A "New Totality?" (Contemporary Music Review issue on the concerns of US composers)
At the same time, however, we're currently witnessing disturbing countertendencies in the form of efforts on the part of numerous (primarily American) composers and critics to reconstitute tonality as the single, central pillar of Western musical life. On the one hand, such grandiosity is easily dismissed: one need only think back as far as Boulez's laughably narrow-minded and short-sighted statement regarding the "uselessness" of "anyone who has not felt ... the necessity of the dodecaphonic language"(5) in order to be reminded of the futility of artistic authoritarianism. On the other hand, given the sheer number of viable alternatives to tonality now in existence, one can't help but shudder at the prospect of their being forcibly subsumed within an "official" history in which, together, they are seen simply as an unfortunate "mistake," as a temporary derailment of the merrily rolling choo-choo of "progress."
The Contemporary Music Review series has, since its inception in 1984 with "Musical Thought at IRCAM," proven to be an extremely valuable and important medium for the dissemination of opinion and information regarding a wide range of musical issues. By organizing the journal according to specific topics, the publishers have enabled the compilation of issues that both possess a considerable degree of depth and exhibit a refreshingly broad outlook. "New Tonality," edited by Paul Moravec and Robert Beaser and published in 1993, is somewhat of a landmark in that it is the first issue of CMR to deal primarily with concerns of American composers.(6) Its interest lies not only in the fact that it contains several well-written and thought-provoking essays, but also in its documentation, in the form of proclamations in which tonality is unconditionally promoted to top rank, of the increasingly widespread reactionary tendencies described above. What follows does not by any means constitute a comprehensive review of "New Tonality," nor is it a wholesale condemnation of its contents; instead, I hope to draw some basic parallels between these essays and the kind of totalizing discourse described by Said, the aim being simply to place the collection within a broader social context, and to highlight some of its more disturbing features. (I should also add that I've chosen not to comment on the thoughtful, relatively level-headed essays by Lou Harrison, Stephen Jaffe, Louis Andriessen and Edward Harsh, John Harbison, and George Perle. Harrison's view is perhaps the most balanced, as is evident in his relegation of recent trends to "simply Fashion among Northwest Asian music lovers, or, lovers of Northwest Asian music.")(7)
In his recent writings, Said has described the establishment within contemporary American cultural discourse of what he calls "new images of centrality," of forces that give rise to "semi-official narratives that authorize and provoke certain sequences of cause and effect, while at the same time preventing counter-narratives from emerging."(8) One sees this in the rise of various forms of religious and political fundamentalism, which rely both on perceived alignment with a "higher power," such as a deity, "nature," a Zeitgeist, or an institution, and on the creation of a "group identity," the notion of a "chosen people," the defining characteristics of which are then used to degrade the status of others. Inherent in these tendencies are processes of drastic, systematic simplification, arbitrary ironings out or elevations of real or perceived differences, and the transformation of complex, multifaceted entities into manageable representations capable of being manipulated at the behest of the powers in question. Unfortunately, over time, and through the gradual accrual of adherents, such narratives may come to possess a certain perceived legitimacy or weight, enabling the creation of "not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe."(9)
Not surprisingly, these events have been mirrored in recent trends within various American artistic communities; in fact, one of the most consistently interesting aspects of "New Tonality" is the degree to which it may be read as a sort of microcosmic news summary. It is clear from the outset that many of the essays in this collection are but small components of the sort of large-scale revisionist project described above, in that, largely as a means of justifying personal compositional preferences, they participate in the fabrication of a lopsided history in which Western tonal music was somehow driven underground during the post-World War II years,(10) only to boldly re-emerge from its "exile" in the present day, thanks to what is described as an irresistible, herd-like gravitation amongst composers everywhere (what Fred Lerdahl calls "the postmodern resurgence").(11) While various modes of composition do, of course, rise and fall in popularity within individual musical communities and interest groups, one need merely step back a bit in order to see that the notion described above is far from true. Tonality continued to thrive, as it does today, not only in the worlds of popular music, jazz, dance music, advertising, and so on, but also within the international "mainstream" of concert music in the form of countless works by well-known, widely performed composers such as Shostakovich, Britten, Henze, Copland, Menotti, Gershwin, and Rorem, to name just a few. At the same time, although one has always had to go out of one's way in order to hear them, nontonal musics have managed to survive both within the university and, in the context of numerous "alternative" scenes, outside it. Inevitable consequences of this coexistence of diverse musics have been both the corresponding formation of different, often non-overlapping audiences (a fact which raises serious doubts regarding the relevance of the many tedious moans of concern regarding the "limit[ing of] our audience":(12) who are "we?" What constitutes "our audience?"), as well as an increased level of interest in hybridization, in the blurring of categorical edges, making it difficult to define and subsequently rely on seemingly basic stylistic terminology.(13) (By the way, what the heck is tonality? Atonality? Given your definitions (and limiting ourselves to twentieth-century Western music), how do you categorize the second movement of Ives's Fourth Symphony? Berg's Lulu? Cecil Taylor's Serdab? Nirvana's Milk It?) Unfortunately, the fact that these authors have chosen to paint such a coarse, distorted picture, possibly a result of their being unable to see beyond the walls of academia,(14) not only detracts from their essays, but also serves to denigrate and obscure the many achievements of their predecessors, specifically the composers of tonal music who were active during the period in question.
