Sunday, August 30, 2015

Melodicle as Acoustea - ἀκουστέον - "that which must be listened to"

TLDR - As there is a notion from ancient Greece of an "idea" -Ἰδεῶν, something that must be seen - so there might be a notion of an "acoustea" - ἀκουστέον, something that must be heard. This is borne out by Liddel & Scott. This is a nice term for a melodicle.


This is a reflection (following Ives' essay postface to 114 Songs) about the nature of tune, and Harrison's notion of the melodicle, with a hat-tip towards Wierzbicka's ideas on language.

This is about music, but we need some other paragraphs for backgrounding.

I am lucky enough to have a friend who is a classical Greek doctorate who though not in academe still reads and translates for fun. As my background is fundamentally in philosophy, we have long (possibly tedious to the observer) conversations about Plato and the pre-Socratics. And a thought came up in one such conversation today.

We were discussing the founding of property-based ideas of freedom in Locke, and were having a grand old time rubbishing the notion of "intellectual property" and the ownership of an idea (which is one of those things that if you give it away you still have it). And contrasting it with Rousseauvian ideas of freedom, and the notion of a vomeronasal sense of trust to align with the other extra senses (balance, heat, pain, embodiment). This based on Warzbiecka's fantastic book "Sense, Experience and Evidence" which shows how Lockean ideas and most of the baggage of the English Enlightenment come down to sensible meaning two things. So we were rubbishing the very idea of owning an idea.

Now, the notion of "idea" comes from the Greek ἰδέα, from Plato specific coinage, but not many people realise the etymology is from Ἰδεῶν, which comes from the root word for sight - it literally means "that which demands to be seen" or "that which demands to be understood".

So I thought - following Ives, there must be a similar word for a tune, that which must be heard. So we looked in Liddell and Scott and there is was - ἀκουστέον from ἀκούω - "that which must be listened to" or must"that which must be attended to"

So Harrison's "melodicle" (which has been uppermost in mind because of tonkori arrangements) are in fact Acousteas. And it informs the notion of "ear-worm" as well.

This usage may not take off, but it's nice to know it's there.

Ives' essay postface to 114 Songs
"Some of the songs in this book, particularly among the latter ones, cannot be sung, and if they could, perhaps might prefer, if they had a say, to remain as they are; that is, "in the leaf"--and that they will remain in this peaceful state is more than presumable. An excuse (if none of the above are good enough) for their existence which suggests itself at this point is that a song has a few rights, the same as other ordinary citizens.If it feels like walking along the left-hand side of the street, passing the door of physiology or sitting on the curb, why not let it? If it feels like kicking over an ash can, a poet's castle, or the prosodic law, will you stop it? Must it always be a polite triad, a "breve gaudium," a ribbon to match the voice? Should it not be free at times from the dominion of the thorax, the diaphragm, the ear, and other points of interest? If it wants to beat around in the park, should it not have immunity from a Nemesis, a Ramses, or a policeman? Should it not have a chance to sing to itself, if it can sing?--to enjoy itself without making a bow, if it can't make a bow?--to swim around in any ocean, if it can swim, without having to swallow "hook and bait," or being sunk by an operatic greyhound? If it happens to feel like trying to fly where humans cannot fly, to sing what cannot be sung, to walk in a cave on all fours, or to tighten up its girth in blind hope and faith and try to scale mountains that are not, who shall stop it?

--In short, must a song always be a song!"

The songs

Wierzbicka's book at OUP

Musician in a Landscape - Chiang Yee

Chiang Yee,  from The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh:

