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Re: On the Grammar of Music

Martin Braun wrote:

> Fine. Then you will surely agree that there is so much variation in the
> chordal treatment within the work of each composer that they were obviously
> not following any grammar.

No, I cannot agree. Variation does not rule out the existence of a typicality.
If the chordal treatments in Bach and Debussy or Nirvana where interchangeable 
without anyone noticing any difference, then I maybe would start to agree with you.

> A grammar of chords could only exist, if there were at least a few chords
> that had a meaning. Such a meaning would have to be the same for composer
> and audience. We don't have such things in music. 

Let's imagine four different types of meaning:
1. One chord carry an unequivocal universal concrete meaning. 
2. Musical elements (e.g. chords) carry stylespesific meanings.
3. Chords are classified in more general terms (degree of intensity, stability)
4. Chord-progressions follow certain patterns in different styles.

The first point can be disregarded. Today there are little to be found of point 2 as well. 
Point 3 and 4 are present in music today. 
As to point 4; the recurrent aspect will, on an ecological basis create 
stability and lets us make sense of our surroundings. 
And when things make sense, they are meaningful to us. 
This is another kind of meaning than what you are looking for. 
My allegation is that without the recurrent aspect 
there would be no mental schemas - what's left is chaos. 
And, if we understand style as a type of schema; 
if there weren't different recurring aspects in different musical styles, 
then we would have no idea of different styles whatsoever. 

> The examples of possible
> meanings of chords, given by Julian Vrieslander earlier today, clearly show
> that an agreement on meaning is not possible in this field. 

Is that how you read his contribution?
I think he describes meaning as under point 3. 

Odd Torleiv 
Odd Torleiv Furnes
Department of Musicology
University of Oslo