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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Reti's The Thematic Process of Music

excerpt from Reti's The Thematic Process in Music
 showing some of the melodic relation in
Beethoven's Sym. no.9
This premise of this 1951 book showed how melody can be a basic building block to a musical work. Reti found a tendency in a wide range of compositions of  composers to develop melodic ideas throughout a piece as a structure building device. Furthermore he found  the order in which they first occurred was preserved, yet could even be expanded to direct the key relationships between movements.

  Here from the beginning of his book is an analysis  of Beethoven Sym. no. 9. This has been edited by myself in order to condense on a single page. Like in a theme and variation, he shows how in this piece the motifs that occur in example 1 occur in sequential order throughout the work.

Is it possible that our ear might impose such unity to a certain extent? I would think so as our perception will alway try to find the pattern of a stimuli. I might be possible to say exchange the middle mvt. between two Haydn Symphonies in the same key might allow enough similarity to cause us to imagine like relationships. Still the approach is worthy from a compositional point of view and feel this book is underrated especially in that light. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Variations of Melodic Shape of a Non Mathematical Kind

excerpt from Arnheim's Art and Visual Perception showing the results of an experiment
asking a shape to be remembered after a split second showing.
Common discussions on melodic variation often deal with modifying melody by structural means like those found in the previous post. This post is not to discourage it but to augment it. We expect in the course of this blog there might be many representatives of mathematical means. In contrast composers might  imitate a melodic contour quite freely as being enough. Even here it is worth mentioning some "psychological" modifications noticed in the visual field that could just as well be applied to a melody. Gestaltist Rudolf Arnheim in his Art and Visual Perception points out who happens when people are showed an image for a slight section and asked to reproduce it. Below is a modified picture from his book showing a general overall sharpening or levelling of details by the following processes: Symmetry Enhanced, Non-fitting detail Isolated, Over-all shape simplified, Closing of boundaries, Repetition of similar shape, Subdivision enhanced, and a change from oblique to vertical which in terms of a melody might be less a simplifying of it direction as already included, but maybe the inclusion of harmonic elements or arpeggiation which is common form of variation, if one has "harmony" which one can no longer assume. Some of these might result in the same thing such as enhancing the symmetry and simplifying the over-all shape. The above list is in no way inclusive of all that can be done, but points out those things that melody might do to a over time.  Possibly things that can be heard as a result of the process of them in folk music.