Parallels with propagandist strategies are visible not only in such attempts to assemble an illusory Zeitgeist (the most obvious effect of which is to exclude those who don't fit the bill), but also in frequent appeals to "nature," typified by John Anthony Lennon's insistence that "[w]hen overtones persist in fundamentally comprising octaves, fifths, and thirds, nature is telling us something"(15) (Do overtones in the "real world" actually behave this way? And what is nature telling us? That pieces not based on just intonation - especially (ho hum) those containing minor triads - are somehow inferior? That we should ignore all that strange, noisy activity going on out there outside the laboratory, in the woods, in the streets, in the earth, in the oceans, in the concert halls, in the sky?), and in the divisive, often militant tone which characterizes the rallying cries of the "newly-liberated." Broad, sweeping statements, resounding from "on high," prevail: many readers will be amazed to learn, for example, that "[i]t is tiresome and unnecessary to defend tonality since nothing argues against it"(16) (personally, I can't think of anything against which it is impossible to argue; then again, is anyone still arguing against tonality?), that "in a way, tonality is Western music"(17) (this equation leaves out an awful lot, doesn't it? And whose version of tonality is the author referring to? The Klezmer version? The Navajo? Mozart's? B.B. King's?), and that "[d]espite the emergence of a number of interesting alternative languages and approaches, none has successfully challenged the tonal tradition's rich legacy of resonant forms and archetypes."(18) (Is music ever created with the intent of challenging other music? Perhaps! In fact, I'd be tempted to agree with this statement if the "richness" of the legacy were somehow shown to be equivalent to its ability to generate profits via competition for "market share.") Upon first reading these capsules of certainty, I couldn't help but laugh: various images sprang readily to mind, ranging from drunken sailors lapsing into a swaying, jingoistic chant, to perky TV commercials ("Nothing cleans like tonality!"), to raving, hysterical hockey fans ("TO-NAL-I-TY NUMBER ONE!"). However, my patience quickly wore thin, my amusement having shrivelled to consternation thanks to the hard-edged, pervasive atmosphere of cruelty created by passages such as George Rochberg's depiction of the late sixties as a time when "things were warming up; abstraction was on the run; and the old avant-garde ... lay gasping its last breath."(19)
Other passages exude a self-righteous, fundamentalist fervor. Rochberg ends his essay with the following plea:
My generation ... is past its prime. Moses guided the people of Israel to the threshold of the land of Canaan. It was Joshua who led them into Canaan. Like all true experience, it had to be lived in those two stages. My generation ... has completed the first phase. The younger generation of artistic Joshuas will have to find and live the answers, however they turn out, to the questions I've posed if the second phase is to be accomplished.(20)
This sort of imagery, which also appears in the essays by Moravec and Larry Bell (both of whom acknowledge Rochberg's influence), is, in some respects, stirring and picturesque. At the same time, however, when viewed in terms of its functionality within the context of this forum, it has a strange, calculatedly alienating effect: here, as elsewhere in our societies, it tends to reduce complex relations to "us and them," and ultimately serves, in the words of Said, "as an agent of closure, shutting off human investigation, criticism, and effort in deference to the authority of the more-than-human, the supernatural, the other-worldly."(21)
