Friday, May 29, 2015

Beginning with Lou Harrison's Melodicles

Here is the first page of Lou Harrison's Music Primer and the starting point of this blog. Following this is Ivodne Galatea single page adding to this idea. It was this that inspired the idea of doing such a blog together .


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: