The semantics have left the building ;)
“Music’s inherent symmetry and organizational principles tap into a deep human need to order, or manage, our environment.”—-
The cans in the supermarket are all organized; there’s no great truth there. Structure, organization, symmetry, those things don’t need to mean much. We see a square and we don’t have some amazing aesthetic experience.
Music is conflict and resolution, tension and release, relationships between different events, beginnings, middles and ends, the elements of narrative. Music is an abstraction of narrative – it’s narrative without words getting in the way. We understand the world through narrative, which is why I think music resonates so deeply with us. So yes, it’s about structure, but it’s not just arbitrary structure, and I don’t think ‘symmetry’ has a thing to do with it.
How about the Golden Mean? Quite a bit of aesthetic there.
I disagree that we understand the world through narrative. We may largely experience it though narrative, but we understand it by much more inclusive means.
It’s not complex! Music can’t be analysed like Kubrickian semiotics. This means this, this means this… How clinical! I believe it is unexplainable, but however it does it, somehow it DOES express truth about humanity. Why? No idea. And I’m not sure it matters.
Listen to this man http://www.wimp.com/cornelwest/
The cans in the supermarket are all organized
But they don’t provide sensation of music.
Musical symmetry:conflict and resolution, tension and release, relationships between different events, beginnings, middles and ends, the elements of narrative.
Symmetry was the predominant art form for some cultures . The profundity is the realization that the power of the center extend outward infinitely. Infinity: the idea of endlessness, life after death?
Megg:soaring divinity in my spirit which suggests infinity & that the “human condition” might be an immortal coil.
Mike – You may be right, the problem may be with me. I’ve tried to ask myself why I’m not as engaged with abstract forms. There are two options: 1. I do have mild ADD, which I don’t take medication for. But, since I can read books and watch The Human Condition without too much trouble, I don’t think this is the problem. 2. Abstract forms (instrumental music in particular) aren’t concrete, meaning that they don’t, at least in my estimation, carry specific meaning in their structures.
I want to be clear here, though: I am not suggesting that instrumental music is less of an art form than movies or books or any of the other forms that I prefer.
Everyone has their own “inner truth”, you can’t ask someone else to describe to you what your own “truth” is; music either speaks to you on this level or it doesn’t – it certainly can to anyone, but you have to be able to recognize what it’s trying to communicate or else you’re just listening and not comprehending. Others can describe their own experiences, their own feelings, but this will only describe their path not yours.
It’s the same with any art form, film, painting, what-have-you. I doubt we’ll arrive at some kind of cut-and-dry ‘truth’ that instrumental music reveals, I don’t think any art form can be so universally defined.
“The cans in the supermarket are all organized
But they don’t provide sensation of music."
Depends on how effective the jingles are ;-)
“Structure, organization, symmetry, those things don’t need to mean much”
Uh. What do you think architecture is? Music is simply architecture in sound.
Jazz: However, people seem to be saying music does more than that; that it conveys insights into the human condition in a very similar ways to novels, poems, movies, etc., and I’m not sure I buy that—or at least I want to people to explain what they mean by this.
Hmm. Okay, listen to the way Miles Davis plays a solo, and then Coltrane. For some reason, they don’t sound anything alike. Part of that is the practical realities of their instruments and their ability they have to play them, part of it has to do with their training, and part of it is something they’re bringing out that is totally unique to them, what you might call their soul.
Saying something like “Davis is playing a tune about what it’s like to be a black man in America, and Coltrane is playing about his connection to God” is creating an abstraction and somewhat missing the point. It might be true, but there’s something else that can only be expressed in the music itself, and that’s the most profound part. It still may be an insight, but it’s an insight that can only be understood in musical terms, translating it into language will leave something out.
Still, we’re intellectual beings and need some way to dive into the music and talk about it, which is fine so long as we remember that it’s the music itself that is primary, and our own ideas and interpretations are merely a means to an end.
If you really want to get the deep insights (not that I’ve done this) I’d recommend getting music appreciation books of the classics that really get into the meat and potatoes of how the notes are structured and how each section relates to the others.
I’d also say that everything above applies just as much to film, but that’s another argument.
— “The cans in the supermarket are all organized"
— “but they don’t provide sensation of music.”
Duane Hanson would have begged to differ:
-I’d say that, when it comes to music, structure=meaning, not necessarily ‘truth’.-
And the difference between “meaning” and “truth” . . .
-The cans in the supermarket are all organized. But they don’t provide sensation of music.-
If they did it would probably sound like this:
I have that album!
Most art fans throw around the word “truth” like rice at a wedding. I don’t think their definition of it has much to do with reality or facts.
In my opinion, movies and music have the same function, and it isn’t to reveal ‘truth’ or provide ‘insight’ in any coherent sense of those words. For me, art is more like witchcraft than education. I don’t see anything interesting about reading Citizen Kane as an essay concluding that the American dream is hollow, or whatever. Is that really learning? And the point of feminist/Marxist/Freudian “analysis” is apparently to distort the movie’s content in a way that confirms the writer’s prejudices, which is even more useless.
movies and music have the same function…..art is more like witchcraft than education……
That function is what ? witchcraft?
