HIGH TIDE AND LOW TIDE
Such as any other existing thing, that is subjected to a reference system, which has an evolutionary historical course, music has its own structure, which, following the rules of normality, develops in parallel and dependently
«Music is audible time» (Emil Cioran)
Such as any other existing thing, that is subjected to a reference system, which has an evolutionary historical course, music has its own structure, which, following the rules of normality, develops in parallel and dependently on several plans directly connected to one another. These plans complete each other, enabling the temporal existence of sounds, structured horizontally and vertically in cells that present a complex structure that is independent from all the other needs a sound has in order to exist.
Within the following pages, I exercise a personal analyze of the different types of perceiving time in music, as both an performer and a composer, therefore evolving from the idea to the sound impact a piece could have when audited live, in a concert hall. I said performer first because, as it happens in the majority of cases, we firstly meet with music from this perspective, mainly relating to emotion, without being aware of our need for balance during a piece and/or an interpretation. This is also why composers usually study the piano, so that they can meet with the instrument, the reality, the sound exceeding the boundaries of the idea. For the music, a rupture between the imaginary sound and the possible one is very dangerous. But somehow, as it is actually normal, without the executing instrument the possible sound would not exist. But from the moment the idea comes through and becomes palpable, sound takes on a form which follows a normality that can’t be altered, lied or hidden. In order to exist, music goes through an ample process of materialization and dematerialization which involves a tight connection between the composer, the performer and the spectator.
We could say that music is born with each and every interpretation. It is born from nothing, from imagination, from a state of mid. The composer can have many ideas, however, even when seeking to organise them, they will be naturally structured on several plans. Here we could take on as starting point the lectures held by Bernstein at Hardvard in 1973, named «The Unanswered Question». Within this context, Bernstein starts from theories issued by sciences such as linguistics, philosophy and/or physics, in order to explain the grammar or music, working through from the primary to the complex. In this manner we can observe how, for example, even the order of tones is influenced by the order of the sound’s superior harmonics, therefore attesting the fact that sound is subjected to the laws of normality. The tonality, which is the most popular and the strongest method of structuring consecutive sounds, has resisted so many decades as the foundation of the melodic construction and even of the form (in all the baroque, classical and even romantic forms there is a tight connection between the tonality in which it was modulated and form), being based on a principle we could find very similar to the law of gravitational attraction.
As we just spoke about the structure of sounds, I think it is essential that we talk about one of the most popular computational techniques which remains up to today an example of construction, of the natural. It comes from the Middle Ages, where the monodic structure, which until that moment would evolve horizontally, had transformed in one with a polyphonic, architectural character, which, by overlapping, has generated harmonic structures (in Baroque, thanks to J. S. Bach, we can already speak about tonal harmony), which also helped in the evolution of musical discourse in parallel, vertically and horizontally, therefore enabling the entire three-dimensional character. The polyphony or the counterpoint, as it is also called, actually implies overlapping two melodic voices. Each voice executes a melody which can also have an imitative character, and have its own melodic importance, but which when overlapping with the other voices needs to comply to certain rules of harmonic (tonal) nature, therefore building pillars that are given a new signification when viewed vertically. This construction form helped in the stratification, the complementary evolution of perception in music. For me, this manner of exposing an idea is a replica of the human psychic, an obsession of the thought that refuses to disappear, and through repetition, by overlapping the immediate, the past and the memory, it branches, it extends, therefore becoming a complex construction of fears and/or hopes related to a certain idea or moment.