"That had been a very fine morning, and as I sat on one of the public seats along the Crags I had become completely intoxicated by the still, yet fresh air. A shaft of sunlight hovered in the mist, suggesting the busy movement in the air of each tiny particle. Then the chiming began from one church after another. At first I could distinguish a single tune quivering through the mist with notes so clear and pure they seemed to cleanse my heart and shake old dusty thoughts out of my mind. Involuntarily I rose to my feet. More chimes floated up, each distinct and yet blending with the rest to produce an extraordinary harmony. I held my breath with a happy feeling of expansion and clarity until the peals ended in a soothing trail of sound. I realised how right our great philosophers and musicians were to say that music is best heard at a distance and from a high place. Perhaps I had been particularly fortunate in hearing the chimes washed by the morning mist. How much better this was than to listen indoors or in a street to tunes cramped by walls and tarnished with urban reek! I have read many tales of famous old Chinese musicians who liked to play their instruments in the depths of a grove or under the shade of a big tree in a far corner of a garden while the audience listened at a distance, or, when forced indoors, sat behind screens so that the audience could enjoy the music undisturbed. We modern people sit close together in packed auditoria watching the movements of the hands and the expressions on the faces of the players on the stage, and sometimes even daring - if it is winter-time in Britain! - to sneeze or cough."

full version:
It was raining hard outside my window; I could hear it clearly. But I had thought of going up Arthur's Seat to hear the Sunday morning chimes of Edinburgh's church bells. Rain has never prevented me from going out.
I might never have thought of this expedition had I not chanced to hear the chimes on a previous Sunday from Salisbury Crags.
That had been a very fine morning, and as I sat on one of the public seats along the Crags I had become completely intoxicated by the still, yet fresh air. A shaft of sunlight hovered in the mist, suggesting the busy movement in the air of each tiny particle. Then the chiming began from one church after another. At first I could distinguish a single tune quivering through the mist with notes so clear and pure they seemed to cleanse my heart and shake old dusty thoughts out of my mind. Involuntarily I rose to my feet. More chimes floated up, each distinct and yet blending with the rest to produce an extraordinary harmony. I held my breath with a happy feeling of expansion and clarity until the peals ended in a soothing trail of sound. I realised how right our great philosophers and musicians were to say that music is best heard at a distance and from a high place. Perhaps I had been particularly fortunate in hearing the chimes washed by the morning mist. How much better this was than to listen indoors or in a street to tunes cramped by walls and tarnished with urban reek! I have read many tales of famous old Chinese musicians who liked to play their instruments in the depths of a grove or under the shade of a big tree in a far corner of a garden while the audience listened at a distance, or, when forced indoors, sat behind screens so that the audience could enjoy the music undisturbed. We modern people sit close together in packed auditoria watching the movements of the hands and the expressions on the faces of the players on the stage, and sometimes even daring - if it is winter-time in Britain! - to sneeze or cough.
The church bells of the Christian West sound much as our temple bells do, though the latter only strike single notes. They are cast in the same manner, and they are rung for similar purposes: the difference lies in their timbre. I do not know when the first church bells were cast in the West; in China there are temple bells among the ancient bronzes of the Chou Dynasty dating back three or four thousand years. We often use the phrase 'Sheng-chungmu- ku" which means ' morning bell and evening drum', to describe something which awakens the mind and quickens the conscience, and it came to my lips as I stood listening to the chimes on Salisbury Crags.

Appolinaire's Symphony Made by the World

Music is the audible history of my fingers moving. There are other histories. They make a ballet to the eye. Makes me think of Kubik reconstructing Chopi xylophone music from documentaries.

But there are other non-music sounds. arms moving in clothes, chairs squeaking, blood surging past the stapes. The cataract of aging ears. They got left behind. Audible shadows of the audible, left out of history.

Apollinaire's ‘symphony made by the world’ created by the Moon King, who when we meet him
"... was seated in front of a keyboard, one key of which he was applying with a weary air; and it remained stuck, so that there came from one of the pavilions a murmur both strange and continual. At first I was unable to discern its meaning. The well-developed microphones which the king had at his disposal were regulated in such a manner as to bring into the cellar noises of life on earth from the most far away places.

Now it is murmurs from the Japanese countryside …

Then, from another depressed key, we are transported in mid-morning, the king hails the socialist hard work in New Zealand, I can hear the whistling of geysers …
Doum, doum, boum, doum, doum, boum, doum, doum, boum, it is Peking, the gongs and drums of the patrols …
The king’s fingers run over the keys, haphazardly, raising them up, in some fashion simultaneously, all the murmurs of the world have just been made for us, as we remain stationary, a tour by ear..."

