Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Music had nothing to do with sound, with listening or with hearing or the auditory sense

Contrary to popular belief, great music has almost nothing to do with “sound” or with “listening” or “hearing.” Let’s go further and assert that music is exactly the opposite of sound, that the apprehension of music is the exact opposite of “hearing” or “listening,” and let us examine why that is the case.

Imagine the sound (and sight) of a woman being raped. The crudity of it. That should fill the hearer with horror. Imagine the “Rape of Lucretia.” An Etruscan Prince rapes a chaste Roman woman. We could watch a very graphic depiction of that rape, in all the detail that cinema verité could give us. Now consider Benjamin Britten’s opera, “The Rape of Lucretia,” a musical work with a libretto. Obviously, it combines elements of music as a fine art and drama as something produced for the entertainment and edification of an audience, in the Greco-Roman and long Western European tradition. This is the opposite of actually witnessing and hearing the sounds of a real rape. Seeing a rape fills us with revulsion. Seeing “The Rape of Lucretia” shows us by implication the IDEA, the idea of justice, which we must live up to, in order that rapes, inequality, social degradation and political oppression can be eliminated. This is an IDEAL, which is affirmed, quite precisely in opposition to the grim reality of a rape or any kind of atrocity against the dignity of a human being.

Benjamin Britten. The Rape of Lucetia. (scene by scene in a playlist).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8xcrCGwmcs&index=2&list=PLA...



Those who know the story (which dates back to the writings of Livy) depicting events circa 507 B.C.E., will understand the meaning of the rape. It represents a crucial moment in universal political history, when the excesses of Monarchy are fully rejected by the Roman people, as a result of the rape (which was seen as the natural consequence of a system where one man or family had unchecked power). The rape of the noble Lucretia inspires The First Brutus and his followers to overthrow King Tarquin, and institute for the first time in Western European history, a representative Republic, which last for almost 500 years.

This stems from an IDEA, which is conveyed by history, morality, literature, music and drama. The IDEA--that is the idea of justice, freedom, liberty, equality and democracy—can transcend all forms of expression, is universal, and can be applied across cultures. It even transcends time, as many mathematical notions and philosophical IDEAS do. But lets us focus on music, and go beyond the examination of particular historical events within time

The common definition of music, of course is, “sounds that are sung by voices or played on musical instruments.” This implies a temporal sequence of events, or a series of events that occur within time, one after the other; and this is said to be one of the features that makes music different from other arts, such as painting, sculpture or architecture. (Recall Goethe’s dictum that says, “Architecture is ‘frozen music,’” implying that music (absent time, or the flow of time) becomes architecture.

In fact, it may be our grave misunderstanding of the nature of time that gives us such a misguided and misconceived notion of what music is. We can refer to philosophers such as Parmenides, Zeno, Socrates, Zeno; and modern thinkers like McTaggart, Einstein, Minkowski and Gödel to help us clarify our thinking on this matter. Or we can simply refer to scores.

But it may be easiest simply to begin with our basic notions of “language.” We know that the meaning of any kind of utterance is not dependent on specific sounds. Consider the concept of “love.” It doesn’t matter whether you use the sound-word “amor” or “liebe” or “love.” What if there are ideas expressed in music that do not depend in any way on the specific sounds that are presented to the listener? In spoken language, the idea is the same, regardless of the sound-word. There is a concept which is prior to and more basic than the spoken word itself. Careful consideration of the reality gives us the knowledge that the statement “In the beginning was the word,” is not literally true, but instead, “In the beginning was the thought.” The sounds of language are merely the outer accouterments of the concept conveyed. Are not the sounds of music merely the outer expression of an idea?

The particular sounds that one hears during a concert may seem to be, in and of themselves, the essence of what is music. But that is not the case. Let us affirm that the sounds in music are merely the outer sensuous expression of the form of the idea contained within their arrangement. and see where that leads us. Let us contemplate the score, and the idea behind a score, which exists prior to the score. Look at the idea, and at the score containing the idea, as a timeless object.