Similarly disturbing are the attitudes displayed by some of the authors in relation to peoples and musics of other times and places. Bell seems to long for a collectively remembered "good ol' days" when he writes of "the simplicity and beauty that we attach to the past."(22) Again, who are "we?" Whose "past" is he referring to? Here, thanks to this by-now-familiar reductionist grinding, one finds a shocking lack of sympathy and respect for those who came before us, and from whose efforts we still benefit. ("Ah yes, the Bach family. They were simple folk ... but they made some beautiful music.") Moravec's delight in his seemingly magical ability to access "the rich reservoir ... of Western music"(23) suggests the existence of a vast, well-lighted supermarket in which music, having been stripped of its "aura,"(24) is conveniently reduced to an endless succession of interchangeable goods, and in which "all materials at [one's] disposal are emancipated from any prejudice."(25)
Even more alarming, however, is the existence of a barely cloaked residue of neoimperialist rhetoric, evident in numerous casual remarks scattered throughout this volume. Did you know, for example, that as a result of our "inevitable merger with non-Western cultures," nonindustrial nations "may yet come to stare in wonder at the computer-generated diagrams of Mandelbrot where chance and certainty merge, and behold the wheel being reinvented in a vision of a new reality"?(26) That "[t]oday's composers ... are much more socially conscious because of the global impact of American popular culture, media, and most importantly, music"?(27) These authors choose to ignore the sad state of traditions that have, over the centuries, evolved in parallel with those of European-based cultures only to find themselves teetering on the brink of disappearance; instead, we're told that "[t]he world's musical cultures have become ... interwoven."(28) To allow oneself to believe that "most of the world's musics co-exist in mad, glorious Babel up and down the radio dial"(29) is to fall victim to the seductive notion of the "global village," and to the commodifying forces of mass media, thanks to which we're bombarded with what are supposedly emblems of cultural diversity, but which are in fact simple and safe icons of compliance with the representational norms imposed by the sanctioning culture. Faced with such dangers, it is particularly important that we heed the words of writers such as Peter Niklas Wilson, who warns us that "[t]he mere availability of the 'other' or the foreign, the colorful, inter-cultural juxtapositions on television, in books or record stores, is in no way indicative of the alleged emergence of a 'world' culture."(30)
On a simultaneously lighter and more depressing note, I feel obligated to point out some remarkable instances in which the seemingly all-pervasive forces of reductionism converge in single sentences, yielding a form of (divine?) nonsense. How, for example, can one intelligently respond to David Del Tredici's brain-frying aphorisms, which, like slogans employed in ads and presidential campaigns, effectively slam the door in the face of reason?
Being a pianist I never needed a sense of pitch.(31)
In Cage's case there is no direction and in Babbitt's too much. So in effect, for both, you improvise.(32)
... [W]hat do you do with a triad except dirty it up?(33)
And what can one say about the following, written by the Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik:
Only coherence endows a tone with meaning. Or better yet: only coherence creates tones of interest. But it is never the tones themselves, only the coherence!(34)
Heinrich Schenker accurately represented tonality in its sound structure, and whoever cannot hear and understand it, or whoever believes that serial music - and for that matter, computer music - is more exciting, has only himself to blame.(35)
It's possible that I am right and Schoenberg really did suffer pangs of guilt over abandoning tonality, but I am absolutely certain that no tonal composer need have a guilty conscience.(36)
Again, I don't know whether to laugh or cry! (I do feel, however, that Del Tredici's statements are potentially the most harmful of the bunch, in that they come from a "big name composer" who, unlike Schwertsik, assumes a voice of authority and experience, speaking in a seductively calm, casual, matter-of-fact way.)
