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2011年12月13日 星期二

Ways of Listening: Aesthetics, Metaphors, and Quotations in Music - Part III

 
引言:

真的很久沒有寫新的文章了。教學越來越忙,雖然這表示我的收入多了,生活穩定了,但,這並不是我最喜歡的情況。不過,我已前也確實寫了不少文章,當然以英文寫的佔多,因為我的中文打字很慢。所以,我也只好出版多一些英文寫的文章了。以下的是一篇絕對有實力的學術文章,也是我往後開拓現代音樂美學,意義研究的啟蒙文章。以自己寫的文章作為自己的啟蒙老師,怕是由我開始的了。以下的文章也有數千字,所以會分期刋載。如讀者是喜歡音樂分析的,必能從這篇文章得益。


Part III:



Quotation: “Photos” in a Sonic Album


It is the barely audible C major piano sound, despite a little mediocre, that unnoticeably sets off a sonic journey at the very beginning of Ives’s song The Things Our Father Loved.  This C major chord not only serves to prepare the incoming of the singer’s weak, and nearly murmured utterance, but also to offer an imagined space for the listener to contemplate, to experience.  The prologue of the song is somewhat anticipatory, seeming to call you to wait for what is to come next.  Music, in this sense, is an adventure – it advances, it arrives.  But what will be followed after the opening C major sonority?  It is a three-note melodic figure 3^  2^  1^  , singing the lyrical words “I think,” which is also confirmed by the piano C major triad once again.  This is the right time for both Ives, the composer, and us, the listeners, to think what are these “things” that “our father” loved.

 

The familiar quoted tune, My Old Kentucky Home, albeit with different text setting, is one of the fruits from such process of thinking.  The occurrence of quotation here is a privileged moment in unfolding that juxtaposes different moments of past experiences.  On the one hand, to Ives, it could be a moment to mediate and also to seek his nostalgic restlessness and the never fulfilled sense of childhood loss.  Just as David Metzer has commented, “quotation becomes the means by which the composer participated in that cultural scene. Through the gesture, he could represent the figure of the lost child and the growing gap between past and present in which that figure was caught.”[1]  On the other hand, it could be a moment that all senses of childhood loss could be redeemed.  Larry Starr has once showed his agreement to this view by warning against the common “widespread misconception of Ives as a nostalgic composer.”[2]  Also, Burkholder has concluded in the discussion of The Things Our Father Loved with a saying that, “……this is not an exercise in nostalgia for the songs and scenes of the past.”[3]  Doubtless for both scholars, Ives has not mourned the past with quotations.  On the contrary, he did prize the past as a trove of values that need to be, and can be, reclaimed by himself.[4]  All the quoted tunes in this song, including My Old Kentucky Home, are all “things” that represent all values – the natural beauty of Ives’s homeland, the religious faith, the patriotism, the group feeling and the hope for a future reunion with those he loved, in Heaven if not on earth.  As such, this particular moment could probably be the beginning of Ives’s search for his “liberty,”[5] in which all things of value in the past that his father, or whom he loved could be contained.  Ives is extolling the past and its values through the use of quotations.



For listeners, the recognized tune of Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home could be a retrospective moment that invites a search for what happened, and what was there.  Unlike any other parts of the music, a quotation occurred in a particular moment is not merely a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace, like a footprint or a death mask.  Simply put, it works like a private photo-album containing many precious, memorable photos.  From this sense, Ives here is the collector while we, the listeners, are the viewers.  When displaying a private photo-album before our eyes, the collector is inviting us to share with his/her past experiences.  Similarly, the first sonic photo of Stephen Foster’s quoted tune is just a trace, a footprint in this particular moment.  The moment the quotes are heard is the moment we are invited to search for what was there.  But whether listeners can identify the borrowed songs or think of their words is not crucial; what is most important is the character or the style of the songs, each of which represents a type of song that played a distinctive role in our experiences and is endowed with a particular emotional resonance. 


While some listeners are conjured up with the similar emotion of Ives’ nostalgic loss when hearing the rather slow and sustained, even distorted appearance of the quoted tune, others, perhaps, can sense the “liberty” values that the tune represented.  However, to audiences who cannot recognize the quotation, perhaps, a scene of idyll and lyricism may be evoked.  The folk-like melody of Foster’s song is not difficult to express such pastoral aura of a typical American small town in countryside.  However, if we remember the text of the first phrase of My Old Kentucky Home, “the sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,” our experience of Ives’ “old home” may link to an imagined “place in the soul” that contains “all made of tunes.”[6]  This “home” is definitely a bright and sunny lovely place, which comes from our private experiences, our imaginiation, not very much from Ives.  We, in fact, experience Ives’ experiences in terms of our experiences. 






