Re: On the Grammar of Music and rules (Pierre Divenyi )

Subject: Re: On the Grammar of Music and rules
From:    Pierre Divenyi  <pdivenyi(at)MARVA4.NCSC.MED.VA.GOV>
Date:    Thu, 26 Apr 2001 17:13:41 -0700

I am not about to substitute for Ed Burns, but I think Steve McAdams'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. Pierre

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University