Friday, April 30, 2010

W is for Words



Jo Kondo:  "I am interested in words more than in sentences, in sentences more than in paragraphs, in paragraphs more than in a whole page. Thus, it could be said that in music I am more concerned with each sound than with the phrases they create."

John Cage:  Empty Words. (Cage quotes N.O. Brown: "Syntax is the arrangement of the army"; removing syntax is demilitarizing language.)


Gertrude Stein: a sentence is not emotional a paragraph is


Charles Seeger's Dilemma:  that thinking and discoursing in the "language mode of communication" about the "music mode of communication" dominates, directs and, above all, limits research about music.

I work with sounds with the same pleasure that I take in kneading dough or riding a bike or walking early mornings with daughter and/or dog in tow.  But I wrestle with words, fool persisting in his folly, and more often than not — especially when the words should have something to do with music — something fails. Do words fail me?  Or have I failed to manage the words? 


In a recent comment thread here, Charles Shere mentioned OULIPO, the famous "workshop for potential literature."  The best work associated with the OULIPO — Queneau, Perec, Mathews — is entirely comfortable with its playful approach to language.  With music, however, a playful approach is often discouraged or put down.  For some, "playing games" is supposed to be at odds with the really musical; musical compositions are criticized for having playful systems and structures.  This attitude is wrong in so many ways, so profoundly pessimistic about music, not least in its rejection, if not denial, of the potential for music to work on multiple levels, as well as the multiple and surprising ways in which these levels may interact.   

1 comment:

sfmike said...

You do yourself an injustice as your writing is often exquisite, and teaches me many new things I didn't even realize I wanted to know.