[1] David Metzer, Quotation and Cultural Meaning in 20th Century, 16.


[2] Larry Starr, A Union of Diversities: Style in the Music of Charles Ives (New York: G. Schirmer, 1992), 52.


[3] Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 311.


[4] Ibid., 311


[5] The subtitle of this song is “and the greatest of these was Liberty.”


[6] The text of the first phrase of The Things Our Father Loved is, “ I think there must be a place in the soul all made of tunes.”
David Leung (theorydavid)

2011-12-12 (published)

2011年12月1日 星期四

Ways of Listening: Aesthetics, Metaphors, and Quotations in Music - Part II

引言:

真的很久沒有寫新的文章了。教學越來越忙,雖然這表示我的收入多了,生活穩定了,但,這並不是我最喜歡的情況。不過,我已前也確實寫了不少文章,當然以英文寫的佔多,因為我的中文打字很慢。所以,我也只好出版多一些英文寫的文章了。以下的是一篇絕對有實力的學術文章,也是我往後開拓現代音樂美學,意義研究的啟蒙文章。以自己寫的文章作為自己的啟蒙老師,怕是由我開始的了。以下的文章也有數千字,所以會分期刋載。如讀者是喜歡音樂分析的,必能從這篇文章得益。


  Quotation and Metaphorical Concept

    The important role of metaphor in shaping our thinking and affecting our daily lives have been discussed by Lakoff and Johnson in the book, Metaphors We Live By. About metaphor, Lakoff has stated: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.”[1] Metaphor is not a mere rhetorical device in linguistics. It is in fact the one that governs not only our actions and activities, but also our thinking processes and ways of understanding. We always seek out personal metaphors to highlight and make coherent our own pasts, our present activities, and our dreams, hopes, and goals as well. A large part of understanding is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense to us. It involves unending negotiation and renegotiation of the meaning of our past experiences. As a result, the process of understanding can lead to a continual development of new stories, as well as a creation of new realities in our daily lives. As metaphors exist in a person’s conceptual system, therefore, in this paper, all metaphors created for understanding of musical quotation are to be understood as metaphorical concepts.


     It is, however, nothing new for one to understand music in terms of metaphor in the western music history. For example, in the Cours complet d’ harmonie et de composition musicale (1803-05) by Jerome-Joseph Momigny, there are extensive analyses of movements by Mozart and by Haydn alternating technical description with narrative or dramatic readings. From Powers’ description on Momigny’s writing of Haydn’s symphony no.103, movement one, we can see that Momigny’s understanding of the music was no doubt governed by the metaphorical concepts he made. In fact, Powers stated, “ Momigny’s reading of Haydn Symphony 103 / I, ……the movement is read as a scene in the countryside, with a storm, villagers taking refuge in a temple, elders and grown men, women trembling for their children, and so on, with occasional fragments of text supplied to musical motives to enliven the narrative.”[2] Clearly, Powers’ words, such as storm, temple, elders, men, women, are related to a pictorial images consisting of the weather, temple and people, which are important metaphors to structure Momigny’s thinking. But it was not a unique privilege for Momigny to read music with metaphors, many other philosophers and music critics did so in the 19th century, such as Hanslick’s use of personification to conceptualize his idea on music as a living form,[3] which could animate beauty from the projection of sound, Schopenhauer’s view on music as a representation of human’s will,[4] the Berlin critic Heinrich Hermann’s description on Beethoven’s symphony no. 3 as an almost Shakespearean world of magic, or the Russian critic Oulibicheff Marx’s review on the same work as a military “drama” for delineating a battle and victory of a hero, which the battle is fought for the human freedom.[5] In the recent musicological scholarship, Susan McClary, also used the metaphor of “sexual intercourse” to explain the western tonal system and the musical phenomenon of Beethoven’s symphony no. 9.[6] As such, music in general, and quotations in particular, can be understood in terms of metaphor. This reading is capable of creating a new way of listening, which is capable of offering different perspectives for us to muse, to recall, and to search what happened and what was there.





[1] Lakoff, Metaphors, 5.


[2] Harold Powers, “Reading Mozart’s Music: Text and Topic, Syntax and Sense,” in Current Musicology 57, (1995): 5-44.


[3] We can refer to Mark Evan Bonds’ discussion on this topic in his book, A History of Music in Western Culture ( Upper Saddle River, H.J. : Prentice Hall, 2003), 366.


[4] Ibid., 361.


[5] Thomas Sipe, Beethoven: Eroica Symphony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 54-62.


[6] Susan McClary, Feminie Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (London, Minneapolis: University Minnesota Press, 2002)53-79.
 

To be continued.....

David Leung (theorydavid)

2011-12-01 (published)