However, this technique was not sufficient in order to build by itself in time, but it contributed to shaping forms. I am talking about form and that which evolved from the polyphonic technique for all masterpieces in music represent an example of form, of the space-time delimitation. There are numerous examples in the History of Music where great composers chose to wrap their ideas in music using this technique, generating a perpetual transition and communication between voices, as well as complex dramaturgies playing with the idea, with the theme, with hope, happiness and anxiety. But things are never that simple. As performer, spectator and composer I always felt like an eternal witness of my own emotions which scattered on a more detailed analysis on several plans, which, through the overlapping of an idea, generated an wide, complex idea, full of questions and answers. In my opinion, this is due to the necessity of the form that wraps the idea and idea of the idea in something beautiful, eventually turning into music. The structures that appeared in the Baroque have evolved and generated themselves other structures even more complex, even in our days. Speech is constantly changing, adapting, expanding. As we get closer to the tangible, we can imagine that, for example, within symphonic music, one of the plans was horizontally developing on several stratifications, having as support certain chords which resulted from the overlapping of these stratifications, chords that can be compared with some supporting pillars. But this was never enough for the musical speech to resist over time. The human mind is a complex instrument which the composers have learned to use, therefore creating from sound a whole that often required contrast. One of the early forms of this phenomenon is the Baroque Dance Suite, characterized through a thematic contrast and tonal unity. It includes dances specific to that era: sarabanda, allemande, gig, courant, rondeau, bouree, polish etc., which are successively joined based on the slow-fast-slow-fast principle. This is the first form in which the manipulation of time through perception and situation could be sustainable. More accurately, the architectural design of the song, sustained by the harmonic marks (which usually separate the sections of a part) is developed on a time period limited by the tempo indicated by the composer, therefore creating a narrative space, which brings obvious contrast the the other parts of the Suite, not only through the rhythmic and melodic character of each dance, but also through the tempo, or more exactly through the dilation or contraction of emotion.
The need for this contrast has become an obsessive one, both for the performer and especially for the spectator. I always considered that this duality of slow-fast or fast-slow had far deeper implications, which, in one way or another would reflect life, as form, as a structure such as night-day, warmth-cold, happiness-sadness, close-far etc. Therefore we can deduct that the speech, in order to be sustained, needs to comply to the rules of human nature, which are themselves the image of the universe, of life, as we know it. In fact, as we got to know more and more about ourselves and about the world, the musical forms had evolved. This duality, this need for contrast has not disappeared until today, as it is applied mainly in extensive constructions, which have the ambition of introducing the spectator to complex dramaturgies, which claim the need for a longer period of time.
Here we could talk about a sense of proportion which could have been perceived throughout the History of Music in several situations. For this purpose there have been a number of procedures, all of them aiming to maintain and perfect proportion. Earlier we spoke about thematic contrast and state, which can help in building a construction that would resist from a dramaturgical point of view. However, we needn’t forget that there were once techniques that involved processing of thematic material.
In any case, this manner of organising and processing the sound material has rarely born extensive pieces, that would be stretched over a long period of time. For example, the rush form referrs to a contrapuntal, repetitive and overlapping technique. More exactly, there is a head theme exposed by only one voice, that all the other voices pick up one by one. This structure of the rush form is one of small proportions, precisely because of the fact that, within the relation audible space – time, through the excessive repetition of the subject (head theme), the balance of the proportion would be ruined, and the construction would become rather tiresome.
One of the techniques that help in the evolution of a extensive form and which had the capacity of integrating both a dramaturgic speech and a complex storyline was the variation. With the incipient form in the Baroque Music, the variation theme has resisted as a technique and form until now. It involves a theme which is subsequently varied, maintaining, depending on the case, the melodic, rhythmic or harmonic structure of the initial theme. But this is precisely due to the fact that here there may be contrast, space, air, and that both the composer, the performer and the spectator are allowed to escape in from one temporal space to another, to have the impression that they are given to, rather than being taken from.
Every time I wrote, I was under the impression that sound, like words, has its own natural sense, a context it can fit in. Somehow, the music followed the technique, or the technique followed the music. In my case, for example, an error occurred when I didn’t let the time breath, when I wanted something else than the sound itself, when I forgot that sound, when it’s not noise it’s emotion, if you know how to associate it with the imaginary’s will of existing. When I think about it, I always thought that all a composer has to do is to find that specific musical context in which the idea can exist through itself, where nothing has a need for artifices, where emotion can evolve naturally through what it is. Somehow, now masterpiece could ever be re-written differently from how the composer wrote it. Sounds found their peace and their path so naturally, being dependent on each other in construction and state. And that’s also where my opinion, that the genius of a composer lies in his capacity of finding the ideal form that could take on a unique idea, in order to open that door which makes the transition between imaginary and real.
And, since we’ve already talked about moment, we will skip some more technical steps underlying the composition process, in order to get closer to our final purpose. Let’s assume that, ideally, the composer has managed to find a path for the sound. A path not too long, not too short, a path of its own, made for him and for what he has to say. In order for that path to exist, he needs a map, or, better said, a score. And, since music doesn’t actually exist if it is not played, or better said, performed, the composer needs to know what to draw and how to draw it. No matter how correct one would try to delimit the path of a sound, or, more precisely, the path the performer needs to go through in order to find that sound, from my own experience I can tell you that sound will materialize in its pure form from the composer’s mind, only by chance. This happens because, as you know, anything in the Universe is unique. The thought, the moment, the emotion, the idea… as well as the performance of a song.