If we understand that time itself-- past, present and future—only seems to pass because we presume we are “in it,” and if we transcend our ordinary understanding to see how Minkowskian (or Eisteinian) space-time, is an extant reality within four dimensions, then the notion of music as a sequence of sounds disappears. Music, like any artistic entity, is not dependent on time, or sound, or hearing (or on any passage of actual “events”) for it to have existence as “an idea,” or (in the Platonic sense) for it to exist as a “form,” in the way that mathematical proofs or equations exist.

The conception of any great idea exists for the artist, independently of time: Any Bach fugue or Mozart overture can be said to have existed whole and complete, as an intricate mathematico-geometric complex, in the mind of the composer, before any notes were even written on a page. Like a moving object in Minkowskian space-time, it has its own dimensions, time theoretically being one of them. Neverthless, its nature is defined and known without the artist having to hear it performed note by note in temporal succession. One can simply read the score. From the point of view of pure concept, there is no motion, there are no “events,” as seen from the purview of Parmenidean philosophy. Zeno’s paradoxes can be used to demonstrate that any “motion” from one note to another is impossible; but more to the point, for the modern, Gödel’s mathematics (and the Einstein-Minkowski model of space-time) make it clear that a concert is not so much a succession of events as it is a concrete four dimensional object, defined geometrically, as existing within the hyper-dimensional spatio-temporal manifold.

Views: 244

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I kinda just listen to various music... some i like, some i dont like. some? i like a LOT... some? i dislike more.

*shrugs*

you get kudos for bringing in "four dimensional" mathematical geometry and space-time into it, though...

its maybe, perhaps... over intellectualizing the whole idea of great music, just my opinion.

Bah,

I think it is just another one of Ondib's so far failed idealistic (in a Neo-Platonist or Hegelian or whatever  sense) efforts to persuade us that the "idea", the "thought" or "concept" of a thing pre-exists and pre-dates the thing itself and has manyfold and dominant importance over it.

(Typical infatuation of all idealists with the myth of the "ideal").

In my opinion the material thing itself (and here I mean it in accordance with all classical materialist tradition affirming that the human brain is "matter that thinks" so that this is its main property making it the highest product of matter ((as far as we know)), therefore it is included in the material world), gives the spring board for the idea to come into place, therefore pre-dates the idea.

I don't think that Ondib is prepared to take his argument to extremes (denying the existence of all material world), but I am prepared to take such idealist attitudes to their logical conclusions, for all our shakes, therefore I pretend to misapprehend his words slightly (but not really):

 

Ondib's intention here may be perhaps to  go a little further in his space-time presentation of certain  aspects of the nature of sound and of the main sensory instruments of an average human for experiencing it, (sound).

Like bishop Berkeley and a lot of other lunatics have done in the past, he may be implying that the thing in itself may not exist at all in fact (as there would not be any real need for it to exist, if we follow his line of argumentation).

In other words that sound does not really exist (nature does not really exist-it is only a mad reflection of ours, if we exist at all, that is), but, (speaking for myself only), if I had not ever heard any sound, I would not have been able to make any sense of his argument, ("what the hell is he on about", I would ask myself), or, in the same sense, I am still not able to explain to a man born blind what "red" or "blue" is, however descriptive, imaginative and fanciful a language I am able to use for such a description of red or blue.

I think that mama nature pre-exists of any thoughts of mine sane or lunatic and it is quite independent of such thoughts, will, or deeds of mine to prevent it existing.

If anyone of you does not believe me ok, let us put idealist assertions to a continuous and unrelenting test:

 

Pretend that you are blind but you can hear sound. Close your eyes (if you ever had them open, that is),stand in the middle of a road facing a car coming at you at a speed of 200 miles an hour. You cannot see it but you can hear it. Death has its own music.

Ok, Stick to your words." Sound doesn't exist", there is not a car coming.

You will soon be provided with an answer to your persuasion or philosophical speculation.

But since we are not in the middle of the street where everyman can decide for himself if the street really exists, but on a composer's forum, carry on, I'm listening.

I think there's a bit of truth buried in this sesquipedalian fest (please don't take offense), which I see was posted back in November.  I think it is true that music can be far more than sound, although I think the time-sequencing is in the very nature of music.  When a new tune comes to my head spontaneously, there is some unnameable structure that comes to me first, and then there's the sounds that get pasted on top of that structure.  In fact, some times I have trouble identifying the correct pitches that make up the tune, but I already know the tune before I identify the pitches.  So this makes me aware that music uses sound but is distinct from sound.