The concept of witchcraft as harmful is normally treated as a cultural ideology, a means of explaining human misfortune by blaming it either on a supernatural entity or a known person in the community.
I think Kate is saying that art is a form of shamanism, designed to expand our consciousness through an experience rather than simply teach us facts.
F-Orr: “Uh. What do you think architecture is? Music is simply architecture in sound.”
This might sound crazy, but I think architecture is architecture. Music is not architecture. Teleology is one of the essential characteristics of music. Take away the passage of time, and you can have dots on a page, or pits on a circular piece of plastic, but you don’t have music.
F-Orr: “If you really want to get the deep insights (not that I’ve done this) I’d recommend getting music appreciation books of the classics that really get into the meat and potatoes of how the notes are structured and how each section relates to the others.”
I’ve read far more of those books than I should have. I don’t think you figure out what music is from books anyway; I think you figure it out, as far as that’s possible to do, from listening to music. My main point is: people talk about symmetry in music because people talk about symmetry in aesthetics. People rarely actually define what they mean by ‘symmetry’ in music (and if you look in the obvious places, it’s awfully hard to find – take, say, your favorite melody and play it backwards, and I guarantee you’ll find it’s not symmetric in time). Sure, you can find symmetry in music because you can find symmetry in anything. That doesn’t mean that it’s the symmetry that is producing whatever meaningful experience music produces.
I agree with what Kate says about what music ‘does’. I don’t think music is some kind of sonic Sudoku where the reward comes from hearing retrogrades and inversions. If that’s all it was, we could just study musical scores and leave the whole listening experience behind. The fact that people don’t need to study music to appreciate it is evidence enough that there’s something else going on.
Take away the passage of time, and you can have dots on a page, or pits on a circular piece of plastic, but you don’t have music. – Flip
Entirely untrue. Before the Greeks bestowed their abstraction of music (i.e. written notation) and pretty much paved the origins of ‘Western music,’ music was organic, it did not have a tempo, time was not a factor and was, for the most part, ignored. Japanese music from the Edo period was like this, early African percussive music was like this.
There are many forms of music that extends “beyond” time, much of it is experimental, indeterministic, but even Chopin was noted for his rubato, an organic form of “free time” and he’s not exactly unpopular. Time is nothing but a familiar context popular music insists on regurgitating.
Music before the Renaissance (to give a general time line) was “alive”, notated music today is dead (not a criticism, just a fact); it requires resurrection by an interpreter/conductor/performer to breath life into it again otherwise it is, as you say, merely notes on a page.
But on that note (no pun intended), I think people are too eager to dismiss the theoretical nature of more “modern” music. One will, eventually, be able to determine that Brubeck’s Take Five and the Mission Impossible theme have the same time signature by merely listening, but why not actually “know” it? Why are they the same? What makes them the same? This is just an example of extremely basic “theory”, but so many people don’t even know that and then they expect people to listen to their opinion when they don’t even know what the music is actually doing to make them feel the way they feel.
Intelligent music listening involves more than just feeling the music, but understanding it. Of course, feeling is important as well, but don’t be too quick to separate the two as if one were “better” than the other; they both augment each other.
Music is not architecture – Flip-——————————-
You’re taking this way too literally. Of course, music is not literally architecture, but there is an architectural form to most modern music (modern in the sense of, say, the past 400-500 years). This is theory, this is structure, this is the concept of progressions within music. Music is most certainly architectural; there is a plan, there is form.
As for this ridiculous statement: The cans in the supermarket are all organized. But they don’t provide sensation of music.
What is that supposed to even mean anyway? Music requires sound, sound is a fundamental aspect of music which is inarguable (yes, I’m familiar with Cage’s 4’33, but there is still sound involved, it is indeterministic “sound”, sounds are still present within the work), so a few cans sitting on a shelf means nothing musically. This is an invalid argument that is inherently false in its reasoning. Music has been made with tin cans however, but a musician (be it professional or toddler) must provoke sound from them.
The thing most people get confused about regarding “silence” is that ‘silence’ is not really silent. It’s not like one’s in space where all sound is a vacuum, complete and utter (literal) silence. On earth, we don’t normally have that, so ‘silence’ merely refers to breaks (rests) in sound, not utter ‘silence.’
You’ve somehow taken my comments about time to mean something about tempo. That couldn’t be further from what I’m talking about. I’m not saying anything particularly profound – to experience music, time needs to pass. And music in ‘free time’ is hardly ‘beyond’ time – that sounds like the kind of hyperbole you’d read in Stockhausen’s press kit. The music of someone like Lutoslawski draws part of its significance from precisely the attitude it takes to musical time.