In order for you to understand what I am talking about, trying to build more and more complex structures, with a form of personal ownership over the concept of audible space and time, music needs to pass through a new filter in order for it to exist, namely the one of the performer. Along with the evolution of musical structures, notation was also developed, aiming to clarify the audible space in which an performer finds himself. When reaching the performer, music passes through a new stage of materialization, this time in real time, in front of an audience, who receives the original message of the composer, by recomposed by the performer.
Due to the need of clarifying certain aspects of technique and performance, semiography has evolved, mainly in the 20th century. Evolution was directly proportional to the complexity of musical structures in the related periods. The practical utility of the traditional notation consists of presenting an (almost) universal notation system, detailed, but which allows the active, creative participation of the performer in rendering a composition. There are composers, such as George Enescu, that fill the score with details of how each note in the score should be executed as well as regarding the state and the feeling that should be experienced, firstly by the performer, and then be the spectator. From the desire to bring the ideal sound to life, imagined by the composer’s creative force, in the Fiddler by G. Enescu, for example, we can actually find indications such as senza rigore, cant. nostalgico, calmo etc.. This type of overly-detailed notation, although it is apparently aimed to clarify the sound space, it has an opposite effect to what we would normally expect. The approaches of the Fiddler by G. Enescu are extremely diverse, starting with the execution tempo and ending with the intentions the artists have. This is due to the fact that, the terms being so specific, in the context intervenes the personal experience of each musician, as well as the state they associate with certain words.
On the other hand, the actual creator of the sound is the instrumentalist or the singer, and without him, music could never exist in real time or space. He develops his own image of a composition, creating states and emotions based on the route outlined by the composer. Each instrument has its own final purpose, but usually it resumes to its capacity of sustaining a speech in front of a public it needs to take over.
When the instrument assumes the immediate, the moment in the concert hall, music becomes communication. It can expand or contract time, can play with reality, with perception, with self, with space. Perhaps we’ve all been moved by a certain artistic moment, but never knew what was behind the capacity of a musician to manipulate the way we perceive seconds, minutes and even hours. There is a state of ascension, exaltation, oblivion. But how could you make the public forget if you as performer can’t? When you’re on stage, you need to forget the notes, to forget all that the composer wanted you to remember. In that moment, on stage, you need to transform in music. The idea must already exist in you, in your moves. You need to be beyond the map, beyond the notes. You need to take the same steps as the sound, to see everything it sees, to feel it and to make it feel you. Only this is the moment when music can connect with the public. The only chance for the audible time behind an idea to exist is the performer, who, in fact, is ideally aiming to dematerialize the musical discourse. Only then music is no longer felt, and time expands or contracts, exists or disappears.
Therefore, we could say that music has its own ideal, own time, in which it can exist or, on the contrary, break down. It resembles a construction that cannot resist to the vibration and collapses. Passing through the composer’s creative process that discovers and guides, and also through the one of the performer which dematerializes and elevates, music comes to expand or contract until the temporal perception disappears. Only then music will let you fly, and by that, it accomplishes itself. The existence of sounds is like a mirror of humanity. It requires balance, contrast, stability, proportion, emotion, life. Yes. Music requires life. The life of the composer, of the performer and finally, of the spectator. Music is a sacrifice. A sacrifice that elevates you. Music requires you, the composer, the performer, the spectator. It requires you as a whole. It needs to be by itself, as a form, as time. Every second, every minute, every hours belong to it. And you can’t be anything else but the witness of a miracle. When it is well done, it is by itself in a moment of oblivion or dreaming. Now, for example, we are here, near the end. Time feels different for me, different for you. I have played this symphony before. I close my eyes and see the score. It’s like a city with many streets, where we could get lost together, me from the stage, you from the hall. And when everything comes to an end, time hides somewhere in the memory, somewhere close and still, so far from you, like the high tide watching the low tide, like the weave watching the touch, the oblivion, the sea, the salt, the sight… And I can only wonder, if this is what time feels like when sound exists, what does it feel like when sound disappears?