Friday, February 12, 2021
Augustine's De Musica, Book VI--the necessity of having followed the tedium of Books I-V to understand why all those numbers are significant in terms of human cognition
Thursday, February 11, 2021
excerpts from Augustine's De Musica (Books I-V), his never-finished treatise on music--proposing that Augustine's discourse on poetic rhythm could correspond to "flow" in hiphop if music historians stop using him as a punching bag (hint, Ted Gioia)
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Ted Gioia's history of music as Europe vs. Africa traffics in an artificial binary--exploring the Native Hawaiian ancestry of slide guitar and Anton Reicha's advocacy of microtonal melodic ornament in 1814
… No matter what the political structure one advocates, the wrong music can apparently send it toppling. Perhaps the strongest aspect of this evolution is its reversal of the ancients’ philosophical dichotomy. The guitar, a kind of modern lyre, is now the dangerous source of disorder, while the flute is seen as a prim, subdued instrument evoking respectability and orderliness. This is one of the most striking examples of the dialectic at play in music history in which things turn into their opposites.
Being a guitarist I’m flattered that Gioia thinks the guitar has been so revolutionary in music in the last century. I’m tempted to agree but … is Ted Gioia imagining that all post-Pythagorean bids at tuning system represent repressive norms? Did blue notes really defy the established order by not obeying “the rules”, whatever those are of “properly” ordered scales and notes? Are we talking about the rules of sixteenth and seventh century species counterpoint grounded in the performing traditions of acapella vocal music? Those rules emerged for some practical as well as theoretical reasons.
Or is Ted Gioia trying to say that blues riffs with notes a quarter-tone away from the notes E flat or A natural on a keyboard is subversive? String players who perform Haydn string quartets already know that E flat and D sharp are not the same pitch, which was why when Haydn went to the trouble of saying to play a passage scored in E flat starting from the pitch of D sharp that was because he felt he needed to.
Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History has a theory of Pythagoras that got debunked by Kyle Gann's history of tuning systems more than a month before Gioia's book came out
Music: A Subversive History
Basic Books, Hachette Book Group
Copyright © 2019 by Ted Gioia
ISBNs: 978-1-5416-4436-6 (hardcover), 978-1-5416-1797-1 (ebook)
At a certain point in Western history, music became a quasi-science. Or, to be more precise, those who theorized about music managed to impose a scientific and mathematical framework that would marginalize all other approaches to the subject. We can even assign a name, a location, and a rough date to this revolution. The alleged innovator was Pythagoras of Samos, born around the year 570 BC. The impact of the Pythagorean revolution on the later course of music is still insufficiently understood and appreciated. I believe he is the most important person in the history of music—although his `innovation’ has perhaps done as much harm as good—and I will make a case for that bold claim in the pages ahead. Yet he is often treated as little more than a colorful footnote in cultural history, a charming figure who appears in anecdotes and asides, but not the mainstream narrative of cultural history.…
Pythagoras’s attempt to define and constrain musical sounds by the use of numbers and ratios continues to shape how we conceptualize and perform songs in the current day, and even now we distinguish between melody and noise. Music, as it is taught in every university and conservatory in the world today, is explicitly Pythagorean in its methods and assumptions. And even when musical styles emerged from the African diaspora that challenged this paradigm, threatening to topple it with notes that didn’t belong to scales and rhythms that defied conventional metric thinking, the algorithmic mindset prevailed, somehow managing to codify non-Pythagorean performance styles that would seem to resist codification. [emphasis added] Even today, I see the Pythagorean spirit as the implicit philosophy undergirding the advances of digital music—the ultimate reduction of song to mathematics—and technologies such as synthesizers, drum machines, Auto-Tune, and the dynamic range compression of current-day recordings. From pages 48-49