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How do you create the illusion of emotion in your compositions?

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Hey Gordon,

I like your philosophical taunt - the illusion of emotion. God, it summonses the arguments central to La Mettrie's "Man a Machine" thesis, and the scary cogitation that everything we feel is just sensory perception related to and stored upon an ultimately and quickly failing neoronal network. (Quick, let me invent a God, he'll sort of save me, and then I can even commercialize psychological security and make a real historical killing.)

Fredrick feigns to be an absolute existentialist, I am a torturous romantic, and you are theorising your emotions. I am - (but not for long), I am !!! Am I ???

Seems that some of Bach's music, though certainly not all, is far more intellectual than emotional. Seems that most pop music is rather intellectually bereft. The intellect can be a nice seminary. But it seems to me that emotions can only be meaningful if they are imparted the volitional intelligence, directives creating a moral pointer. Debussy lends exquisite affirmation to the transcendent beauty of the life evanescent. On the other hand Mahler imparts massive impetus to the visionary life. But Abba and the Wiggles just stir the infantile emotiveness of babbling babes. (Reminds me of Joyce's distinction between art and pornography).

Absolutely correct Jon, just like that pleasure seeking Faun. Nonetheless, we can't live in a painless world, and those who have often sought to alleviate pain the most, have, through clearly errant or indulgent ways, often begat far, far more pain than those who have simply watched and waited. History, on the other hand, is not ever changed by the contented - by moral idlers. Yet the contented always think that they are causing no pain, that they are, somehow, innocent.

Most human beings, in various ways, are largely content to live by certain totally delusional or conveniently blinkered mindsets that allow them to sustain massively egocentric lifestyles - and we have a planet infested with 7 billion rampant, devastating, and unheeding predators as a direct consequence. Whatever my musical pretensions, my first job in life is to turn this whole situation around - by whatever means necessary. And that process, whether it is put into motion by me or whoever, may just cause a wee bit of pain - bad luck.

The Reformation, the Enlightenment, and western Revolution all caused pain - let's undo that, and go back to the ancient world. Kind of brings up Palestrina again, but he did write very beautiful music, as, sometimes, did Messiaen.

@ Jon: "I agree that music should please". I, however, would add: "We should not be discouraged to use certain less pleasing techniques, if and when said technique would better represent our thoughts and feelings which we are attempting to communicate".

@ Mark: "I can't agree that popular music of the modern age is less intellectual than of previous musical periods, as I've studied the lead sheets at Berklee College of Music --- complexities are better hidden than heard. I can't agree on the point regarding Bach --- emotion was much more difficult to create at that point in time, due to the limitations of instruments, venues, and performers, yet he (Bach) does well in expressing feelings (e.g. B Minor Mass and St. Mathew's Passion). I find the comment regarding Debussy to be an exaggeration --- good man, excellent composer, but not quite above defining in finite terms. I find the comment regarding Mahler to be half correct --- visionary musician equals yes, but visionary life equals no: I wouldn't want to experience what he experienced ever. Interesting comment regarding Joyce --- my art (music that gives the soul what it needs) is pornographic (music that gives the soul what it desires).

I wouldn't be describing modern jazz as popular music for a start Gordon. I was referring to the stuff that is ubiquitous on youtube. However, doing impros over a seemingly complex set of chord patterns actually boils down to something much simpler than writing music like any recognised polyphonic master. Nor was I saying that Bach's music is emotionless, and I don't think any of the superficial constraints you talk about had a great deal to do with what was or what was not expressed in the Baroque music. The overwhelming ideological system of the age had a great, great deal to do with governing that emotional/moral expression - and we see that this had radically changed by the very time of Mozart - for very obvious and powerful political reasons. If anyone exaggerated the tragedy of their own lives it was, in fact, Mahler. He was in love with tragedy, or a tragic conception of his own destiny - so much so that he seems to have largely ignored his own daughter so that he could constantly write a pre-emptive script for his own misery. Yet he wrote some marvelous, marvelous transcending music through this very process. At least Debussy, apparently as an out and out hedonist, obviously spent a lot of time with his daughter. As regards Joyce, and all the furore in respect of Ulysses, he was simply pointing out why his work is not pornographic, as was so much argued. The last chapter, Molly Bloom's revolutionary 'stream of thought' somna-monologue simply encapsulates the power of a 'Deus Diabolica' theme coursing through the whole work. I don't think Joyce was doing anything more than magnifying the crude realities that keep carnal life coursing. I agree that the actual popular music of any period is not going to be intellectual. But some of the popular ghetto music coming out of the USA is just violent and pornographic, so it is the moral content I would worry about - although, where rap is concerned, the intellectual content is entirely commensurate. Have a good day Gordon, your thread now lives on.