And when someone says ‘music is simply architecture’, I’m not taking that too literally when I reply ‘music is not simply architecture’. Music is something very different from architecture. Sure, music has architectural elements, but so do wedding cakes. I don’t know why a comparison between music and architecture is any more apropos than a comparison between music and sculpture, painting, cooking, or cinema – indeed the comparison with cinema seems vastly more appropriate to me, since both are time-based forms.
edit: oh, and I didn’t say a thing about cans providing a ‘sensation of music’. My point was simply that ‘organization’ alone is meaningless to us, aesthetically. There’s something else.
-Music is simply architecture in sound--teleology is one of the essential characteristics of music. Take away the passage of time . . .-
OK, I actually don’t think these statements are as opposed as they’re being made out to be. Architecture is building in space, music is building in time.
@Flip: You didn’t say ‘music is not simply architecture’ you said ‘music is not architecture.’
Music is an art form just like sculpting, painting, cinema, etc. I’m not sure about wedding cakes … again, that seems like an invalid comparison to me, but I’m willing to hear an argument defending the artistry of cake design.
But once again you’re taking something too literally. I said free time is ‘beyond time’ but I didn’t literally mean that it defied time and space and dwelled in some kind of quantum netherworld, I do realize that there is a sense of time of anything (because we, as humans, demand this distinction), but ‘patterned time?’ Like I said, Chopin’s rubato would often expand/restrict the time signature, this has little to do with tempo.
I’m still confused when you say that music and cinema are ‘time-based forms’ … are they? Indeed, time plays a part, but time can be enforced upon anything. A windmill revolves in patterns of time, but does that mean that the fundamental grounding of windmill design is time-based? Cinema doesn’t always follow patterns of time either as a rule, not all editing is consistent in time. So, I’m not sure what you’re saying. Time is indeed an element of everything, but everything isn’t necessarily dependent upon it. If all you’re saying is that ‘time passes’ then well, yes, I think we all can agree on that point.
I wasn’t talking about tempo. Time signatures and tempo are not the same thing, I was commenting more on time signatures (hence the Take Five/Mission Impossible comparison – that is there similarity, not their tempo).
NOTE: Not everything in my post was directed at you either, just to clarify, I was addressing several different users. Unfortunately Mubi doesn’t like quotes, so I wasn’t able to be as clear on that as I normally would have been.
Yeah, Deckard, we’re just talking about different things. I wasn’t talking about tempo or time signature or even rhythm when I mentioned ‘time’. I was just saying that music is different from static art forms like painting or architecture in that time needs time to pass for anyone to experience it.
For me, the two defining characteristics of any kind of music are that it’s experienced through the ear, and it exists in time. That makes it pretty different from architecture. I was really responding to two ideas above (‘music is architecture’ and ‘music is about symmetry’) that “sound true” and that people say all the time, but which no one ever seems to provide much justification for. As architecture goes, sure, there are meaningful similarities between architecture and music, just as there are meaningful similarities between music and other art forms. As for symmetry, and its relevance to our appreciation of music, one first needs to define what we’re even talking about – what is symmetry in music. Then the questions become whether we even hear symmetry as symmetry at all – when we see symmetry it registers immediately, but when we hear it, do we notice? I’ve heard ‘fractal compositions’ that sound about as random to me as any indeterminate Cage piece.
And then there’s the question of how symmetry in time is possible, since endings are different from beginnings. It’s just one of those contentions I don’t accept at face value; I don’t even know what people mean by it.
While I mostly agree with Flip regarding the experience of symmetry, I would say that the architecture comparison makes more sense if one thinks of the proper experience of a building being obtained by moving through it and experiencing it bodily rather than the more usual way people think of it nowadays as being something one can judge by a picture or series of images. Architecture like music requires a different sort of experience of the body than does a painting or book, and both require some sort of movement through the work to fully “get” it.
To go back to the original question though, the word truth here is being used a lot as referring to something intellectually based, a type of knowledge one would acquire by reading a encyclopedia or gathering facts. One can think of truth in a different sense, one that applies more readily to the arts and that is a “felt” truth, a truth one holds that isn’t necessarily able to be put into words, but which one believes nonetheless. This sort of truth may or may not be shared with others, and if it is, it may not be experienced in precisely the same way, but one can postulate it exists by the value we place on art and the shared recognition of many works people find particularly moving.
In music, one thing I could suggest is that if you think of an experience you’ve had, say falling in love and then losing the person to another, and then remove the direct objects that triggered that experience from your mind and leave just the physical/emotional state those events contained for you, you might get closer to understanding the truth music can hold as music deals with the emotional and physiological “truths” of experience in a different way than does any other art that relies on representation or words signifying some objects. The way we each experience the world may be unique in part, but there is a shared aspect that music can reach that reflects our emotions and something beyond emotions that is more basic and physical. A piece of music may not always have a direct emotional link, at least not a nameable one, but it triggers some feelings or instincts we have about movement and the way we respond to the world directly rather than through the mediation of language.