Music Composers Unite!
Hello Bob Porter,
Thank you for your thoughts.
“I thought this was a melody that was part of a piece of music that had been recorded. It is all well and good to take the melody and play it alone for study purposes, I suppose, but I seldom enjoy melodies by themselves.”
Looking at the original midi:
It does not appear to be a “melody by itself,” since it has accompaniment with the strings, the percussion, and bass rhythm. The percussion accompaniment is so ABSOLUTELY loud in this midi, that aspects of harmony and the character of the melody itself are obscured, which is why I altered it in the first place. I have mailed it out to some people, and there seems to be some preference for the clarinet version over the euphonium version and the original.
http://picosong.com/9XxF/ (Clarinet version)
On the broader cultural question, you said,
“Your discussion of the differences between Western and Arab cultures has occurred to me before. How about this. At one time Arabs did some of the most advanced scientific work of their time. The same can be said of the Chinese, of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and so forth. And where are this cultures now? The Chinese are trying to become a world power, but in doing so are polluting the planet and producing not very high quality exports.”
I am not comfortable with the idea that “the West” is currently the acme of civilization, especially in moral or cultural realms. The West (the US and Europe) is still polluting the planet more than the Chinese are, even though the Chinese have a greater population. Furthermore, the goods being “exported” are being produced in China, sure; but the organization of production and the plans for production, are being done with virtually an equal measure of input from US and European based multinational corporations. It’s a cooperative effort, to use China’s cheap and abundant supply of labor.
On the Arab question:
“I think one of the problems with Arab culture is that it is a tribal culture. There is more loyalty to the tribe than anything else.”
I think this may be a stereotype perpetrated by Western media, to a large degree; and in the light of recent socio-political events. For many centuries, Arab culture has been urban as well as rural; it has been cosmopolitan as well as tribal; and it has been transnational as well as local. We hear about tribal cultures now, in part, because US-Western bombing in places like Libya and Iraq, has played a role in causing a reversion back to more basic social structures. I hesitate to make a broad generalization about tribal culture, and apply this to all Arab culture and tradition. The cultures of great cities like Cairo, Algiers, Baghdad, Damascus (Sham) and Beirut can hardly be called “tribal” today.
“I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Arab music may not have
changed much over the last three hundred years. Probably longer.”
I have no idea, really. It seems more likely to me that there have been substantial changes, and too many of them for people to keep track of. The record is poor, in the West, and we don’t understand it. The problem is, we don’t know what is happening in Arab culture; and I think that is part of the tragedy of the West and the Arab World: The West thinks it knows enough about Arab cultures to be able to dictate their course, through military intervention and through economic and political pressures, and the West believes such actions will somehow benefit the Arab peoples and their own fortunes. It’s a grave error, I think, based mostly on ignorance.
“Where Western music has developed quit a bit. Are there Arabs that are trying to get composers to write modern music because the old ways are tired? Doesn't sound like it from the clips presented. It sounds like traditional instruments are being used in traditional ways. I have no problem with that.”
It’s a good question. I don’t know, but I would like to know. Some people will say, Western music has degenerated, and we have lost much since the days of Renaissance music, when things were simpler and tonalities were more clearly defined. And then, the same people, might say, look at Arab music: it’s too simple, it’s tonality is too limited, it’s harmony is not rich enough. We have nothing to learn from them. (All this in spite of the fact that the 24-tone scale in Arabic music is still virtually incomprehensible to us).
I have learned this much just from that one little clip. Arab melody and harmony are very different from ours, and we don’t really understand it. Even popular Arab music still sounds “exotic” and unusual to us—in this day and age—so it must be because it rests on different assumptions with regard to tonality, and harmony and even something so simple as the nature and fluctuation of a melody.
I want to delve into it more.