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Artsy Guitar Hero

I’ve written in the past about James Tenney’s Meta-Hodos, on this blog and for school.

(Fast summary: According to Tenney, just as we usually divide time into years, months, days, and so on, music can be divided hierarchically. This hierarchies arise in music because of musical differences from moment to moment (and phrase to phrase, section to section, etc.). The shapes of these differences — and the similarities that bind sections together — are how form emerges.)

Today I found a great piece that demonstrates this kind of thinking: Psappha by Iannis Xenakis. The most obvious of the hierarchies is created by the different percussion sounds, but you can also hear groupings emerge due to the different rate of events and the pauses between them.

For the truly nerdy, you can go read my paper and delve more into how this works.

Otherwise, you can just enjoy the cool sounds of an artsy Guitar Hero (ht: Josh Harris).

One comment

  1. John Morton says:

    I read this, and the linked PDF, with interest. There is nothing essentially new here but the different emphasis given does stimulate the reader to take a fresh look at the matter.

    The essential point here is that music, unlike the graphic arts, is a temporal medium. A painter can take a few steps back to view an expansive work as a whole, when he has been concentrating on a point of fine detail, but a composer needs specialized skills to organize the elements of his composition. The controlled arrangement of the components of music to produce a balanced and unified whole as they extend through time is what we refer to as ‘form’ in music.

    The factors governing the form of an extended work and the rhythms of the individual motifs and phrases etc. are essentially the same thing but on a different scale.

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