Many of the traits described above are present in what is perhaps the most troubling essay in "New Tonality," Fred Lerdahl's "Cognitive Constraints on Compositional Systems."(37) Here, as hinted at by the title, the author (who is, coincidentally, CMR's "USA Regional Editor") attempts to disguise what is essentially an op-ed piece by couching his antiserialist aesthetic biases in pseudoscientific jargon. (Interestingly, this article was first published in a collection with a strong scientific orientation.)(38) While Lerdahl tries to give an impression of detached objectivity (he states "I am not interested in passing judgment on the composers and compositions that are mentioned..."),(39) his premises and conclusions are in fact largely subjective, having been founded on things like the "positive value" of "cognitively transparent musical surfaces,"(40) the need for musical "coherence," "stability," "comprehension," and "understanding,"(41) and the desirability of eliminating or bypassing "the trouble" caused by "contemporary music" (which is depicted as "one thing," moving in one direction) having "lost its way."(42) The book which Lerdahl coauthored with Ray Jackendoff(43) is here elevated to the status of "a detailed theory of musical cognition,"(44) when in fact it is more appropriately described as an account of "tonal music of the less problematic sort - that is, music constituting a fraction of the Western tradition,"(45) an account which "treats structure alone, and treats it as an absolute, outside of any historical context."(46) Lerdahl occasionally attempts to lay a foundation of credibility by providing references to specific pieces of scientific literature, but he does so in an extremely biased, selective way, and thus ends up making blanket statements - drastic, hideous simplifications which are in no way reflective of the delightful turmoil and uncertainty associated with the current state of cognitive investigation. For example, at one point he flatly states that "[m]ost of human cognition relies on hierarchical structuring," and then proceeds to attach footnotes to three roughly thirty-year-old publications.(47) This is indeed a gross misrepresentation: in his scramble to "shore up" his opinions, Lerdahl has overlooked or chosen to ignore (1) the fact that no one really knows how human cognition is structured, (2) the fact that when the neat, orderly hierarchies seen in textbooks are transferred to the "real world," they "always end up getting tangled and disorderly because there are ... exceptions and interactions to each classification scheme,"(48) and (3) the existence of a large, growing body of literature based on cognitive models in which, depending on the type of processing, hierarchical and nonhierarchical (i.e. network-based) representations may coexist.(49) Things aren't as simple as Lerdahl would have us believe: as Roger Schank puts it, "the world is full of oddities and idiosyncratic events that fail to fit neatly into a pre-established hierarchy."(50)
Even worse, Lerdahl's argument hinges on poorly defined notions of various sorts of "grammars." A "listening grammar" is defined as that which "generates mental representations of the music,"(51) and is depicted as a singular, static entity presumably employed by all listeners to a given piece, as if, regardless of differences in gender, ethnicity, cultural and social background, listening environment, and so on, we all listen the same way, each and every time. Lerdahl's major complaint about serial music is that he apparently perceives a lack of connection between this "listening grammar" and what he calls the "compositional grammar"; thus serial music is deemed "cognitively opaque"(52) because listeners "do not hear tone rows"(53) (a rather strange notion given the widely published views of many twelve-tone composers),(54) because they supposedly cannot hear "how [a] piece [is] serial"(55) due to the "gap between compositional system and cognized result."(56) (Is it, on the other hand, possible to "hear how a piece is tonal?" If so, why would a listener necessarily want to engage in such an activity?) What Lerdahl refers to as "sensuously attractive"(57) music is rejected, as are body-oriented ways of coming to grips with music, because they "inhibit ... the inference of structure."(58) (As if that's all there is to listening! "I really like Coltrane's Meditations because you can infer a lot of structure from it. Oh, and it also makes me cry, but that's beside the point.")
