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

Ildar Khannanov etudetableau at gmail.com
Sun Jul 13 21:31:35 PDT 2014

Dear Conor,

this is even better! Aristotle allows for the fourth cause--an homage to
Plato. In terms of our discussion, that would be the transcendental meaning
of a musical work. A composer always aims at such meaning. The question is,
should we, theorists, do the same? I agree with Murray that it is
uneconomical. It takes most of time and energy to analyze the score and we
often delegate the rest to the listener. However, the listener, after
reading our texts (if he or she manages to pull through professional
jargon) often fails to connect them to the musical meanings.

I, sometimes, brave into this territory (knowing that colleagues will not
tolerate it). E.g., the Barber's Adagio starts with the material
cause--elements of common practice, including the 4-3 suspension. Composer
applies the active cause; he rearranges it so that the suspension becomes
endlessly suspended (an anomaly for the common practice). This generates a
new form (formal cause). That form radiates light of polysemy, all kinds of
sensations, feelings, thoughts. One possible transcendental meaning of this
music I acutely sensed when visited Oklahoma National Memorial. I went
there; the Adagio was playing softly.   There is a black granite slab the
size of the building and a thin layer of water on the top. In a dusty
atmosphere of the Oki it looks like a huge eye staring into the skies. It
is covered by tears. Normally, tears come and go, they dry quickly. Here,
the tears flow and never dry. The suspended suspension in the theme of the
Adagio, for my ears, resonates with the never-drying tears.


Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
etudetableau at gmail.com

P.S. I liked the photo of you holding the two manifestations of the final

2014-07-13 16:55 GMT-04:00 Conor Cook <conor.p.cook at gmail.com>:

> 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
> music?
> Thanks,
> Conor Cook
> Music Director
> LaSalle Catholic Parishes
> LaSalle, IL 61301
> On Jul 13, 2014, at 12:56 AM, Ildar Khannanov <etudetableau at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 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
> savages.
> 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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