Monday, December 04, 2006


Doing what theorists' do best, Stephen Davies is taking a simple question and making it all hard and stuff. The question: What is music? One might think they have an easy answer to this, especially if they took a course on aesthetics. But then Davies suggests some musical works:
Imagine a fugue written for a synthesizer. It is typical of the genre with this exception: its lowest note is at 30,000 hertz, above the range of human hearing. Also, consider a piece of about 300 measures in common time. In most respects, the work is ordinary, but the tempo is indicated as 'crotchet = five years.' The opening sixteen-bar theme lasts for more than three centuries; the performance is completed after 6 millennia. In a third case, a work specified for solo piccolo contains a single note, the C at 128 hertz. This tone lies more than two octaves below the instrument's range. Are these pieces musical works?
Related to TTU's memory of another Davies example, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony played at quarter note = 1 year, I give you art imitating philosophy.


Texas Tech Theory Department said...

Have you listened to it? It's really quite beautiful. I was a bit surprised how well I liked the ten minutes or so that I listened to.

Now the question is, is it still *Beethoven's ninth*? To what extent can Inge say it's "his" piece?

Scott Spiegelberg said...

First of all, it totally freaks me out to be typing a response to Schenker's head! Second, I have now listened to the excerpt you linked on your blog. I agree that it is very interesting, points of which are quite lovely and others that got very annoying. Third, it falls in that "sampled" category. Even though the whole piece has been sampled, it has also been altered in such a way that it is no longer the original. Much as Berio sampled Mahler or Corigliano sampled Beethoven. The question is more complex with Inge, since the only manipulation is that of time. And the interesting thought experiment is to pinpoint the amount of augmentation that is necessary to move the work from being Beethoven's to being Inge's. I think meter cognition comes into play here, but would need to ponder it more.