Thus, despite the existence of a growing body of theoretical and analytical literature whose goal is to in one way or another empower the listener, Lerdahl seems to be bent on enslaving the listener, who is expected to listen "correctly" by conforming to grammar-dictated conventions.(59) To my mind, were Lerdahl's two "grammars" to exist, and were they perfectly to coincide, and were listening experiences to be strictly limited to the generation of hierarchically arranged mental structures, there would be absolutely no reason to perform or listen to music. Instead, we could content ourselves with burst-like, robotic exchanges of perfect, complete brain wave patterns (the accuracy of which would, of course, have to be ensured through the use of extremely efficient error-detection/correction schemes during transmission/reception), or by "entering the heads" of others, as portrayed in the novels of William Gibson.(60)
The resulting hodge-podge amounts to a pharmaceutical prescription for composers, the sort of thing that enables the establishment of what Said calls a "narrow circle of what is natural, appropriate, and valid for 'us.'"(61) If it's easy to dismiss Lerdahl's stifling "constraints" as silly and having absolutely nothing to do with either artistic creation or the conditions necessary for its continuance, it's also easy to overlook the way in which he attempts to appropriate the hallmarks of scientific language in order to lend his essay a sheen of respectability. The danger, of course, is that readers may come to equate his opinions with scientific "truths" simply as a result of his carefully chosen method of presentation.(62) As Said succinctly puts it: "A text purporting to contain knowledge about something actual ... is not easily dismissed. Expertise is attributed to it. The authority of academics, institutions, and governments can accrue to it, surrounding it with still greater prestige than its practical successes warrant."(63)
Here, in conclusion, is a brief summary of my major objections to the "New Tonality" collection. First, as an American composer, I would have preferred to see the premiere "American issue" of CMR reflect, in some way, the amazing diversity of musical activity which pervades all levels of our society, rather than the opinions of a select group of university composers who feel it necessary to "rally 'round a flag." As indicated above, I do realize that the journal is organized by topic, and that this helps to account for the particular bias of these essays; however, it certainly would have been possible to begin with a broader topic, one which would not exclude so much and so many, and which would thereby lessen the possibility of American composers being represented by a group which constitutes only a narrow portion of a broad spectrum. (It's possible that the editors of CMR are already in the process of addressing this problem: the list of "forthcoming issues" includes titles such as "New Developments in Contemporary German Music," "Aspects of New British Music," and "Australian Issue," each of which seems to leave the door wide open.) Second, the moral smugness and consensus-oriented rhetoric that pervades these essays is, I believe, symptomatic of the recent trends about which Said and so many others warn us (and which should be of great interest to anyone concerned with issues of personal freedom), specifically those involving the rise of new types of centrist, conservative dogmas which are particularly seductive because they represent themselves as "the voice of the people," as emanating from the underdog. Third, I'm alarmed at the degree to which these authors have gone out of their way to attempt to close off the possibility of meaningful interaction between composers of (and listeners to) drastically different types of music. The prospect of being faced with a pendulum swing which alternately empowers those who shout "Tonality is dead!" and those who shout "Atonality is dead!" is indeed an ugly one, not only because it stems from a "black-and-white" mentality which leaves out more than it includes, but also because, as Schonberg clearly realized, neither method of composition precludes the use, let alone the existence, of the other.
(The reader may wonder if there exists a precedent for the compilation of what amounts to a manifesto loudly and publicly announcing a "call to retreat." Interestingly, one need not look far: the year 1932 saw the publication in Italy of a document expressing sentiments which are nearly identical in both form and content to those found in "New Tonality." Music "which does not wish to have and does not have any human content," and which results from "a sense of facile rebellion against the centuries-old, fundamental laws of art" is decried, while concern is voiced regarding the lack of "definitive statements and safe roads." The authors, fearing that "[t]he public ... no longer knows which voice to listen to or which road to follow," end with a proclamation of "collective faith," vowing that "[y]esterday's romanticism ... will also be tomorrow's romanticism." The manifesto was written by Aleco Toni, a music critic for the fascist publication Il popolo d'Italia, and a member of the National Directorate of the Fascist Union of Musicians, and was signed by a number of conservative Italian composers.)(64)
Does the publication of these essays herald a "changing of the garde"? Or are we witnessing the final hours leading up to the inevitable triumph of what, in its absolute complicity with reductive, depthless de-aestheticization, amounts not so much to a postmodernism born of the lessons and experiences of modernity, but rather to a grotesquely distorted throwback to premodernist outlooks, to a collection of regressive strategies whose apparent goal is to completely close off the avenues of investigation opened by modernism? Is there, indeed, a "New Totality?" By way of an answer, I'd like to once again stress the need for maintaining a view of the past (and the present) as consisting of many independent yet intertwined streams moving together through time and space, each with its own life cycle, and for a perspective which reveals their internal differentiation and heterogeneity, via which, like Foucault, we may "envisage modernity rather as an attitude than as a period of history."(65) Seen in this light, the music of "new tonality" is simply a current manifestation, and thus a continuation, of "the tonal tradition," just as "new complexity" is nothing more than an extreme form of "late, High Modernism."(66) The maintenance of an acute sensitivity to historical detail allows one to see that there is no garde, to drop the military metaphor, and to thus avoid the dangers inherent in "transforming the complexities of a many-stranded history into one large figure, or of elevating particular moments or monuments into universals."(67) In short (turning to Foucault once again): "History protects us from historicism."(68)
And what of that nagging, persistent question, that of "the audience"? The poet Charles Bernstein nicely sums up the situation when he writes: "[w]e have to get over, as in getting over a disease, the idea that we can 'all' speak to one another in the universal voice of poetry."(69) Although tonality is undoubtedly "one of the supreme collective intellectual and spiritual achievements of Western culture,"(70) attempts to reinstate it (or any other method of composition) in a position of centricity can only result in what amounts to "censor[ing] ... all that is antagonistic, anarchic, odd, antipathetic, anachronistic, other. (Marginal.) (Outside.)"(71) However, in Bernstein's words,
[w]hen we get over this idea that we can all speak to each other, I think it will begin to be possible, as it always has been, to listen to one another, one at a time and in the various clusters that present themselves, or that we find the need to make.(72)
I'd like to thank Nancy Boros, Jim Gardner, Stu Jones, Warren Nichols, Jeff Stadelman, and Anton Vishio for their many helpful comments regarding the contents of this paper, an earlier version of which was read at the Thirty-seventh Darmstadt Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik (August 1994).