Situated music - a theory of musical affordance

Clancey describes situated cognition as a correction to the naive ideas of artificial intelligence. I think that there is a parallel between the idea of embedded music and abstract music, the former being a product of the musical affordance of an instrument, the latter the idea of universal unembodied melody - glassperlenspeil if you like. It comes from an idea of Hugh Tracey's in his book for an African music, Ngoma.

I have been constructing a series of hybrid instruments as a means of exploring the doctrine of (for want of a better phrase, I have called) instrumental affordance. This is the idea of the interplay between the layout of an instrument and the kinds of music that develops for it.

 This idea was proposed formally by the musicologist Hugh Tracey in his book Ngoma (1948), but has been sort of mentioned elsewhere. It's particularly obvious with thumb pianos, wherein there are missing notes or notes that are present twice or even three times to make certain things easily played.
 The Effects of Instruments upon Music
Although we make musical instruments to play our music as we want it, we sometimes find that the instrument plays its own music—notes that we did not expect. It is like driving a donkey along a path. So long as the donkey stays on the path it is our way; but sometimes it refuses to go along the path and goes off into the grass to find its own way. Every musician well knows what this means. The instrument in his hands seems to come alive, and without his knowing quite what is happening he plays sequences of notes which do not come from his mind but from his fingers on the instrument. Then if this new sequence sounds well he may try to fix it in his mind and play it again. So the instrument itself has added something to the music, more than was thought out in the mind of the composer alone.

A great number of musical phrases come from the instruments in this way. The bows make certain harmonics which we use as yodels (maguri); the position of the keys of the Mbira makes it easier to play certain sequences of notes which, maybe, lie close to each other; the flutes produce an unexpected number of small notes if we blow harder, and we have to accept the notes that they make because they can make no others.

The music of any instrument or voice shows clearly the features (the likeness) of its parents. For instance, when we sing we can hold on to one note for a long time. But not so on the Mbira. We must keep on striking it to keep the note sounding. Some, musicians put extra notes on the Mbira for this purpose, notes of the same pitch on either side, so that they can make one note sound a long time by playing it with two thumbs alternately. So where we can sing one long note, the Mbira would have to play several beats :
Voice : Nde-------------------------------------------
Mbira: Da-ka-da-ka-da-ka-da-ka-da-ka-da-ka-da-ka
The characteristics of each instrument and its manner of playing can thus be turned to good account by clever musicians.

In the course of a great number of years, the constant use of one kind of instrument has a deep and lasting effect upon the music of the people who use it. The manner of playing instruments is also most important. For example, the drums which are played with the palms of the hands make quite a different sound from those played with beaters. The quick vibrations of a light beater on a tight drum head (kettledrums) are much used by European military bands, but you rarely hear this sound from our drums. But on the other hand they cannot achieve so great a variety of blows as we do on our drums.

Each instrument that we use helps to make up the character of our music. If we changed our instruments our music would also change. Centuries of work and skill would be lost if we ceased to play our own instruments. The music of the Mbira, for instance, if played on a European piano would soon lose all the special character which is part of its charm.

The notion of  instrumental affordance is based on J J Gibson's theory of affordances -
"The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill." 
So instrumental affordances are the obvious possibilities what a musical instrument offers the performer and/or composer for good or ill (inspiration or cliche). Gibson's categories of affordances include those
"of the medium, of substances, of surfaces and their layout, of objects".
 (Gibson 1979). I'll put more at the bottom of this blog

Back to Tracey - he points out that the instrument evolves to meet the increased needs of the musician, who then sees new possibilities in each newly evolved instrument, and so it goes. we can see that there are affordances of medium, substance, surface and surface layout for an instrument. The medium is common between all instruments - sound travelling through air. The substance gives the nature of the instrument - these are the Sachs categories of idiophones, aerophones, chordophones. For a musical instrument this can be termed a sonoral affordance.

