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Re: On the Grammar of Music

I am not about to substitute for Ed Burns, but I think Steve's note has one
problem: Even if music had a set of rules (which may not be true in the
strict sense), any music that would follow these rules with absolute
faithfulness would generate muzak. This thesis is true regardless of the
rule system under consideration. (There could be 12-tone muzak, pentatonic
muzak, gamelan muzak, etc., even Jimmy Hendrix muzak if someone wrote down
his rules.) My view is that music happens when its author or perpetrator
departs from the set of rules he follows.

Here is a proposal: A rule system in music should have two components: one
more-or-less firmly defined general rules and one that is relative. This
latter would tell the musician the  nature (the point in time, the degree,
etc.) of a departure from the first system. This way, Leonard Meyer's
criterion for emotion and meaning would be fulfilled and we would still
have a "rule system", although roofs constructed with those rules would
sometimes leak -- which is their beauty.


At 12:08 AM 4/27/01 +0200, Stephen McAdams wrote:
> There are no such rules.

Since Ed Burns isn't on this list anymore, I guess someone else has to
huff and puff and blow the house down and say "Stop the patent

Anyone who truly believes there are no rules in music would give up
working on the neuroscience of music and become a roofer. At least
there the basic rule is, water flows down hill (unless you don't believe
there are rules concerning gravity and water flow).

Stephen McAdams
Equipe Perception et Cognition Musicales
Ircam-CNRS (UMR 9912)
1 place Igor-Stravinsky
F-75004 Paris, France
tel: +33.1.4478.4838, fax +33.1.4478.1540