1. Edward W. Said, Musical Elaborations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).
2. Ibid., 55.
3. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 312.
4. Said, Musical Elaborations, 53.
5. Pierre Boulez, quoted in Joan Peyser, Boulez (New York: Schirmer Books, 1976), 70. It seems, however, that Boulez eventually arrived at a somewhat different conclusion. Years later he stated: "There is no such thing as historical inevitability.... History is something we enact, not something to be submitted to" (Pierre Boulez, Conversations with Celestin Deliege (London: Eulenburg Books, 1975), 33).
6. "New Tonality" (henceforth abbreviated as NT) comprises Volume 6, Part 2 of the Contemporary Music Review, and is published by Harwood Academic Publishers.
7. Lou Harrison, "Entune," NT: 9.
8. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 324.
9. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon, 1978), 94.
10. See Paul Moravec and Robert Beaser, "Issue Editors' Introduction," NT: 3.
11. Fred Lerdahl, "Notes from the USA Regional Editor," NT: 1.
12. John Anthony Lennon, "The Daedalian Factor: Tonality, Atonality, or Musicality?," NT: 25.
13. See, for example, Richard Kostelanetz's 1967 essay "Contemporary Music," and his 1971 essay "The New Music of the 1960s," both published in Richard Kostelanetz, On Innovative Music(ian)s (New York: Limelight Editions, 1989), 199-220 and 221-35.
14. Nearly all of the authors are currently associated with American academic institutions.
15. Lennon, 25.
16. Kurt Schwertsik, "Long Live Tonality," NT: 55.
17. Moravec, "Tonality and Transcendence," NT: 41.
18. Ibid., 41.
19. George Rochberg, "Guston and Me: Digression and Return," NT: 7.
20. Ibid., 8.
21. Said, The World, The Text, and The Critic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), 290.
22. Larry Bell, "Some Remarks on the New Tonality," NT: 44.
23. Moravec, 42.
24. My use of the term here stems from the definition given by Walter Benjamin in his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 217-51.
25. Kamran Ince, "Emancipation of Tonal Sonorities," NT: 49.
26. Lennon, 25.
27. Bell, 44.
28. Daron Hagen, "Everything Old is New Again," NT: 52.
29. Ibid., 52.
30. Peter Niklas Wilson, "The Other - As Something Strange and Something Familiar," World New Music Magazine 1 (August 1991): 12.
31. Moravec, "An Interview with David Del Tredici," NT: 17.
32. Ibid., 20.
33. Ibid., 21.
34. Schwertsik, 55.
35. Ibid., 55-56.
36. Ibid., 56.
37. NT: 97-121.
38. John Sloboda, ed., Generative Processes in Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
39. Lerdahl, "Cognitive Constraints," 97.
40. Ibid., 118.
41. Ibid., 104, 114, and 118.
42. Ibid., 101.
43. A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983).
44. Lerdahl, "Cognitive Constraints," 102.
45. Joseph Kerman, Contemplating Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 90.
46. Ibid., 90.
47. Lerdahl, "Cognitive Constraints," 104.
48. Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), 91.
