane & Elvin Jones, or North Indian sitar music, or Akan drum ensembles, or Kodo drummers) make it obvious that a stimulus-response model is both too crude and causally misplaced to explain the behavioural phenomena, the truth is no less at work in a delightfully hideously out of tune 6th grade string ensemble: pulse internalizes an external phenomenon, but operates generatively. At the very least--and I think this lowballs the phenomenon gravely--pulse is a response that can continue indefinitely in the absence of the parent stimulus; and can, for example, modify and recover itself as the meter or tempo shift and return.
Your invocation of free will is provocative and striking, and I'm not sure quite how to deal with it. In general, pulse and meter behaviour present a more complex problem for models of causality (and hence free will/determinism) than some theorists may admit. Prima facie, the capacity for pulse generation is evidence, of a kind, for free will. The sheer variety of its spontaneity seems to speak in that direction. But that's another reason that I think some serious philosophical lifting needs doing here. I don't think it's possible to talk definitively about pulse and meter without resolving blatantly metaphysical issues like free will and spontaneity, at least in some degree. Attempts to staple the Bergson, Whitehead, Husserl, or Heidegger versions of time & temporality onto musical rhythm haven't really succeeded, despite some important insights. But I think that's in turn because these versions of temporality were largely formulated with minor attention at best to music--which was a grave mistake. Music is no coincidental bit of behavioural evidence to our experience of time, as cultures and even as a species. Leave it out of your formulation of problems like free will and time, and your results will suffer accordingly.
MW MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa
Date: Wed, 9 Nov 2011 15:02:15 -0800
From: jayrahn at rogers.com
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] digression: pulse & Pieces with improvisatory	openings

I wouldn't equate imagining with generating, if generating is meant to refer to something like 'free will.' In a classic behavioural account, the imagining in the experiment by Nozaradan et al. would be construed as a response to a stimulus, where the stimulus consisted of the instructions given to the participants (e.g., imagine accents on every 3rd tone) and the tones they actually heard.
Jay Rahn, York University (Toronto)
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