[Smt-talk] Geno- and phenotype musical structures

Victor grauer victorag at verizon.net
Thu Jan 17 07:51:35 PST 2013

At 03:07 PM 1/16/2013, Nicolas Meeùs wrote:
>Le 14/01/2013 19:08, Victor grauer a écrit :
>>For example, the sort of linear continuities 
>>emphasized by analysts like Schenker are hardly 
>>universal and can hardly be taken as standards 
>>of "excellence" outside a relatively narrow 
>>historical framework, within which such a standard developed as a tradition.
>Victor, I am somewhat surprized by such a 
>statement. There are many aspects of Schenkerian 
>theory that certainly cannot count as in any way 
>approaching universality ­ e.g. all what 
>concerns harmony, a phenomenon that is far from 
>universal. It seemed to me, however, that 
>Schenker's notion of "melodic fluency", which 
>would seem to involve "linear continuities", 
>could apply in many musical cultures. Several of 
>my Tunisian students have applied ideas of 
>linear continuity to the analysis of maqam 
>music, with a reasonable success, I believe.
>I am in general very much again the idea of 
>universals (in the philosophic meaning of the 
>term). I had thought, however, that melodic 
>fluency might be something strived for in many 
>musics of the world ­ even if musics do exist without it.
>Can you develop your idea?

You are of course right, Nicolas. Linear 
continuity and goal directedness are 
characteristic of many musical traditions, not 
only the Western liturical-classical tradition. 
And that would certainly be true of maqam music, 
as well as just about all other Arabic music  -- 
there is no reason to assume that a Schenkerian 
analysis would be inappropriate in that context. 
But when we look carefully at certain indigenous 
and folk traditions, especially in Africa, but 
not limited to Africa, and even certain 
traditions important in Medieval Europe, we see 
something very different. The African Pygmies and 
Bushmen, for example, sing in a type of 
"counterpoint" based on highly disjunct melodic 
motives, often infused with hocket effects. 
Strictly speaking this type of musical 
interaction should not even be called 
"counterpoint," since counterpoint as usually 
understood in the West involves the carefully 
controlled interplay of continuous, goal-directed 
melodic lines, each of which is intended to be 
heard as such, while Pygmy and Bushmen singing 
involves the juxtaposition of discontinuous lines 
to produce a resultant effect in which the 
individual strands can be completely obliterated. 
Moreover, as with many indigenous musical 
traditions, continual repetition, with or without 
variation, is the rule, sometimes continuing for 
many hours, producing a tonal effect that is 
clearly static, rather than goal directed, as assumed by Schenker.

As I argue in my book, this "Pygmy-Bushmen style" 
can be understood as prototypical for many other 
traditions organized along similar lines, such as 
the many hocketed vocal and wind ensembles we 
find in so many isolated refuge areas worldwide. 
For some striking examples in certain European 
traditions, see Chapter Twelve of my book 
especially Figures 12.5 through 12.7. Especially 
interesting in this respect is the 13th century 
motet Amor Potest, the concluding section of 
which is reproduced in Figure 12.8, which 
strongly resembles Pygmy and Bushmen music in its 
tonal staticism and obsessive use of repetition.

Victor Grauer
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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