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Lilt: a theory of melody

A melody has to catch the ear. A lilt is an up and down movement that has to be asymmetrical or surprising in some way. It can go up, and ...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What if it were a choice

Suppose I had a choice about how well organized I was?  I could see it as something beyond my control, thinking I'm not very well organized, but isn't that the result of choices I make? You could call them habits, I suppose, but habits are just choices repeated until they are habitual.

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This does not quite correct the problem, because it is a choice that has some motivation behind it. In other words, I must be telling myself that it's ok to be disorganized, or even that it's advantageous in some way.  For example, "I can start work in the morning without wasting time getting organized and thus produce more than other people." Or I can make it my excuse: "oh, well you know Jonathan is not that well organized..."  "Imagine what I could accomplish if I were organized, if by being disorganized I've already risen to the top of my profession." Or "creative people are just not as well organized."  Or "It always works out in the end..."  If I articulate these excuses they sound very stupid.

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What else is a choice, but feels like an inherent feature of one's personality? Persistence? Resilience?  Self-discipline?  I am not trying to argue that everything is a choice, but that once you decide that something is open to change, that give you the opportunity to change it.

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Say that there is one number, your iq, that is invariant. You are born with it, and will die with it (if it doesn't diminish with dementia). This magic number may correlate with accomplishments.  Thus, if a composer created brilliant, long-form compositions of great complexity, or a physicist made important theoretical contributions, you might say "Gee, I bet their magic number is very high."  Yet when you think of it, this is a very strange way of evaluating accomplishments: by comparing them to an innate ability to solve certain kinds of problems, as evaluated on a timed test. For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that the test is valid, and that the magic number is invariant, but of course those assumptions are also up for debate.

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If we see the magic number as invariant, then we cannot make decisions about it. It is the least important factor to consider. Why bother changing something that cannot be changed?  Yet a lot of what we take to be intelligence is the cultivation of abilities.  So the complex symphonic composition is the result of someone who's learned orchestration, harmony, the structure of long-form composition, and also has creative ideas, a knack for melody, an original musical sensibility, a sense of herself in relation to music history (what's been done already?  what is left to do? how do my ideas fit in with all of this?). None of this is possessed by a musical genius who was born two days ago.      

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