Each instrument also presents a surface to the musician (again, musician here includes performer, composer, arranger, transcriber, builder and designer). So the difference in surface and surface layout between (say) a fife and a piccolo is the keying and all that enables. This is different to the object affordance that is the difference between a piccolo and an alto flute, but have the same surface layout. A common substance and surface layout give a working definition of a family of instruments. We can call this the melodic affordance.

Seen backwards, we can look at this as the musical umwelt (per von Uexkull, Fraser) of the musician - their musical universe is observed through this instrumental affordance. So the possibilities that are possible are relatively unlimited, but there is a large preponderance of things that are obviously beautiful or emotionally charged.

Since this is an observable phenomenon, it seemed to me that (following the idea of conceptual blending of per Fauconnier) new musical umwelts would be possible by mixing the substance of one family with the surface layout of another family. So I set about making instruments that presented these hypothesised new musical umwelts to me, while making them eminently playable.

I have been building as a series of experiments hybrid kalimbas, using the melodic affordances of other  instruments with the sonoral affordance of the kalimba. I have then arranged the traditional material of the instrument providing the melodic affordance, then improvised to see what follows. When the "experiment" is "complete", I'll write up what I learned, but my expectations were exceeded in  ways that would sound like exaggeration.

Here's a brief survey. 

 The Tonkori Kalimba 

This instrument (built for me by Darko Korocek of Instruments Korocek) combines the 5-note re-entrant tuning of the Ainu Tonkori fretless zither. It has two ranks so the notes can be played as parallel octaves (in the way that a twelve string guitar sounds jangly)  .
I arranged the repertoire of the tonkori for it, then explored the instruments affordance to see what tunes emerged from given starting points


The marovany kalimba

 This instrument combines the affordance of the marovany (a box harp from Madagascar) with the tines of the kalimba (it has been done by other people as well, I'll find the link when I get a chance). It was built for me by Ray Vincent of Ray's Rootworks:
It's played from a strap around the neck:

 The other two are ongoing - the pocket gamelan and swarkalimba


This instrument combines the affordance of the swarsangam with the kalimba.

This affordance is a tampura bass, with a swarmandel arangement.It was made for me by the Caleb Schepart at NyKalimba.

I have yet to make a "proper" recording of it, this is me fiddling with it the day it arrived

Pocket Gamelan

There are two pocket gamelans and they require very large pockets: they were made for me by William Harper - one is in pelog

and the other in slendro

Here is a pelog extemporisation

more to come on these.


The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, but the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment. The antecedents of the term and the history of the concept will be treated later; for the present, let us consider examples of an affordance....

If a terrestrial surface is nearly horizontal (instead of slanted), nearly flat (instead of convex or concave), and sufficiently extended (relative to the size of the animal) and if its substance is rigid (relative to the weight of the animal), then the surface affords support....

Note that the four properties listed --- horizontal, flat, extended, and rigid --- would be physical properties of a surface if they were measured with the scales and standard units used in physics. As an affordance of support for a species of animal, however, they have to be measured relative to the animal. They are unique for that animal. They are not just abstract physical properties....
An elongated object of moderate size and weight affords wielding. If used to hit or strike, it is a club or hammer. If used by a chimpanzee behind bars to pull in a banana beyond its reach, it is a sort of rake. In either case, it is an extension of the arm. A rigid staff also affords leverage and that use is a lever. A pointed elongated object affords piercing -- if large it is a spear, if small a needle or awl.

As adapted by Norman: (Psychology of Everyday Things)
The term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possible be used. A chair affords (‘is for’) support and, therefore, affords sitting. A chair can also be carried

Playing is like

"When I play the guitar, even when I am practicing, I am besieged with images, memories, deja vu experiences and emotions; and for every chord I play, for every tune I write, there is within me a distinct and unique image, emotion, or feeling".
John Fahey -  God Time and Causality 1977