Gordon Francis Blaney Jr. said:

@ Jon: "I agree that music should please". I, however, would add: "We should not be discouraged to use certain less pleasing techniques, if and when said technique would better represent our thoughts and feelings which we are attempting to communicate".

@ Mark: "I can't agree that popular music of the modern age is less intellectual than of previous musical periods, as I've studied the lead sheets at Berklee College of Music --- complexities are better hidden than heard. I can't agree on the point regarding Bach --- emotion was much more difficult to create at that point in time, due to the limitations of instruments, venues, and performers, yet he (Bach) does well in expressing feelings (e.g. B Minor Mass and St. Mathew's Passion). I find the comment regarding Debussy to be an exaggeration --- good man, excellent composer, but not quite above defining in finite terms. I find the comment regarding Mahler to be half correct --- visionary musician equals yes, but visionary life equals no: I wouldn't want to experience what he experienced ever. Interesting comment regarding Joyce --- my art (music that gives the soul what it needs) is pornographic (music that gives the soul what it desires).

Jon, 

I will illuminate perhaps a couple of things for you. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot didn't seem to kill a lot of people. Rather, it was the intellectual and moral idlers who were dumb and indecent enough to follow those politickers who killed and maimed millions. Secondly, whilst I may use the phrase 'by whatever means necessary' there is nothing in any of my voluminous political writings that encourages any sort of violence, except as a last and final resort. This is not the forum within which to expound my thesis or sell my extra-musical wares, at all. But I will say, at least, that my thesis focuses upon analysing the whole of human cultural evolution, as means to ascertaining a central course of intellectual and moral evolution in the human destiny. It then postulates a new religious/ideological vision, plus new designs of political, economic, and intellectual/educational structurings as means to transcend our current ecological, moral, and political imbroglios.

I can't say that my political advocacy is totally devoid of a call for 'warfare'. But it is certainly designed to massively mitigate the violence that is already occurring, via the perpetuation of ancient-world follies, via the crisis when there is a real, real scramble for the last 'natural resources' - perhaps read up on the developing China Sea skirmishes and what is happening, behind the scenes in Africa. My thesis is also designed to mitigate violence in the procurement of some very radical, but I would argue very logical and extremely necessary, fundamental political, economic, and educational changes.

In the interim, you can maintain your  innocence because you will do nothing, and you can look backwards in history - to rewrite it, and deem that the greatest ideological system of the ancient world did, and is doing no harm. Seems that the Political thread in this forum should perhaps be removed, if it is only there to attract hits - not any real momentum. And, when I venture soon to promote my 3 books on the net, I suppose I may or may not get a lot of hits, of all kinds. But the job is more important than my person.

Sorry I can't secure or endorse your world Jon. For the sheer sake of all the silent creatures on this planet, things have to move on. They don't hear any of our music, and their's is by far the most beautiful to me.

P.S. If this argument is to continue, can we transfer it to one of the Political threads. It doesn't belong here, and I don't want Gordon's very interesting discussion as to imparting emotion in music savaged by these polemics. 

Jon Corelis said:

This sentiment would have been endorsed by a number of persons who had a major effect on human history.  I would rather not write their names.

Mark Nicol said:

... my first job in life is to turn this whole situation around - by whatever means necessary. And that process, whether it is put into motion by me or whoever, may just cause a wee bit of pain - bad luck.

I for one would be interested in reading about your proposed changes and how you envisage them being implemented and by whom. You could start a new thread or continue in your previous one. I am very sceptical that there would ever be the political will, especially on the global level, for radical change. 

BTW I have downloaded the Lindberg Clarinet Concerto and I'll try to listen to it several times over the coming week.

Mark Nicol said:

 My thesis is also designed to mitigate violence in the procurement of some very radical, but I would argue very logical and extremely necessary, fundamental political, economic, and educational changes.

@ Jon:

"I realize I've thought, felt, communicated, and acted in a manner that I'm not proud of. I realize that the views expressed by me have caused problems. I realize that I've given people the wrong idea about who I am. I realize that I've hurt people.

