Saturday, August 16, 2008

structure and time.

yeah, I'm always avoiding discussing structure - it's been my weak point as an incredibly slack self-taught jazzer. I'm happy building stuff, or stripping and reassembling various things, such as the Walden hut, the Guzzi, or whatever. And I won't even begin talking about Italian bicycles, or fixed wheels - it would just get too wildly boring. Some other time, perhaps. But my main problem has always been this nagging feeling that I should be able to, in a long-range kind of way, justify each note. But it's not (probably) ever going to happen, so I've gotten used to it.

And also, being primarily a woodwind guy, I don't have problems imagining false fingerings, harmonics, altissimos and subtone stuff, thickened line and all the rest; but I've just spent the better part of the morning at the piano today trying to get my head around the possible combinations that a string player could create by using a arco double-stop combined with a left hand little finger pizzicato. Just sit quietly and think(especially if you're not a string player) about about it: perhaps the first finger could bridge a fifth on the A and E strings over the open D, giving you, say, a Bb and a D arco, while the second and third finger could extend the E string F to an F#, playing a kind of appoggiatura pizz between the F and F#... it could work - and so on. You can picture the bow running across two adjacent D & A strings, while the left hand performs assorted tasks on the E string... does my head in.

What I suppose this typifies is the two polarities of approaches to composing: allowing various formula dictate particular pitches, and let the sorry-assed muso's figure out a way of playing the shapes that result, or try and create gestures around the timbres possible by a particular instrument and its inherent sound world. Each has its advantages - the first might, possibly, 'show something new', throwing up combinations you wouldn't have thought of, while the second creates gestures and shapes beyond that of just re-combining notes, forcing you to imagine and re-hear material. One is coerced and pushing the envelope, the other manipulating the possible.

But that's symptomatic of western notation, which is in turn a reflection of how we view music (if you buy into a Chomsky-ish 'deep structure' world view); i.e., possible pitch-based hierarchies, rather than the way most other cultures notate sound, which is not an abstract pitched-based (for us, a middle C can be played on violin, piano, recorder, whatever and still retain what we consider its primary characteristic), but considered by the particular technical means to produce an individual timbre, pitch being just one of many considerations such as attack, delay, timbre and so on. It's a means and ends sort of thing.

Anway, I must get started on this violin thing.... and start sitting, ....and get the Guzzi running, get Riprap off the ground....and cycle more

and save all sentient beings.


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