49. Some books that I've found particularly interesting in this regard are: Antonio Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: Putnam, 1994); the recent writings of Gerald Edelman, including Neural Darwinism: The Theory of Neutonal Group Selection (New York: Basic Books, 1987), Topobiology: An Introduction to Molecular Embryology (New York: Basic Books, 1988), The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness (New York: Basic Books, 1989), and Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (New York: Basic Books, 1992); Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1983); David E. Rumelhart, James L. McClelland, and the PDP Research Group, Parallel Distributed Processing, 2 vols. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986); Endel Tulving, Elements of Episodic Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).
50. Roger Schank, The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind (New York: Summit Books, 1991), 226.
51. Lerdahl, "Cognitive Constraints," 99.
52. Ibid., 97.
53. Ibid., 115.
54. Lerdahl's conception of serial music seems to stem from what Milton Babbitt calls "a notion which had been prevalent in the thirties that you write out the twelve notes as a kind of theme and then you do funny things to them" (Babbitt, with Stephen Dembski and Joseph N. Straus, eds., Words about Music (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 26). Most composers of serial music seem to think of sets more in terms of the ways in which - and the degrees to which - they exert various kinds of musical influence, rather than with regard to the necessity of their being audible in obvious ways. Babbitt, for example, has written that listening to and analyzing a twelve-tone piece "is not a matter of finding the lost set. This is not a matter of cryptoanalysis (where's the hidden set?). What I'm interested in is the effect it might have, the way it might assert itself not necessarily explicitly" (Words about Music, 27). Donald Martino has written: "I hold a broad view of the twelve-tone system which permits me to use the set or sets I have formulated as a source from which to draw a network of deductions. I tend to see the set as a premise that leads me in certain directions" (James Boros, "A Conversation with Donald Martino," Perspectives of New Music 29, no. 2 (Summer 1991): 250). Pierre Boulez has said of Le Marteau sans maitre that his aim was "to create a material that would be clear and analysable other than through the twelve notes of the series" (Conversations with Celestin Deliege, 57). Robert Moevs recalls a conversation with Boulez at Harvard in the early sixties during which a student brought up the notion of trying to "hear the row" in Le Marteau. Boulez's response was "Why would you want to do that? You'd be missing the point" (personal conversation, 29 October 1988).
55. Lerdahl, "Cognitive Constraints," 97.
56. Ibid., 100.
57. Ibid., 104.
58. Ibid., 104.
59. Robert Rowe, in his critique of Lerdahl's theories, writes: "Basing aesthetic claims, and establishing constraints on composition, on an incomplete account ... amounts to overestimating the theory and shortchanging the mind's capacity to deal with many different kinds of music" (Robert Rowe, Interactive Music Systems: Machine Listening and Composing (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), 105).
60. Neuromancer (New York: Ace Books, 1984), Count Zero (New York: Arbor House, 1986), Burning Chrome (New York: Ace Books, 1986), Mona Lisa Overdrive (New York: Bantam Books, 1988).
61. Said, The World, The Text, and The Critic, 24.
62. Sadly, it appears that this is already happening. In a recent New York Times article, Richard Taruskin cites Lerdahl as one of a group of individuals who have supposedly performed "solid empirical work in cognitive psychology and, especially, linguistics" ("Does Nature Call the Tune?" New York Times, 18 September 1994, Arts and Leisure section: 28). Three weeks later, a letter appeared in which the author thanked Taruskin for giving him "the names of the experts" (Letter from Richard Epro, New York Times, 9 October 1994, Arts and Leisure section: 4).
63. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 94.
64. Quotations and biographical details are from Harvey Sachs, Music in Fascist Italy (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987), 24-25.
65. Michel Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" in Paul Rabinow, ed., The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 39.
66. See Richard Toop, "On Complexity," Perspectives of New Music 31, no. 1 (Winter 1993): 54.
67. Said, Musical Elaborations, 55.
68. Foucault, "Space, Knowledge, and Power" (an interview with Paul Rabinow, translated by Christian Hubert), The Foucault Reader, 250.
69. Charles Bernstein, "State of the Art," in A Poetics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 5.
70. Moravec and Beaser, "Issue Editors' Introduction," NT: 3.
71. Bernstein, "Censers of the Unknown - Margins, Dissent, and the Poetic Horizon," A Poetics, 183.
72. Bernstein, "State of the Art," 8.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Perspectives of New Music|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1995|
|Previous Article:||When we think about music and politics: the case of Kevin Volans.|
|Next Article:||Cheered by battleship: in memory of Kurdt Kobain.|