I respect you as a musician and I like you as a person. You're open and honest. You're amusing. I believe you to be intelligent, knowledgeable, wise, and competent as a man and as a musician.

I don't understand why you're asking me to give you a reason why you should care about me. I happen to care about what you think, feel, communicate, and do, because I was brought up on the idea of treating others the way I'd like to be treated. I suppose I shouldn't expect you to care about me, but it would be nice of you if you did".

@ Mark:

  1. I wasn't talking about modern jazz: I was talking about jazz from the last hundred years, and I'll add to that other popular music as well.
  2. Improvising is a complex and difficult task, and for those of us who have studied it at the college level and use it to earn a living, it's considered to be on par with writing music.
  3. Bach is well-balanced composer in thought and feeling. Music in the Baroque and Classical periods were controlled via monarchs, aristocrats, and religious institutions: music in the Romantic period began to see and hear a decline in the aforementioned patrons, fourthly.
  4. Mahler's worldview was shaped by poverty, domestic violence and the deaths of 7 of his 14 siblings.His favorite little brother died in his arms. He witnessed his father beating his mother, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, and could do nothing but flee to the streets. The dark feelings of which Mahler spoke increased in the three final years of his life, beginning with the death of his beloved 4 1/2-year-old daughter in 1907. It was an unmitigated loss further compounded by his quasi-forced resignation as director of the Vienna Court Opera and his diagnosis of heart disease, for which there was no cure. He also made the devastating discovery that his young wife of eight years, Alma, was being pursued by an ardent and persistent suitor who had asked for her hand in marriage.
  5. Popular music of any era is intellectual and emotional, for there's subtle complexity and difficulty within grotesque  ease and simplicity. Popular music in the USA has its highs and its lows: I, however, find it to be important to listen to Billboard playlists, because if I don't understand people, then how will I write anything that will connect with them?

@ Jon:

Thank you for your response Jon. I'd also like to point out that we agree with each other.

We might write a composition to communicate a private or public matter. We as humans take interest in other humans, as we're social creatures. In writing a composition that communicates a private matter, we extend our inner selves to our fellow man in hopes that we might write a composition that others can relate to. In writing a composition that communicates a public matter, we extend a proverbial hand to our left, a proverbial hand our right, and we join hands as a people in hopes that we might write a composition that captures whatever it is that is the public matter.

I now address thoughts and feelings, which for me is the result of external and internal influences. I can't have the thoughts and feelings of others, nor can I have the communications and deeds of others, therefore I must compose from the standpoint of me.

I make an honest effort as a composer to connect with people. I begin with a private matter or a public matter, then experience thought and feeling based upon internal influences and external influences, and then communicate via the deed of composition what I hope people will be able to relate to.

Or,

Music expresses musical ideas, the execution of which can create feelings in the listener. 



Bob Porter said:

And another angle might be that I'm not trying to express my "feelings" (for , indeed, who would care about my feelings), so much as "a" feeling. I'm might be trying to project a particular idea or mood.

As a family project, my wife (the artist), my daughter(the writer), and I were going to create a production about "Dawn". I was the only one to finish. My "Dawn" composition dealt with the idea of dawn as I conceived it. So it was dawn run through the filter of my feelings, yes. But more about the concept itself than how I felt about it. It's a fine line, I know.

Ray, google?

Gordon, 

  1. "Improvising is a complex and difficult task, and for those of us who have studied it at the college level and use it to earn a living, it's considered to be on par with writing music."


    Considered by who? Writing what kind of music? 

    "Popular music of any era is intellectual and emotional, for there's subtle complexity and difficulty within grotesque  ease and simplicity. Popular music in the USA has its highs and its lows: I, however, find it to be important to listen to Billboard playlists, because if I don't understand people, then how will I write anything that will connect with them?"


    Pop music by definition is good if lots of people go out and buy it. Whether or not it's complex or intellectual is irrelevant.  It can be both complex and intellectual to a degree.

Ray,

it was a very feverish young girl who was besotted with Freddy Chopin'. During the middle of a concert in Paris she kept exclaiming, "Oooh, isn't he just sooo romantic? Isn't he just sooo romantic!!!" - And it all caught on.

Later, it was identified that she was both deaf and dumb - and, what's worse, English.

Raymond Kemp said:

As an unlearned member of the music listening public can I ask some expert here to answer the question:

Who exactly, name the "romantic period" in concert music "romantic"?

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