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

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Thu Jul 10 10:53:14 PDT 2014

Ildar, Murray,

Could you make more explicit what you understand by "phenomenology" or 
"structuralism", or in what sense you think that your understanding can 
substantiate your claims?

As to Husserl's /Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren 
Zeitbewußtseins/, it seems to me that on the contrary in might be shown 
to support a transformational view, as for instance when he writes:

    Erst dadurch, daß jene eigentümliche Modifikation eintritt, daß jede
    Tonempfindung, nachdem der erzeugende Reiz verschwunden ist, aus
    sich selbst heraus eine ähnliche und mit einer Zeitbestimmtheit
    versehene Vorstellung erweckt, und daß diese zeitliche Bestimmtheit
    sich fortgesetzt ändert, kann es zur Vorstellung einer Melodie
    kommen, in welcher die einzelnen Töne ihre bestimmten Pläne und ihre
    bestimmten Zeitmaße haben.
    It is only because a specific modification occurs, because the
    sensation of the tone, after the generating excitement faded away,
    awakens a similar representation provided with a temporal
    determination, and because this temporal determination is
    continually changing, that the representation of a melody is made
    possible, in which the isolated tones now have their determined
    plans and their determined temporal measure.

This I understand to mean that a melody can only be perceived as a 
melody (instead of a succession of isolated tones) because the 
representation one can form of each tone changes (is transformed) as new 
tones appear.

And later:

    Wir glauben eine Melodie zu hören, also auch eben Vergangenes noch
    zu hören, indessen ist dies nur Schein, der von der Lebhaftigkeit
    der ursprünglichen Assoziation herrührt.
    We think to hear a melody, that is, still to hear what is just past,
    while this is but an appearance that arises from the vividness of
    the initial association.

That is to say, it is the association of tones between themselves, not 
their mere succession, that allows to hear a melody [as melody].

I don't think that transformational grammars developed from group theory 
(even if Lewin might have been influenced by it, I don't know). They may 
have an indirect origin in the linguistic notion of transitivity, i.e. 
the idea that one element (e.g. a word) acts on another. I am of the 
ones who believe that, in a perfect cadence V–I, it is the dominant that 
determines I to be the tonic, and the tonic that determines V to be the 
dominant. Without this transitive relation, the same movement between 
the roots remains possible, but does not produce the tonal effect (as 
may be the case, say, in Renaissance polyphony). You are right, though, 
because the transitive relation is possible only because V is a dominant 
and I a tonic: it is the paradox of the whole affair. We are dealing 
here with explanations, which of necessity stress one or another aspect. 
But I don't think that any of them is incompatible with phenomenology.

Nicolas Meeùs
Professeur émérite
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 10/07/2014 17:23, Ildar Khannanov a écrit :
> [...]
> 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. [...]
> The conceptual background of transformational theory is well-known. It 
> is group theory, which is applied, among other fields, to crystallography.

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