The pianist Christian Zimmerman, in a YouTube interview stated as much, that music uses sound but is not an auditory experience.  But he arrived at this conclusion in a much different way.  He said that when they first invented CDs, he could for the first time hear recordings with extreme sound clarity (no noise like with vinyl records).  He then realized that the crystal clear sounds were so fascinating he "could not hear the music".  That's when it dawned on him that music is something other than the sounds we hear.  To solve this "problem", he drove around town playing the CDs in his car.  This provided not only background noises, but also served to occupy (with the driving) the parts of his brain that were getting distracted by the excessively clear sounds.  Now he could hear the music again.

Cool.  So cool.

Sound art can provide some types of music for which we wouldn't use the term "tune" and to which the above doesn't apply in the same way.  There part of the beauty does lie in the sounds, I think, although I don't have a well formed opinion.

Sesquipedalian:  Nice word, Mariza!  Had to look that one up, and thanks for that very cool story from C Zimmerman.

My experience of music is ultimately a visual one.  I’m aware of using my ears, but that information immediately translates to or from imagery, as texture, color, spatiality, and all that.  I'm not sure of it's 3 Dimensional – as far as I can tell, and there is a certain timelessness about it, I suppose, depending on how I look at it.

Does sound exist?  I don't know.  Does frequency exist?  If not, how can anything even begin to manifest to be perceived or experienced?  If so, how many different ways are there to perceive it?  I don't know that either.

~D

 

Dave,

Very interesting that you experience music visually. I had heard of this experience but you are the first person I meet who has it (that I know of!). I miss out in that I don't have that.

It's definitely the case that people experience music in vastly different ways. And yet there are pieces that everybody loves.

Mariza

 

 Thanks for the comments.  I reply here to some points made by Mariza (Mariza Costa-Cabral), by Dave (Dave Ostrowski), and Socrates (Socrates Arvanitakis).

 

Mariza Costa-Cabral has a very interesting take on the essential idea.

 

'…he arrived at this conclusion in a much different way.  He said that when they first invented CDs, he could for the first time hear recordings with extreme sound clarity (no noise like with vinyl records).  He then realized that the crystal clear sounds were so fascinating he "could not hear the music".'

 

I find that interesting, but I will have to think about it means for the argument.

 

[Side note: On whether the first post was: "sesquipedalian" (characterized by the use of long words).  According to my word processor, there were an average of 4.7 characters per word in the explanation. I don't think that is so terribly long.]

 

Socrates (Socrates Arvanitakis) says this is one of several …

 

' … so far failed idealistic (in a Neo-Platonist or Hegelian or whatever  sense) efforts to persuade us that the "idea", the "thought" or "concept" of a thing pre-exists and pre-dates the thing itself and has manyfold and dominant importance over it.'

 

' … in a Neo-Platonist or Hegelian or whatever  sense …"  Whatever sense?  The sense must be precise.  This thread focuses on an ancient idea (that of Parmenides), and a modern development of the idea, specifically that of Gödel, who is considered one the geniuses of modern mathematics and logic. The same goes for Minkowski, who was no dolt either (Einstein credits him with creating the four-dimensional geometrical constructs which made his own concept of "space time" possible).

 

 

"Like bishop Berkeley and a lot of other lunatics have done in the past, he may be implying that the thing in itself may not exist at all in fact (as there would not be any real need for it to exist, if we follow his line of argumentation)."

 

The issue is not the ding-an-sich (the-thing-in-itself), that so puzzled the substance philosophers, from Descartes through Kant.   Nor has it much at all to do with Berkeley's so-called idealism.  The Bishop believed that matter did not exist, and that God put each idea and each perception directly into the mind of every human being, without having to use matter as an intermediate construct.  (Insofar as there was a "thing in itself," that "thing" was the idea of the thing that existed in God's mind).  This is not what Parmenides, Zeno, Socrates, or Plato was inferring; nor is it what Minkowski, Einstein or Gödel was trying to get at.

