Lent 36 : Other Ways

This is a piece which uses a 12 tone row. For those of you unfamiliar with this it is a composition technique that ensures that every tone available has to be played before it is used again within the music. So if one plays a C, it can be used again only after playing all the other notes. And the order in which the notes appear is repeated in this piece. Repititions of notes are allowed but only immediately. So we can play C C but not C E C.

I did this as part of a composition course I was doing last month. A lot of the music sounds discordant. But the point is where did our sense of harmony come from? Do we listen to music only in certain ways? It would seem that for most people music is primarily a call and response in an emotional sense. Emotion rules prime in how music is heard. Music is also a slave to the image. Play an atonal piece and people might say ‘sounds like a scary movie.’

The interesting thing is that these sounds existed before movies. So is there a way to listen to music more intellectually? Poetry faces a similar, opposing problem. We expect words to primarily give us information. So words aren’t often associated with emotion.

It is interesting how we box each art form into such strict categories. There are analogies here to how we practice our spirituality. Music is used emotionally, rather than intelligently. Visual art is used as background rather than foreground. Words are used as the sole purveyors of truth rather than acknowledging their slipperiness and using them more emotionally.

I want a sermon from an art piece. And our prayers in music. We’ll use words for notices and for where the toilets are.

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