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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sustain and Decay

We've talked about the onset, or attack of a musical note. Another element to consider is its staying power. A piano note decays fast, so that a whole note held over four beats will be very much softer on beat four than on beat one (depending on the tempo, of course.) An organ whole note maintains its original volume over the four beats (more or less). A saxophone note might even get louder.

Morton Feldman wanted to get away from the excessive emphasis on articulation and attack, and the way that instruments became parodies or "stencils" of themselves. He tended to want his music played "as softly as possibly."

I'm not sure what this is a metaphor for. I'm sure it's a metaphor for something. Possibly prose itself. You have to know what kind of instrument you are playing. A steel drum or piano will have more repeated notes to compensate for the quick decay of sound. If you think of your instrument as woodwind or brass, your metaphor will be breath. If you are playing a string instrument while writing, you will need to work out the bowing.

3 comments:

Thomas said...

I once talked about how "the context of some more 'prosaic' writing lets [more poetic effects] 'sound' or resonate" through a paragraph.

brownstudy said...

I relate to this in terms of scenes in fiction. Instead of building to a big climax, have a series of climaxes (or in the case of Chekhov, a series f anticlimaxes) (that's a good thing, by the way), with forward movement of plot or character, and then a period of rest to let the characters and reader absorb the event. Unless it's a thriller, in which case, it's "Carmina Burana" at volume 11.

I'm currently writing the results section of my masters paper and am bored by the progression of detail that seems to be the style but doesn't tell the story. I like to put in a paragraph occasionally that puts the preceding paragraphs into some sort of context before launching in to the next group of results. My visual image is of a linchpin connecting boxcars on a train. Or, to use your musical analogies, a few bars of legato before ramping up the allegro.

Jonathan said...

You could think of narrative and of argumentation as two ways of proceeding. Develop an argument as though it were a story.