 Yes, spot on. Writing music is a species of being haunted

Gospel of Fahey (again)
But while technique is very important , it is only part of the story. Music is a language - a language of emotions. The worst possible way to play these songs - and I am not only talking about my own compositions - is in metronome time at a uniform volume. Another terrible thing would be to play any composition the same way every time, or to feel that you have to play it exactly the way someone else, such as myself, played it or said to play it. A good technician must also be creative . Even if a person is not a composer, he can interpret and arrange, and these skills are as important as technique in making a performance interesting. I rely heavily on both technique and interpretation , and I think of myself as a very good composer, arranger, and plagiarist for the solo acoustic guitar.
Interpretation depends on two factors: First is the ability to dramatize one's self, to get caught up in and carried away by what one is doing, especially in conducting and guitar playing. Second is musical background. A broad spectrum of musical interest over a long period of time is ideal. The broader and longer your musical appreciation, the better; and the earlier you start, the better. I grew up listening to classical orchestral music. I later immersed myself in Southern American folk music. For some reason, the best folk music came out of the South , and east of the Mississippi. Nobody really knows why.

Beginning with Lou Harrison's Melodicles

In Lou Harrison's Musical Primer, Harrison formalised the substructure of melodic musical pieces with a construct he named the melodicle. 

From Harrison's Musical Primer
 In his Musical Primer, he discusses families of melodicles, and the ways in which a tune can be advanced - in ways that are quite similar to the techniques of the 2nd Austrian School (Schoenberg, Berg Webern etc). He pays homage to Henry Cowell's exposition of melodic development.

 A melody (and its constituent melodicles) start private and end up shared. A Human construct that follows that path but not as noticably is language, especially spoken language, and in an article in the Guardian,  David Shariatmadari lists the standard ways in which words (or word sets) can change: rebracketing, metathesis, syncope, epenthesis, velarisation and affrication.

  • Rebracketing is how "A napron" became "An apron"
  • Metathesis is swapping internally - "Hros" -> "Horse", "Brid" -> "Bird"
  • Epenthis is a letter appearing - "Thuner" becoming "Thunder"
  • Syncope is where a letter disappears "Woden's day" -> "Wednesday"
  • Velarisation is tonal shift - how no-one pronounces the "l" in "folk" or "walk"
  • Affrication is also tonal shift - this is seen in the loss of once pronounced sounds "D[y]uke" and "T[y]udor" becoming pronounced "Dook" and "Toodor".

This set me to wondering if a Lou Harrison style melodic composition-improvisation could have a tune evolve over time in terms of rebracketing, metathesis, syncope, epenthesis, velarisation and affrication. Looking over hundreds of pieces of musci I have written, I notice that I have used some of these unintentionally (in the manner of M Jourdain) but wonder how it would work intentionally.

Process music is a legitimate way of exploring a tune that has occurred to one, and not a fall-back for people with no imagination as people somewhat cynically say. Process philosophy (e.g. Whitehead, Rescher) would suggest that thinking is conducted this way anyway. So we end up with M Jourdain again!

Here is a musical example of this (written in the manner of Harrison)

you can listen to it here:

Gamelan is like

"Gamelan is comparable only to two things: moonlight and flowing water, It is pure and mysterious like moonlight, it is always the same and always changing like flowing water. It forms for our ears no song, this music, it is a state of being, such as moonlight itself which lies poured out over the land. It flows murmuring, tinkling and gurgling like water in a mountain stream. Yet it is never monotonous. Sometimes the sounds flow faster and louder, just as water also sometimes speaks more loudly in the night only to sink back again quietly."
Leonhard Huizinga

The eye of the piece

I have been grappling with terminology for describing the wonder that is Ainu Tonkori music - it's got a fair measure of delight about it that I find with gamelan but played on a 5 string fretless zither.

The trouble arises - what do you call something that is a musical theme that can vary in note-set, in rhythm, in arrangement, yet somehow remains identifiable? Pieces like those depicting the pecking cranes, the splashing crows and the creeping foxes vary in all these ways, yet remain thoroughly recognisable.

But it's more than a motif or germ in the Western art tradition - it contains within it the basis for acceptable variations. And I don't want a xenoglossic term here.

