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"notes of strange coastal moans": Music as ordering principle in "AtLoM"

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  • #16
    Check out Rami's avatar, sutrix. Does it ring a bell?

    Malevich has also painted a white square on white background.




    Edit: marsjam was faster...
    Last edited by naught; 02-28-2006, 09:33 AM.

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    • #17


      I did think of his avatar after I closed the tab, and... (yeah, sure, sutrix. We believe you.)

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      • #18
        I feel like I should apologize to John for taking this thing off the rails a bit, but was just thinking of my exchange with Grobie in light of AtLoM and Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West," and reviewing these posts. And by George, it kind of fits.

        Stevens' infatuation with ideas of order and creation, as well as (and more to the point) perception of order and the mental ordering of life and experience represents the same kind of line I was taking with the idea of music versus perceptions of music.

        Not that I would compare myself with The Master. More like my thinking is informed by his much earlier journeys into these realms. Stevens got us all thinking about the tension between existence and non-existence, presence and absence (Hi, Stencil), visible order and the mind's idea of order, or visible chaos and the mind's need to stabilize perceived chaos into some kind of order (cf "The Anecdote of the Jar" and "The Emperor of Ice Cream" among others).

        Stevens' motif of the singing woman "creating" the observer's experience (and hence the world of the moment) was possibly rattling around in MZD's head when he came up with his frets and strings metaphors. The image of touching the strings without pressing them to the frets in order to produce the "purest" sound—a sound uncreated—that's easily compared to Stevens or, I suppose, Plato.

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        • #19
          No apologies required. I saw the connections as well.

          Originally posted by modiFIed
          The image of touching the strings without pressing them to the frets in order to produce the "purest" sound—a sound uncreated—that's easily compared to Stevens or, I suppose, Plato.
          Keats, too, of course:

          Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
          Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
          Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
          Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.
          The point: This story seems to be getting at a deeper connection between music and physics than one might initially suspect the two of having. There's much to be teased out concerning that relation, of course.

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          • #20
            Ok, so we have:

            physics (string theory)

            music (guitars have strings, also. The guitar is one of the main components of the Nueva Canción Chilena and Nufros instrument of choice)

            sweaters (wich are made of strings)

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            • #21
              And what about literature itself? Stories are also threads aka strings.

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              • #22
                By the way, John, how much does a Grecian earn?

                How about Yeats and melody?

                Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
                Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
                The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet eyed,
                Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
                And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
                In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
                Sing in their high and lonely melody.
                Fergus - he of the Sweet Speech.

                I love how the speaker "sings" his ancient ways (not "of" them--he transitive verb "sings" them), and "thine" (rose's) sadness is "sung" by the stars in their high and lonely melody. Would this in effect create a moment/world of Man/Nature harmony? What could please the poet more?

                Whoa, modiFIed, you're getting out there...dude...

                It's been said melody is the "horizontal" of music while harmony, or chords, are the "vertical."

                Can we make a connection to storytelling? We might say the plot, or action of the story, is the linear, the melody, and the favorite toys of MZD--symbolism, metaphor, double entendres, puns, allusions, etc. etc.--are the verticle, the harmony.

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                • #23
                  I think the connection between music and storytelling has always been there. Before Stevens and before Keats, music was used to stand for poetry in poetry (by synecdoche?), as far back as Orpheus. Incidentally, John B. implicitly made that connection in the first sentence of this thread when he spoke of the 'lyricism' of that closing paragraph. There was in antiquity no sharp distinction between a song and a poem (carmen in Latin serves as the word for both) because all poems were originally sung. Poems were not always performed in later antiquity, but the association remains. On the whole, whenever you come across a musician in a poem, chances are that he is readable as a figure for the poet.

                  Music is very often used to stand for poetry in poetry when the poet wishes to stake a claim to immortality. It is also associated with power to create and to change the world (the Latin word carmen means both 'song' and 'magic spell'). Orpheus is the archetypal musician/poet, and he can move inanimate objects with his song - stones and trees follow him. Orpheus is however also used to represent artistic failure (in Metamorphoses XI) since he is torn apart by Maenads. But his lyre continues to play on its own as it floats down the river and out into the sea. Again that association of music and water; the mournful notes of the tides have a strange poetry of their own: Sophocles heard it long ago.

                  What's the reason for the death of Orpheus? He wanders from his accustomed path and, by chance, his song is heard by an unappreciative audience (the Maenaeds, who think he is scorning their god). The destination point changes. Orpheus is killed because he addresses the wrong audience. The intrusion of that element of chance is what silences his music (or rather what transmutes his music into something immaterial and eternal).
                  Last edited by Raminagrobis; 03-02-2006, 06:08 AM.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Raminagrobis
                    synecdoche?
                    Or metonymy.


                    And yes, of course. Hence prosody. But I'm more concerned with reactions to my original outlandish idea:

                    Can we make a connection to storytelling? We might say the plot, or action of the story, is the linear, the melody, and the favorite toys of MZD--symbolism, metaphor, double entendres, puns, allusions, etc. etc.--are the verticle [sic], the harmony.
                    The connection I'm referring to being the one described, between melody/harmony and plot/device.

                    Or perhaps that idea has a historical precedent as well?...

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                    • #25
                      I didn't mean that last post to sound dismissive of your idea (in fact I'd already written it before I read your post, so I just added the first part to generate the illusion of continuity).

