Sunday, August 05, 2007

Flocking Counterpoint

Talking about music is largely a search for the right metaphor. Take counterpoint -- how can counterpoint be described in a non-trivial but immediately vivid way to the layman? It's more than just a bunch of sounds going on simultaneously; the sounds within the ensemble are connected in a non-random way, and the ensemble as a whole has direction. Arborial branching is one favored metaphor, and some countrapuntal ensembles can indeed be described in terms of roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. But not all counterpoint is centered about a stable trunk. A better metaphor is flocking, motion like birds (or, undersea, like fish in schools). Of course, you're free to stretch the metaphor however you please, representing the three dimensions of flight, the changing leaderships, speeds, etc. in whichever musical parameters you'd like...


Charles Shere said...

Wasn't it Mahler who said, on listening from a hilltop to the cowbells, the village musicians, the distant railroad train, the wind, two or three unrelated conversations in "the background,"

There... that is the true counterpoint!

Or something like that.

Hucbald said...

I though for a second that "Flocking" was a substitute metaphor itself. ;^)