[Smt-talk] You say structure I say structuralism lets

Conor Cook conor.p.cook at gmail.com
Sun Jul 13 13:55:04 PDT 2014

It sounds as if this is related to the four causes: material, efficient,
formal, and final.  If I understand correctly, structure lies in the formal
cause, where the shape (formal cause) of the work is thus an ordering of
sonic elements (e.g. commands or suggestions for the production of sound;
material cause) made by a musician/composer/player/etc. (efficient cause)
for the purpose of creating music (possibly for a further purpose; final
cause).  The study of structure would take on the form of examining a means
of making sense of that shape, possibly postulating on the intention(s) of
the "composer," ultimately in order to situate the structural understanding
within the context of the whole set of causes.

For a gratuitous example, Jerry Goldsmith's sequence within *The Sum of All
Fears*, named on the album "That Went Well," (http://youtu.be/AcmU_yUD750).
 The basic structure begins with the unmetered evocation of that
ever-so-common generic Hollywood "ethnicity," followed by a distinctly
Russian (in Hollywood intention) melody, which within itself moves from
orchestration implying less-groundedness to firm-assuredness in its bass
pedal.  This is followed by more of the unstructured "ethnicity," that
gives way to a dry string motive that derives from the opening of the film,
followed by a low grumble of the Russian material.  This is of course a
blow-by-blow description of a piece whose form is constructed in service of
a fixed structure (the film).  Yet, understanding the progression of the
piece, as listened to by a film score enthusiast, provides a means into
examining this part of Goldsmith's contribution to the film score genre.

It is even possible to consider the composer's (efficient cause) intentions
in this matter, beyond the obvious need to accompany the film.  His music
is by its own merits expressive, an expression obviously tied to the scene,
but nevertheless independent, by simple virtue of the fact that it exists
on its own (through the mediation of part of the material cause, the album
and all that it entails).  Whether or not Goldsmith's intentions are
regarded, the music exists with its own internal structure (not the direct
final cause, but an element of it).

Of course, these thoughts do not in fact explore the expression to which I
allude, I think it is entirely possible to explore film music in this
manner.  The problem that I have been having with this thought process,
however, is exactly what I am trying to find.  Is there any reason that a
study of this nature could be self-sustaining, or must we be seeking some
further purpose for the investigation of the independent structure of film


Conor Cook
Music Director
LaSalle Catholic Parishes
LaSalle, IL 61301

On Jul 13, 2014, at 12:56 AM, Ildar Khannanov <etudetableau at gmail.com>

Dear Murray,

agree, ah those continentals! Reminds me the phrase from the Adams Family,
You're so continental ! addressed to a vampire.

That structure and function should be closer related and
examined--sure! Dokei d'autois arkhas einai ton holon duo: to poiun kai to
paskhon. to men oun paskhon einai apoioun ousian ten hulen, to de poioun
ton en aute logon ton theon. This crazy formulation was provided by Zeno of
Chitteum at the time when the Contintent to the West was populated by

The causes of the whole are two: the active and passive. The passive is an
unmade essence of hule (clay); the active is the words of god.

I guess, the structure (something that is built) is the product of active
cause (making) applied to the passive substance (clay, or, as in Latin
translation, wild forest, silva).

If I read your thought correctly, the structure is not a passive material
but the product of action (of function) on that passive material.
Unfortunately, music theorists often take structure for granted, as if
it were something given and passive by itself. Sometimes they even try to
dissociate structure from function (as in non-functional pitch centricity).
All our patterns, embellishments, collections and sets are clay in Greek
terms. They become structure only after function is applied.

Best wishes,

Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
etudetableau at gmail.com

2014-07-12 9:05 GMT-04:00 Phillip Dineen <murraydineen at uottawa.ca>:

>  Oh those stretch Continentals. What a hangover.
>  Presumably the structuralists were looking at some kind of structure.
> Perhaps historically the functionalists -- Radcliffe Brown, Propp? --
> stopped at that point, and concerned themselves with only the function of
> (structural) elements within a system. (Perhaps as theorists we're
> functional.) But following the insights of Saussure (or his students), some
> folks took that a little further, suggesting that the nature of the
> functional elements determined the structure (not vice versa, or maybe vice
> versa, or probably both -- I'm simplifying here).
>  I don't think most music theorists have gone that far, although it comes
> to mind that articles by Roland Jackson (ITO, mid 80's) and the late Chris
> Lewis (19thCM) might have touched upon structural thought. (I'm forgetting
> others, memory being a thing of the past.)
>  Cleaning the Derrida out of the way so I can get at the coffee.
>  Murray (dineen)
> University of Ottawa
> murraydineen at uottawa.ca
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