                      Historical precedent? Perhaps the Symbolists? Synaesthesia and all that jazz.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by modiFIed
                        The connection I'm referring to being the one described, between melody/harmony and plot/device.

                        Or perhaps that idea has a historical precedent as well?...
                        I definitely think you're treading on some solid ground here. Usually the best songs are ones that you can whistle the melody of. Similarly, the best books have a strong plot. The most difficult part of writing music, in my opinion, is creating a strong melody. I’m not a writer, but I would imagine that the main story line (or lines in HOL’s case) of a story or novel would be equally difficult to craft.

                        So I think you can draw a parallel between the allure of a good melody and an engaging storyline. This is not to discount harmony/device, which serves as the backbone or foundation of the song/story and lends support to the melody/plot. I may take your analogy even further by suggesting that the “harmony” consists of everything in the story (not only the symbolism, metaphors, etc., but also character development, setting… ) that does not directly drive the plot. Hmm. I may not have phrased that last sentence very well. I guess I’m suggesting that a given story is made up entirely of melody and harmony, like a song. Melody and harmony (plot/device) act as counterpoint and are engineered to create dynamics that will grab the listeners/readers attention.

                        Hopefully I didn’t take your analogy and run the wrong way with it…

                        Also, reading AtLoM and then rereading it a couple of times I began to see Nefro as a sort of bard.

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                        • #27
                          You may want to listen to La luna siempre es muy linda

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Slow Dog Noodle
                            Usually the best songs are ones that you can whistle the melody of.
                            I don't quite agree. If you mean that the most popular songs are ones that you can whistle while driving, then you're probably right; but so far as I've noticed, sometimes a great song is not only entirely devoid of a catchy or even pleasing melody, but is also--if they're present--completely full of shit lyrics.

                            Originally posted by Noodle
                            Similarly, the best books have a strong plot.

                            This where I'd use usually. The best book I've read has no strong plot, except in a way we tend to try and make sense of and connect things which may not be connected at all.

                            Originally posted by Noodle
                            The most difficult part of writing music, in my opinion, is creating a strong melody.
                            Nope. The most difficult part of composing is mixing it all together so it sounds good. An amazing guitar riff or piano bar in the wrong place can render both the song and the piece useless. A few weeks ago I got a ridiculously catchy bassline while composing a reggae meets space jazz kind of track. I keep humming that melody even now (it's very catchy), but it just didn't fit in the song, and so far I can't make up any song structure where it would fit. So I've just saved it away in the musicians equivalent of the story pit.

                            Originally posted by Noodle
                            So I think you can draw a parallel between the allure of a good melody and an engaging storyline.
                            I would say the parallel exists between the allure of a good song, not melody. A good melody could likely be compared to an engaging line or paragraph. Something along the lines of "Once upon a time and a very good time it was..."



                            Originally posted by Noodle
                            Melody and harmony (plot/device) act as counterpoint and are engineered to create dynamics that will grab the listeners/readers attention.
                            But don't you think that in fiction, it is often the unusual, the unharmonic as it were, that catches the attention? And also (this may be specifically my case), in music too, a good melody or a specific insrument or effect would catch my attention, sure, but an unhinged or out of sync note gets me piqued far more often.

                            Originally posted by Noodle
                            Hopefully I didn’t take your analogy and run the wrong way with it…
                            And I'm hoping I didn't, either.

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                            • #29
                              Sorry for the delayed response. I don't have a a computer on weekends.

                              Originally posted by sutrix
                              I don't quite agree. If you mean that the most popular songs are ones that you can whistle while driving, then you're probably right; but so far as I've noticed, sometimes a great song is not only entirely devoid of a catchy or even pleasing melody, but is also--if they're present--completely full of shit lyrics.
                              Yeah, this is very open to interpretation. There are some songs that get away with having a very weak melody, or no melody at all. But at the end of the day, if you enjoy listening to it, it really doesn't matter.

                              As far as popularity, I think most of us on this board tend to agree that quality and popularity don't necessarily go hand in hand. I can't whistle most of the popular songs on the radio, but maybe that's because I'm largely indifferent to them.


                              Originally posted by sutrix
                              This where I'd use usually. The best book I've read has no strong plot, except in a way we tend to try and make sense of and connect things which may not be connected at all.
                              Okay, I can see that.


                              Originally posted by sutrix
                              Nope. The most difficult part of composing is mixing it all together so it sounds good.
                              Well, I'm sticking to my guns on this one. I'm sure its just a personal thing but melody is the end all for me. After I have that everything else usually falls into place. The hardest thing for me is coming up with the idea, not the physical act of writing it down. That said, I have never tried to compose music for more than 3 or 4 instruments at once.

                              Originally posted by sutrix
                              I would say the parallel exists between the allure of a good song, not melody. A good melody could likely be compared to an engaging line or paragraph. Something along the lines of "Once upon a time and a very good time it was..."
                              Well, in the context of the analogy I was comparing the melody of a song to the plot of a book because I think both the melody and plot are integral to the work and hold more importance than any one paragraph or measure.

                              Originally posted by sutrix
                              But don't you think that in fiction, it is often the unusual, the unharmonic as it were, that catches the attention? And also (this may be specifically my case), in music too, a good melody or a specific insrument or effect would catch my attention, sure, but an unhinged or out of sync note gets me piqued far more often.
                              Yes. This is a good point. It is the unexpected that piques interest. But it has to fit in the story. You don't want someone to go out of character solely for the purpose of throwing the reader for a loop. That would be a sour note.

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