Re: On the Grammar of Music ("O.T.Furnes" )

Subject: Re: On the Grammar of Music
From:    "O.T.Furnes"  <oddtf(at)>
Date:    Sat, 28 Apr 2001 14:34:47 +0200

Odd Torleiv Furnes wrote: "Surely there are rules governing the types of chords and types of chord progressions to be found within a certain style." Martin Braun replied: "There are no such rules." ... "You never find rule consistency in European music, not within one = historical period, not within one composer, and often not even within one piece of music." And in a later contribution Braun said: "There are plenty of rules in music. I never argued that." I am sorry if I find this somewhat confusing. My charge against your = argumentation has been based on your dissociation with rules in music. = If I have misunderstood you on this point we probably have nothing that = separates our views. > Odd Torleiv Furnes wrote: > "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." >=20 Martin Braun replied: > Let's take Bach, Debussy and Bartok, because I have no knowledge on = Nirvana > matters. > These composers differ in the amounts of dissonant chords they use. = But they > have in common that none of their chords carries a signal that could = be > compared with the semantic AND syntactic signal that EACH word in = speech > MUST carry. Frankly, I don't know too much about linguistics, so I presume you are = correct on this matter. However, earlier you associated grammar with rules. I made it clear all = along how I defined "rule" in this context. When you made no comments on = my definition, but instead made further arguments against the existence = of rules in music, I had to react on that. If you had been specific with = your definitions, we would not have had any conversations on this matter Just a little note; "dissonance" is only one out of many aspects for = categorizing chords. Also, just as significant in this matter are the = chord-progressions these composers used. > Odd Torleiv Furnes wrote: > "3. Chords are classified in more general terms (degree of intensity, > stability) > 4. Chord-progressions follow certain patterns in different styles." >=20 > Reply: > To (3): Thanks. This shows that there is no grammar. Intensity and = stability > are qualities that the listeners add. They are not part of the given = chords. > You can see that from the differences in WHAT the listeners add. > In speech it's the other way round. Each word in a sentences carries a > semantic AND syntactic signal. These signals are binding. The listener = may > add a little bit to the semantic signal, but he has no option = whatsoever > concerning the syntactic signal. > To (4): None of these patterns were binding or carried a signal in a = similar > sense as some word-order patterns in English are binding signals (e.g. = "Ann > likes Jim." vs. "Jim likes Ann."). When preferred chord patterns = appear in > music history, they are temporary and accidental habits, ornaments = without > syntactic content. In speech the reverse is true. >=20 Language is learned. Music is learned. Take the word "odd". In Norwegian = this means "sharp" or "point" or both.=20 If I present myself saying: "hello, I'm Odd" - I'm afraid many would = agree to that - not in the Norwegian meaning of the word though. If = English were "techno" and Norwegian were "bebop" - a C7#5b9 would in = techno sound odd in the english use of the word and would in jazz sound = "odd" in the norwegian denotation.=20 Considering my lack of knowledge of linguistics I may be barking up the = wrong tree here,=20 but on the other hand, I may have an "odd" here? (norwegian denotation) Again, you have to see my contributions to this discussion as arguments = for rules in music.=20 Odd Torleiv ______________________ Odd Torleiv Furnes Department of Musicology University of Oslo Norway oddtf(at)

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