 

[By the way, there is no indication that Bishop Berkeley was "a lunatic," as far as I know.  He is generally considered one of the greatest philosophers of the "empiricist tradition," even though his system of thought has features of so-called "idealism." It's one thing to disagree with him; but it is rather beneath the dignity of even the most serious opponent of his views to call him a "lunatic"].  

 

Dave Ostrowski said, 'My experience of music is ultimately a visual one.  I’m aware of using my ears, but that information immediately translates to or from imagery, as texture, color, spatiality, and all that.  I'm not sure of it's 3 Dimensional – as far as I can tell, and there is a certain timelessness about it, I suppose, depending on how I look at it.'

 

You appear to experience music as Alexander Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen did.  They saw light and colors whenever they heard music.  I don't know whether the "moment-by-moment" temporal experience is 3-D for some people.  (Though that depends upon acoustics in a musical hall, sometimes).  [Stockhausen, and others, have tried to make music much more 3 dimensional, by building halls, and composing for such halls, where the sound originates not only from the front, but also from the sides, from above, and from below, and from all angles, within the hall.] 

 

'Does sound exist?  I don't know.  Does frequency exist?  If not, how can anything even begin to manifest to be perceived or experienced?  If so, how many different ways are there to perceive it?  I don't know that either.'

 

Sound, as "heard" by the human ear, in space, is obviously a temporal experience.  But I am not denying the existence of sound.  (Though there is a difference between sound as perceived in a three-dimensional context, and "sound" as conceived from the four – dimensional vantage point of total space-time, as conceived by Minkowski, Einstein, and Gödel).  Of course, haphazard and ordinary sounds exist and occur within time.  However, I am talking about music, specifically about any substantial musical composition.  It's totality is, according to Gödel's reasoning, four dimensional, in this sense:  The mind of Bach, or the mind of Mozart, can conceive of a musical work, and envision it almost instantaneously, apart from any need to actually have it presented moment by moment within time.  In fact almost any musically trained mind (such as that of a sophisticated performer, conductor or composer) can conceive of a composition this way, as a totality, existing apart from time, and also as a thing which can be instantiated within time.  From the view of the higher abstract capacity of the mind, the score is a completed totality: in the work, beginning and ending exist simultaneously (or outside of time) [eternally, in a sense], as a complete conception, notion or ideal reality.

 

'I think that mama nature pre-exists of any thoughts of mine …'

 

No one is denying that.  But your neither your thoughts nor mine have existed for very long in the scheme of things. 

 

'Stick to your words. "Sound doesn't exist"'

 

You put that phrase in quotes, which is misleading because I never said that.  Those are not my words.  Who said that? (Scroll back, and you will see). You did, in an attempt to paraphrase the idea being expressed.   But that is not the idea that was implicit in Gödel's analysis of time, space and music. 

 

You suggest "an experiment."

 

'Pretend that you are blind but you can hear sound. Close your eyes (if you ever had them open, that is), stand in the middle of a road facing a car coming at you at a speed of 200 miles an hour. You cannot see it but you can hear it. Death has its own music.'

 

I am not sure it is even ethical to suggest this.  As it stands, it amounts to an exhortation to commit suicide; and suicide is illegal in most jurisdictions.   Apart from that, as an experiment, it has no connection with the point under discussion, since the subject is assertions about the relationship between music and sound (not the connection between "hearing the sound of oncoming object," and choosing to ignore it).

 

I propose a different experiment.   Think about a composition that you know well.  Imagine it with the totality of the mind.  (Say, for example, a fugue by Bach).  Condense the concept without losing the details.   You can "imagine" the totality of  the Bach fugue without having to hear it note by note.  If you had written it, as Bach did, the thought experiment would be even easier.  (Mozart imagined the entirety of the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, and then simply set it to paper, as it existed in his mind, without having to change or alter its static or non-temporal form, which became the score).

 

This is what I am talking about, when I say, in its essence, "Music has nothing to do with sound, with listening or with hearing or the auditory sense."

 

Consider the absolute and total distinction between the 'Rape of Lucretia,' as an historical event reported by Livy (or as actually experienced by Lucretia herself), and the opera "The Rape of Lucretia, which I mentioned above.  The implications of that distinction have yet to be contemplated sufficiently on this thread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

.

.