I have been thinking of drawing a metaphor from Ainu cloth embroidery, which is made of variations on two simple motifs - アイウシノカ (Ayusinoka - thorn-form) - it looks like a parenthesis rotated 90 degrees.

and モレウノカ (Moreunoka - whirlpool-form from two words, turn and slowly):

The thorns and whirlpools combine alone and together to build up to compound structures include flowers, crosses, waves and scales, please see the keyed diagram I made especially at the end of the post. I am chiefly interested in シクノカ Sikunoka eye-form here:
Which comes in various forms:

Now, there is a bit of an Ainu Yukar about an artist combining the patterns to make up an embroidered cloth. It puts me in mind of the way the fragments of a tonkori piece make up the whole, folding and combining to make the tunes

I remained staring,
after the many needle paths
after the countless needle paths
and in the paths of my needle
there would take form
many swirling patterns
countless swirling patterns
The upper clothing racks
would bend under the weight
of the beautiful robes
which I had embroidered.
(Philippi, 1979*)

The core problem remains that (per Okamura 1993**) "In the Ainu language, there is no word for pattern." Tricky.

Taking this all together, and considering that the thing in question is the centre of the piece, I am thinking of coining the usage "siku" for this thing - the eye of the piece as the eye of the storm, as it were. And given the pictorial nature of the music, that seems nice as well. Also because it is a composite (as the melodicle is composite) being made up of thorn and whirlpool - like notes and silence.

For a musical illustration, listen to Oki play "Musical argument":

Or Chiba play "leaping over rocks at twilight":

You can hear the tunes arise from these siku to become so many different variations of the same piece. It is said (by the great Tonkori players of the past that were recorded) that you can't learn a piece from a book or a score because you only learn a tune and variations on it.

Tomita Tomoko says
"tonkori music in its tradition was not written down, and it was very largely based on improvisation, that writing the music out restricts it and is in fact detrimental to the open-ended, improvisational and free nature of this form of music."  (from Jack Claar's Tonkori tutor)
Nishima Ume (original   translation from a blog, where the same point is made)
"Because connecting songs was itself enjoyable, when the three of us played together, she would not stop. Once we started playing, that was it; she didn't even want lunch. We would marvel at how long she could keep going as we did our best to keep up our accompaniment. If I suggested that we take a break, she would say, "If you're tired, let's play lying down," and then she would do just that."
Studying with a great performer you picked up the rules of the possible mutations of the siku.

Does anyone out there have any thoughts?

To help with this reflection on your part, I made up this diagram because there isn't one in any one place and I can't scan it from a book etc etc. This doesn't exhaust them but will serve as an illustration of how these patterns all arise from thorn + whirl. It also illustrates the power (yet again) of combinatorial art.
1 アイウシAyusi Thorn (means literally pierced by arrow)
2 モレウ Morew Whirlpool or Spiral (lit turn slowly)
3 コノイカ Konoika wave
4 ラムラムノカ Ramuramunoka scales
5 ウレソ モレウ Uren morew two whirls together
6 エトコ Etoko swelling whirl
7 プンカル punkara vine
8 アイウシモレウ Ayusimorew (combined thorn and whirl)
9 ウタサ Utasa crossing or intersecting
10 シク Siku eye (eyes)
11 アパポエプイ Apapoepuy Flower
12 アパポピラスケ Apapopirasuke Bud

My source for this is Arai 1973 ***

There are some pages around on this - in English

same in Japanese

There are two pages selling things as well with some details

* Philippi, D. L. 1979. Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans. The Epic Tradition of the Ainu. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press
** Okamura, K 1993 The clothes of the Ainu people  Kyōto-shi : Kyōto Shoin
 "In the Ainu language, there is no word for pattern. One reason for this is because the pattern symbolized the wearer's inner spirit as well as the guardian spirit, so the Ainu try to avoid assigning the pattern a name. Sometimes, they say, "I can see the pattern," meaning they can identify the wearer of the clothes by the personalized appliqué and embroidery work.
 *** Arai, Ayako 1973: On the Pattern and Color of the Ainu Clothing,  Bulletin of the Tokyo College of Domestic Science 13, 129-140, 1973-03
You can read it yourself hear and lok at the many illustrations from the photographed clothes: (there is a part two as well and there is a PDF directly obtainable here:

