Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
“James Tenney and the theory of everything” by Gary Barwin
I really liked this article. I like the many examples of how music has served as our perception of the world around us since the beginning. I like the idea that the percieved openness and freedom often associated with atonality is really just an awareness or a willingness to accept that there is more that we do not know. Music having many other dimensions than those that are most obvious is perhaps an indication of how many the universe may actually contain.
This article discusses in detail James Tenney’s perception of the universe by looking at his 1984 work, “John Cage and the Theory of Harmony”. Throughout history, music has been used as a metaphor for current ideas about nature, space and time. Music has served as a way to express our notions of the divine and of science. The boundlessness or complexity of music is supposed to represent what we might not understand. One example is the polyphonic pieces with multiple texts of the medieval era. The church believed that god could perceive relationships that humans could not. There is even a quote from Scheonberg stating that “ [in] musical space...as in [Swedenborg’s] heaven, there is no absolute down, no right or left, no forward or backward.” (Swedenborg is mentioned in the article as being a theologist.) Scheonberg’s music clearly reflects the idea that if there can be space with no gravity or direction then there can be music that reflects that as well.
The concept of space and time that James Tenney (an america music theorist (and composer)) describes is multi-dimensional. There are generally an accepted three dimensions to our universe with time acting as a possible fourth. The fact that James Tenney can classify about 6 dimensions when sound/music is produced, a real physical production in space, shows that there is a definite possibility of a universe with many many more dimensions.
The dimensions of music include:
frequency or pitch (low->high)
timbre (overtone structure) (dull->bright, pitched->not pitched) (timbre in itself is multi-dimensional)
morphology (change of sound from initiation to fade-away)
order of succession
In considering this concept of musical multi-dimensions, remember that some are not physically perceptible even if based on the physicality of sound production but they do occupy a conceptual space. For example two instruments can play the same pitch but they are each occupying their own space and not interfering with each other.
The main point of this article is that through music we can appreciate and imagine other dimensions to our own universe. After all, if we used to think it was flat and we have come this far, there must be must more we are not yet aware of.
One thing that I will follow up is mentioned at the end of the article. There is a quote from one of Scheonberg’s atonal pieces (“I feel the air of a new planet.”) Other than hinting at that of the unknown, I am very interested to hear what atonal music with voice sounds like so I would like to look it up. Especially with the project quickly approaching!