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January 20, 2007

Comments

rkirz

one way of achieving unreliability of narrative in music is to establish something so clearly in the mind/memory of the listener that a variant of it is immediately apparent. in some sense this happens all the time in traditional development. beethoven bringing back a theme in a minor key might be unreliable. when in the goldberg variations bach slips a new chromatic pitch into the bass line of the theme in one of the variations, that's potentially what we're talking about. there are works by kagel in which an almost wrenching shift in style--moving from a modernist context, perhaps, to a "pop" one--achieves some o' this kind o' thing. in that case we have (external) allusion, and the more specific the allusion the easier it is to redefine the meaning, i think, of prior music (within a piece). is stravinsky being unreliable when he quotes bach in the piano concerto? berio does interesting things in pieces with text, such as "opera" and "recital I for cathy," both those have characters and situations on which to hang a "narrative." or, for a more recent perspective, andre 3000's use of bach in the skit-like "good day, good sir" on The Love Below. it's also played so poorly that one could never mistake it for reliable.
however, i may not mean any of this.

brubiel

"one way of achieving unreliability of narrative in music is to establish something so clearly in the mind/memory of the listener that a variant of it is immediately apparent."

Who is this listener, and how did we get access to her mind/memory? Is that a reliable access? More reliable than our narrator?

Is music really a narrative, or is that just a fanciful metaphor? Do we usually judge the "reliability" of something in terms of that for which it is only a metaphor? My car is a real boat. And yet it doesn't float on water; what an unreliable boat my car is! Pontiac is so clever...

I think the quotation above is an artful comparison, but not a very satisfying one. The powers of insight by which reliability of a narrator in fiction may come to be undermined by an author or questioned by a reader are far greater and more sophisticated than those required simply to create or recognize musical variation.

Generally I find that when I try to import devices from other media into music, music comes out seeming very weak and impoverished for it. Which is to say: I know I'm doing something wrong.

Perhaps music - at least by itself - can only really do relatively few and simple things. There is still all the art, mystery and power of how.

briank

I haven't read Senilita or it's intro, but it's difficult for me to understand why the reliability of the narrator would matter unless the piece is about interpretation (eg, Roshomon).

The particular narrative voice is the only insight we have into the piece, reliable or not. It's inseparable from our appreciation. A work told from another character's mouth would be a different piece. Together, they might form a third piece about contrasting voices.

Maybe we can substitute 'unreliable' with 'subjective' or 'personal', and the personal voice is almost always more interesting, and capable of connecting us on a deeper level with the truth of our experience, than the objective (if such a thing exists).

rkirz

musical narrative is a well-established conceit; plus, it's a narrative if blogger says it is. narrative certainly doesn't have to be "story," and while i agree that "The powers of insight by which reliability of a narrator in fiction may come to be undermined by an author or questioned by a reader are far greater and more sophisticated than those required simply to create or recognize musical variation" this doesn't mean that an analogous (note that i don't say "equal") situation in music is at all impoverished or limited in any practical (/theoretical) sense; and such limitations are tied to the listener's experience, acumen, attention, fatigue, drunkenness, recalcitrance, misogyny, pessimism, laziness no less than for reader in her situation. in short (dear blogger), embrace the beauty of the conceivable rather than the the paralysis of the limited.

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