[Smt-talk] Narrative/analysis (was theory of film music)

Ildar Khannanov etudetableau at gmail.com
Thu Jul 10 08:23:07 PDT 2014

Dear Dr. Dineen,

thank you for directing me to the article by Brian Kane. It is published in
vol,33, not 31. It is an interesting article, I should say. I can see how
its points may contribute into our discussion of narrative analysis. Few
things struck me as I reread it, though.

David Lewin's transformational theory is a powerful tool of analysis. There
are examples of late-Romantic harmony that can be easily analyzed in this
paradigm. However, I would share Brian's concern about the necessity to
entangle this approach with phenomenology.

A major point of Lewin's "phenomenology" (I put it in brackets the way
Brian does) is to prove that a chord (a note) does not have its unique
meaning outside of context. This is an old Schenkerian view. It is also an
old scientific systemic and organic understanding. However, it is
incompatible with phenomenology. I am not saying that it goes against early
Husserl, or late Merleau-Ponty. No, it defies the major point of the whole
project of phenomenology!

Brian mentions that Lewin was against treatment of a chord as a "reified
entity."  In the pathos of phenomenology, res--the thing itself--has its
meaning INDEPENDNTLY of any context, especially, of the context of
scientific logic. Thus, a chord MUST be reified! A tone must be reified as
well (see how Husserl describes melodic tone in Texte zur innere
Zeitbewussein). Melodic tones sink into the flux of time; there is no goal
at the end of melody.

The conceptual background of transformational theory is well-known. It is
group theory, which is applied, among other fields, to crystallography.
Lewin suggests the logic of transformation and maintains that this logic is
more substantial than the objects it operates with. He slightly pushes
Riemann in this direction ("Riemann did not quite worked out
transformational character of his theories"), but Riemann was not
transformationalist. His view of a function--as function, is
phenomenological. In Riemannian tradition--and I have been trained in
it--it is exactly the opposite of Schenkerian--a function of a chord is
such because it is such. Subdominant is subdominant because it is
subdominant. Just as in early studies of Brentano and Husserl, color red is
red because it is red. It is not red because it is adjacent with orange;
neither it is red because someone perceives it as red in the context of
other concepts.

Tonal function is the thing in itself. It is a product of phenomenological
reduction, it exists in the world without the other, is the part of tacit
cogito, belongs to the Lebenswelt and Mutterleib. Voice leading context is
created by the impulses produced by function. Multiplicity of
interpretations, when they occur, are the cases that need phenomenological
reduction. Riemann mentions in his Musikalische Syntax that the f-minor
triad in the beginning of Appassionata is Tonic, although it sounds as
such, without reference points of other triads.

Logic, math, transformation would be curse words for phenomenologists.
Husserlian Logische Untersuchungen are not a treatise on logic, his
geometry is not geometry. Attempts to reconcile the two by Frege are
understandable, but he had to reconcile analytical philosophy with
phenomenology--a very difficult task of dealing with apples and oranges!

 It all started in an early publication of Husserl Phenomenology and the
Crisis of European  Sciences. Phenomenology is a desperate attempt to carve
a space for humanities and to escape from natural sciences; it is
anti-scientific by origin.

Thus, Lewin's theory is anti-phenomenological, it scares phenomenology as
garlic scares a vampire. There has been a time when many followed
phenomenology. I am not that enthusiastic about it: after all, logocentric
views remain solid and valid in the 21st century.

As for a narrative analysis, Brian's polemic piece is anything but a lovely

Best wishes,

Dr. Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
etudetableau at gmail.com

2014-07-09 16:47 GMT-04:00 Phillip Dineen <murraydineen at uottawa.ca>:

>  It would be difficult to define "narrative analysis," even in music
> theory, without some reference to the recognized field of structuralism
> with its basis in Saussure's observations of language, among other sources.
> Again, I'm not certain whether this would qualify to fit under the rubric
> of empiric that I think Bob was using. Little work on the relation of
> classical structuralism to music is available (to my knowledge) with
> notable exceptions such as the writings of Charles Seeger and Ed Cone
> tacitly (and Michael Kline's Spectrum essay from 2004?), or a long
> forgotten article by Ramon Fuller, in JMT back in 1975, which doesn't go
> very far. (This is not to say work hasn't been done on music and
> poststructuralism, quite a different matter.)
>  If we mean by "narrative analysis" a form of pointing from music to some
> corresponding discrete topical idea -- such as Tarasti's suggestion,
> mentioned by Nicholas -- I think this has little to do with structuralism
> after Saussure. And Bob would be correct in his intuitions, I believe, that
> this is not necessarily analysis as SMT-congregated theorists have done it
> with the use of graphs and pitch-class collectors.
>  It would be uneconomical to embark upon the analysis of film music only
> to learn after the fact that we were undertaking something like
> structuralist narrative analysis (or the musical equivalent of
> functionalism, after Radcliffe-Brown in anthropology, or Vladimir Propp
> [who reminds me of McHose, or vice versa]). We may be in an uneconomical
> position, having embarked upon the analysis of music, to learn after the
> fact that we have been doing structuralism (or functionalism). Brian Kane's
> "Excavating Lewin's 'Phenomenology'" from Spectrum 31, no. 1, would be a
> lovely antidote to that thought.
>  Murray Dineen
> University of Ottawa
> murraydineen at uottawa.ca
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