I went to a percussion concert last night. It was a solo performance by Colleen Bernstein. I liked her Bach cello suite playing on the marimba. Bach works well for any instrument. She also played some Debussy and then some Debussy-ish things on vibes. The second part was more didactic, with a project she call "Strength and sensitivity," with percussion + spoken word. She played a march on snare drum while projecting inspirational feminist quotes on a screen. She read some poems and played music that went along with them, or was paired with them. As might be expected, the spoken word / poetry part of the pairing was not all that impressive. She doesn't have a great poetic sensibility, so the result came off as too didactic / content driven (for me). Her playing is very good, and the spirit behind the project is idealistic. The project might develop into something more interesting, but that would involve using words in a more interesting, maybe musical way, not for their content alone.
We think that to work on music, we have to have a great musical erudition, but people work on literature all the time without a deep understanding of literature. And I am including people trained in literature in this category.
I discovered the work of someone supposedly the leading philosopher of music, Peter Kivy. It is a bit odd. He takes the position that we listen to music for the music itself, not a fashionable position at all. He makes some good points, but there is something a bit off about it. For example, in a thing on repetition he talks about the repeat sign, but doesn't consider that music is repetitive even within a section that is then repeated. Of course, the meter of a piece does not count as a repetition, though it is, in a sense, and rhythmic patterns are constantly repeated. Motifs are pounded home relentlessly. The point is not the repeat sign, with an entire section being repeated verbatim, but that the entire structural principle of music is repetition. Imagine a piece entirely through-composed: it would be impossible to follow. Now, because of the importance of repetition, we need to counter balance it to avoid monotony. So we derive the next principle of music, which is variation. I'll give you the "same thing," but changed up a bit. If it's not a variation, it will be an elaboration or development, but it has to be a development of the same thing.
But variation is not enough, we need contrast too. But all of this only makes sense if we first think that repetition is the main game in town. Whole sections that are repeated verbatim are not really the main problem to be considered here.
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