Edit: The problem was nicely put by Kumiko Uyeda in her thesis (2015)

"Improvisation worked with alteration of melodies. The word “irette” or “irekte” means “to sound” and the principal melody or motive in a song is called “e ikai sa irette,” and the section that is varied from the principal melody is called “ikai koro irette.” In traditional tonkori playing, putting variation (ikai) in tonkori playing showed the skills of the tonkori player and the players were very proud of including complicated hand techniques and variations into the playing, which also portrayed their individual spirit or soul into the performance. (Tomita 1967:13). In the transcription of “Ikeresotte” by Tomita/Tangiku (performed by Nishihira) the  repetition of the principal melody is altered by extraction or addition of melodic notes, or by a variation in the rhythm of the motive, or by repeating small sections of the melody. The recognition of the melody was never lost, where the modification never strayed too far from the “model.” This is shown in the following examples of “Ikeresotte,” where different versions have varying rhythms, pitches, and melodic lines"

read it here: 

Uyeda 2015 - The Journey of the Tonkori A Multicultural Transmission

Edit: I had considered using kata, which is the japanese term used for a similar motif used in shamisen music as a metaphorical reference to the kata used in social situations (eg Malm 1963**** Keister 2004*****) but that conveyed a sense of being a section or cutt-off thing, as well as being xenoglossic. Also, the kata is intentionally static and provide repertoire-wide leitmotivs as Keister puts it which is antithetical to the melodic cell I am writing about.

**** Malm, W P. (1963), Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. It's online, which is nice. Well worth reading
***** Keister, J K 2004 Shaped by Japanese Music: Kikuoka Hiroaki and Nagauta Shamisen in Tokyo Routledge
"The specific details learned in artistic training consist of patterns of performance behavior commonly referred to as kata (form, pattern, or shape): discrete, detailed units of predetermined patterns of action which are pieced together to constitute entire songs, dances, tea ceremonies or karate routines. These formulaic patterns not only structure the music, but also dictate precisely the manner of artistic execution by musicians. At the level of musical structure, kata appear as stereotyped patterns, sometimes with specific names, that comprise the musical formulae by which traditional pieces are composed, performed and learned.6 At the level of musical performance, kata appear as formal patterns of behavior in the stage manner of musicians who must carry out all actions with precision and grace.7 At the level of musical transmission, kata patterns are crucial interpersonal behaviors, such as bowing and honorific language, in the relationship between teacher and student that instills the proper decorum for traditional arts. All these stereotyped patterns, the musical phrases, the stage manner and the interpersonal behavior, are expected to be carried out with the utmost grace and elegance at all times and meant to be performed precisely as they were learned from the teacher. In this way, much of Japanese traditional music appears to be predetermined and formulaic, a musical practice often perceived at first by Westerners to be based solely on “form” as opposed to “content.” Kata is at once a surface aesthetic, a structural principle, and a process by which individuals are integrated into a social group in order to learn, practice, perform and transmit the music of one particular school.
Analyzing the musical structure of nagauta compositions reveals a use of musical kata similar to the use of physical kata in the social domain. Like the collection of stereotyped patterns of behavior that individuals rely on in various social situations of music-making, the building blocks for nagauta compositions are also a set of stereotyped musical patterns. Nagauta compositions are almost entirely through-composed and do not develop thematically in the manner of Western classical music compositions. Instead, nagauta is based on various combinations of four kinds of melodic patterns: 1) melodies absorbed from many defunct shamisen genres; 2) ozatsuma patterns (a subset of the first category) that consist of 48 stereotyped phrases used for heightened speech sections; 3) repertoire-wide leitmotives that signify special moods, places or people; and 4) standard melodic procedures without any known historical connection. It is this last category that makes up the majority of nagauta compositions (Malm 1963:213–214).4 The existence of such stereotypical patterns in nagauta has a practical purpose in that it aids in the memorization of lengthy, through-composed nagauta pieces."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A "Cubist" like Decentralization of a Melody