[P.S.  Short note to  Mariza Costa-Cabral.  Don't worry, I did not take offense at your characterization, although I did try to address it.  In actual fact, I believe you fully and completely understood (and sympathized with) what I was attempting to say.  I thank you for your insights, esp. the statement "When a new tune comes to my head spontaneously, there is some unnameable structure that comes to me first, and then there's the sounds that get pasted on top of that structure.  In fact, some times I have trouble identifying the correct pitches that make up the tune, but I already know the tune before I identify the pitches." -- That's exactly what I am talking about. ]

.

.

Hi Ondib,

thank you for explaining exactly what you mean.

I am merely saying that sound (and in consequence musical sound) is a natural phaenomenon a priory (ie, a pre-requisite) for any concept of music  to be possible or developed in anyway. It predates the idea of organized (or disorganized) music, however we may chose to define such an idea (either in visual or sonic terms, or in space/time 4 dimensional reality), therefore our conversation can not exist if we evade that first proposition which is nature as comprehended through our senses.

I do not want to dispute your assertion that a piece can pre-exist instantaneously and in its entirety in the brain of a genius like Mozart. I think it probably does, but even Mozart got there (in its entire conception) step by step and that has certainly taken him sometime.  And it is not music yet, it is still an idea about a finished piece which has not taken place yet, and as far as we are concerned does not exist, and in no way I can believe Mozart if he says that it does exist because he just thought of it catching me unaware. Why should I believe him? I would say "Very good, but I want to hear it, not see the score, just hear it". And after he writes it down in score using symbols of a communicative language it is still not music, it is only incomprehensible hieroglyphics for all of us to whom this idea is trying to be communicated and this is even for the very few of us who can read notation and hear it with the "inner" ear, if we posses one, that is. When the idea is realized in terms of sound and perceived (and here I insist, only through the sense of hearing-and never mind all the other bollocks, visual conceptual, or otherwise) then is music.

After I establish that I indeed had a sonic experience which I liked or disliked the I can start all my detailed definitions of it, and so can everybody else and so we pass into verbal and written communications abut it (the sonic experience) and verbose discussions like this present one.

As you may say, I defined what is music to me and what is talking about it.

I will not hinder you trying to define it to yourself or to the rest of us,  if and as  you please.

 

PS1: Regarding the lunacy of the bishop: I suppose it is how one defines lunacy (given the symptoms that he gave which the idealist camp are still trying to force down our throats as philosophy!). Therefore I beg to differ, he has not any credibility either as a theologist (denying material creation) or as a philosopher, again  (denying material creation) and I was not inviting anyone to commit suicide, only his followers to stick to their guns (but perhaps you missed the point), any way I was not referring to you, only to such lunatics.

PS2: Regarding ancient Ionian, Greek Sicilian, and Athenian philosophy, let me say that we cannot really discuss these in this thread in anything but passing reference, but seeing that you do bring them in all at once I cannot but feel that you appear to classify them all under one heading (and consequently under one camp or school of thought). I'm not saying that in fact you do, but only that you appear to do.

I, on the other hand believe that there are very many basic differences between say, Parmenides and Heraclitus or Plato and Socrates.

So let us expand on these subjects in a future thread if we determine that has anything to do with music, which I believe it has.

Thank you, Socrates ( Socrates Arvanitakis ).

 

Your last response was both profound and wide reaching, in terms of the number of issues touched upon, and amount of thought it provokes.  I cannot give it the response it deserves in a short space.

 

I will just say, for now, I appreciate what you have said, and I think we understand each other's perspectives much better now.

 

I agree with you of course, that "there are very many basic differences between say, Parmenides and Heraclitus or Plato and Socrates."

 

My references to certain thinkers, like Parmenides, Zeno (and to some extent, Plato), have to do with the reliance by the modern logician and mathematician Gödel, on certain philosophical premises that they were among the first to entertain. This confluence of ideas is explained in the book Gödel Meets Einstein: Time Travel in the Gödel Universe," by Yourgrau, as is the concept of music I am putting on the table.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Godel-Meets-Einstein-Travel-Universe/dp/08126...

 

 I do not have the time to explain it all just now

 

Later, I will give a more detailed reply to what you have said.



Socrates Arvanitakis said:

Hi Ondib,

thank you for explaining exactly what you mean.

