Thursday, August 06, 2009


If you compose according to a strict plan, concept, idea, formula, how much variation or elaboration about that  idea, plan, formula, or concept do you allow?  One aesthetic pole would have the piece stripped down to the essence of the formula, idea, concept, or plan, allowing nothing more than that necessary to clearly and decisively project the concept, formula, plan, or idea.  The aesthetic approach polar opposite to that would strive to hide any overt signs of the formula, plan, idea, or concept, or even frame the whole plan, formula, concept, or idea within a larger musical context.  Of course, most real compositions will settle somewhere in the mushy middle between these two poles, allowing the concept, idea, plan, or formula to be accessible, if dressed up somewhat in ornament or affect or flowing along in some normative musical continuity, after all, in the end, and no matter what the idea, concept, plan, or formula, we are just making music, aren't we? But then again, isn't it pessimistic to assume that making music is, as a default, defined inertially, with respect to known or involuntary habits for articulating an idea, formula, concept, or plan. Isn't there something inherently weak (half-hearted, non-commital) about the overlay of a technical scheme onto otherwise conventional musical discourse in, say, the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra or Britten's The Turn of the Screw?  I'd rather go with the clear and overt presentation of concept, idea, plan, or formula in Reich's Piano Phase or Lucier's I am sitting in a room or Cage's Rozart Mix or Monahan's Piano Mechanics, each instances of optimistic assertions of the potential for music to do much more than that which habit leads us to expect.

1 comment:

kraig grady said...

As long as we don't confuse instinct with habit. The former draws upon a broader range of knowledge and experience. I can not see sticking to a formula once it is grasp or doesn't feel right. In the first case it leads to redundancy in the second a surrender to machine logic . Which admittedly we will sooner or later do as a species i am afraid.
There is something gained by writing using process to become blind drunk though. For example Cage's work and random outcomes can be intuitively grasp by us and reapplied making our habits evolve.
Once one cannot tell the difference between something produced by randomness and something we can do by taking it in from its
influence and reproduce at will maybe we need to move on.