This is a more technical post as one way in order to opening up a melody into a wider tonal space. It uses the application of one Erv Wilson's method or creating uncentered structures resulting from his combination product sets. This subject can be pursuited  in detail here. While Wilson in his papers is concerned mainly with harmonic based structures, he was aware of it melodic possibilities of which he showed early on applied to a 19 tone system . Here i will outline some possibilities in the standard 12 tone tuning as being useful to more people yet can be easily adapted to other ones.

 A simple example is where a four note motif is transformed using a structure called the hexany. The hexany basically take the combination of 2 points out of 4 and condenses each into a single location that functions as both. I relate the method here to those cubist drawings that use a  single line can represent both the edge of a face seen looked at forward or to the side. There are many examples of multiple meaning in line and forms in this style. Wilson's paper above working in 19 ET shows how the hexany can be used as the basic of generating a diamond or lambdoma of itself.
Template and Example of Melodic Hexany

 Since in  melody one deals with the relative position of notes to each other,  it is possible to have a single note have more than one relative positions to others. Starting with a four note motif, I will show one way it can be transformed in a simple form of which the reader can go into as much depth as one desires. each tone in the six tone figure can function as two different relative points in the melody. but will function as the two opposite points in regard to the inversion. without getting bogged down in any more technicalities than needed is the point that the hexany will exhibit properties of 4 note motif while decentering it position and location. in other words it properties become spread out over  larger pitch terrain.

The same can be applied to a scale here shown in terms of a pentatonic. In 12 ET one will more often than not will have notes duplicated which in a sense undermines the purity of the structure but still with preserve an unfolding of the scale as if it is turned inside out. Here are example below starting with a pentatonic A B C# E F also showing it in rotation and with a chart accenting some 8 tone cycles within these 10 note dekanies i happen to have on hand
rotations of the A B C# E F type pentatonic with examples of some 8 tone patterns found within

The process can be pushed even to heptatonic scales but many of the Combination product sets will involve up to 35 tones with 3 out of 7 set. Included is an example of one with the 2 out of 7 set which encompasses 21 tones. Interesting even though notes are repeated, where they are will more often than not will include those relationships not used elsewhere, so even if one uses the same note, one will be using it in a different context. The 3 out of 7 template and blank are included for ones own use and exploration. Such structures can also be used for rhythmic relationships but beyond of what we will cover in this blog.
Example of the 2 out of 7 set seeded with a heptatonic scale

Blank 2 out of 7 set lattice

Lattice of 3 out of 7 set from Wilson Hebdomekontany paper.

Blank 3 out of 7 lattice

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mache's Zoomusicology

Francois-Bernard Mache, a composer and student of Messiaen, provides us with a different way of looking at melody. In his book Music, Myth and Nature; or The Dolphins or Arion, Mache guides us through the form of bird songs as opposed to their pitch construction. Mache was in search of a music that as it stated did not exist yet. He called it Zoomusicology where the ultimate goal was the creation of interspecies music.
Form in a Blyth's Reed Warbler song
Form in a Icterine Warbler song
Form in a Reed Bunting song

Mache is a strong defender of the notion that music exist as an expression in other animals, dismissing the idea that it is always functional, as in mating etc. He also points to how animals that are often thought of being monotonous , say the cricket for example actually have their own ‘Rubati’ with hesitation and change according to the environment. Moreover the sounds made by animals exhibit their own balance between variation and repetition when closely expected.

Form in a Dartford Warbler Song

Comparison of the form of a Satirical Greek song and that of a Pied Flycatcher

The pictures here show some of the different forms he found in various birds song. Mache was generous in showing how some of these forms exist in music with for instance an example from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and a satirical Greek Song. The pages here are some selections of the interesting forms various birds use.

There are questions to be answered though. what makes a song to a bird? How many do they have and what remains constant in each version?
Forms found in Skylark Songs