I am merely saying that sound (and in consequence musical sound) is a natural phaenomenon a priory (ie, a pre-requisite) for any concept of music  to be possible or developed in anyway. It predates the idea of organized (or disorganized) music, however we may chose to define such an idea (either in visual or sonic terms, or in space/time 4 dimensional reality), therefore our conversation can not exist if we evade that first proposition which is nature as comprehended through our senses.

I do not want to dispute your assertion that a piece can pre-exist instantaneously and in its entirety in the brain of a genius like Mozart. I think it probably does, but even Mozart got there (in its entire conception) step by step and that has certainly taken him sometime.  And it is not music yet, it is still an idea about a finished piece which has not taken place yet, and as far as we are concerned does not exist, and in no way I can believe Mozart if he says that it does exist because he just thought of it catching me unaware. Why should I believe him? I would say "Very good, but I want to hear it, not see the score, just hear it". And after he writes it down in score using symbols of a communicative language it is still not music, it is only incomprehensible hieroglyphics for all of us to whom this idea is trying to be communicated and this is even for the very few of us who can read notation and hear it with the "inner" ear, if we posses one, that is. When the idea is realized in terms of sound and perceived (and here I insist, only through the sense of hearing-and never mind all the other bollocks, visual conceptual, or otherwise) then is music.

After I establish that I indeed had a sonic experience which I liked or disliked the I can start all my detailed definitions of it, and so can everybody else and so we pass into verbal and written communications abut it (the sonic experience) and verbose discussions like this present one.

As you may say, I defined what is music to me and what is talking about it.

I will not hinder you trying to define it to yourself or to the rest of us,  if and as  you please.

 

PS1: Regarding the lunacy of the bishop: I suppose it is how one defines lunacy (given the symptoms that he gave which the idealist camp are still trying to force down our throats as philosophy!). Therefore I beg to differ, he has not any credibility either as a theologist (denying material creation) or as a philosopher, again  (denying material creation) and I was not inviting anyone to commit suicide, only his followers to stick to their guns (but perhaps you missed the point), any way I was not referring to you, only to such lunatics.

PS2: Regarding ancient Ionian, Greek Sicilian, and Athenian philosophy, let me say that we cannot really discuss these in this thread in anything but passing reference, but seeing that you do bring them in all at once I cannot but feel that you appear to classify them all under one heading (and consequently under one camp or school of thought). I'm not saying that in fact you do, but only that you appear to do.

I, on the other hand believe that there are very many basic differences between say, Parmenides and Heraclitus or Plato and Socrates.

So let us expand on these subjects in a future thread if we determine that has anything to do with music, which I believe it has.

Hello,  Socrates (Socrates Arvanitakis)

 

I will simply take up one of the ideas you presented for discussion, and we can start with that, if you wish to continue our talk on the nature of the relationship between music (as an art form) and sound (as a physical phenomenon).

 

"I am merely saying that sound (and in consequence musical sound) is a natural phaenomenon a priory (ie, a pre-requisite) for any concept of music to be possible or developed in anyway."

 

I would say, any "musical" or "musico-mathematical idea" can, from the broadest possible view, or from the greatest height, be conceived as the a priori foundational notion of any artistic construct, which can later be manifest on a material or sensuous plane as "sound."

 

[I use the term "a priori" in the Kantian sense, as meaning that which makes human experience and activity possible].

 

In other words, music comes from the (human) mind; it comes from conceptions, ideas and notions, and becomes sound.

 

It is not sound which makes music possible, but the mind which makes it possible to manifest ideas, thoughts and feelings "via the medium of sound" in the form of music.

 

A dog or cat exists in nature, and can produce sound; though dogs and cats cannot "create music." This is true, even though such animals can hear a huge range of sounds, and can reproduce a full range of vocal tones.  They don't have the mind for it.

 

No dog can understand a symphony or concerto, much less produce one, even though the dog can hear every note which a symphony orchestra can play.

 

Mind is the source of music, and music consists of ideas, which are the primary materials of any composition, lying behind and underneath the "sounds."  The revision of, and perfection of a musical work consists in the re-ordering of the material to make it correspond to an idea.

 

 

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!

Store

© 2020   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service