Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Quote For The Beginning of March


A transcription of an Aka Pygmy song.

It is the conflation and ultimate unification of the horizontal and vertical “dimensions,” which, for us in the West, have traditionally been regarded as opposites, that could ultimately be regarded as the most deeply fundamental conceptual basis for both traditions.

Surprisingly enough, a precedent for the concept of horizontal-vertical unification exists, but in a completely unexpected place, the thought and practice of the notorious Twentieth Century composer and theoretician, Arnold Schönberg.

Schönberg’s “method of composing with twelve tones related only to one another,” was based on a conception of the “unity of musical space” as, among other things, a “succession of tones . . .
whose comprehensibility as a musical idea is independent of whether its components are made audible one after the other or more or less simultaneously” (Schönberg 1975:208). Or, stated somewhat differently, “The mutual relation of tones regulates the succession of intervals as well as their association into harmonies . . . ” (ibid.:220).

Thus, in most of Schönberg’s mature works, melodic lines and harmonies are tonally unified in
that both may contain essentially the same types of interval (or, more precisely, interval class). This is a highly distinctive and unusual aspect of Pygmy and Bushmen counterpoint as well.

Whereas in most types of polyphony, tribal, ethnic, folk or classical, melodies tend to be stepwise, i.e. based on intervals of a second, while simultaneities are most often based on thirds, fourths and/or fifths, such distinctions are disregarded in the “floating” musical space of Pygmy/Bushmen and atonal music alike. Additionally, we find yet another mode of horizontal-vertical unification in certain works of Schönberg’s student Webern, and serialist disciples such as Boulez, where, as so often in both Pygmy and Bushmen music, though with radically
different results, polyphony and heterophony are conflated.

While it would be unwise to make too much of such remote parallels, they do give us a sense of how remarkable and indeed sophisticated is the musical thinking of both of these so-called “primitive” hunter-gatherer peoples.
Concept, Style and Structure in the Music of the African Pygmies and Bushmen: A Study in Cross-Cultural Analysis;.. Victor Grauer

1 comment:

John Strieder said...

Another proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V21GWpSF6Cs

Hear how the material is played not only horizontally, but also vertically in cluster-chords. Similar to how Schoenberg closes his Variations op. 31 with a Twelve-Note-Chord, like to sum all what happend before.