Wednesday, April 28, 2010
V is for Velocity
The results of research into the physics, psychophysics and neuroscience of music are often fascinating, but also, as a practicing musician, often frustrating. This frustration is due, in part, to an inherent pessimism, in that the subject of research is typically constrained by existing musical repertoire and its material qualities and existing conditions for performance and audition. Far more interesting, for a composer like me, would be exploration of the potential and means for musicians and listeners to go beyond those constraints. It is one thing, for example, to determine limits for pitch perception under conventional listening contexts, but it is quite another thing to investigate ways and contexts through which these limits may be expanded. Further, there is a real frustration that much research — research in audio recording somewhat excepted — does not focus on issues of urgent compositional interest. For example, I would really like to know more about how fast a listener can take in and process musical information. In some cases — as real musical variety encompasses both clarity and opacity — the compositional interest is not only creating music which can be taken in and analyzed by a listener but also in making music which overwhelms the whole sensory and cognitive apparatus. It would be very useful to have more empirical insight into this issue.