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University of Utah radio presents music and other four letter words. Here is your host associate professor of music at the University of Utah. All bad weeds come I think to the kind of music which is not concerned at all with entertainment and which isn't concerned primarily with beauty. The way we ordinarily talk about aesthetics but music is a sort of magic or alchemy or or ritual route that helps us pass through and out of a sense of time. This happens maybe in most of the music which is being performed nowadays in the world although those of us who are comfortable people and who like to play our phonograph records through the stereophonic equipment don't ordinarily have occasion to think about that. A great percentage of the world's population for example in the Far East is concerned primarily with ecstatic relations to music
and the fact that it is not meant just to entertain them but to crystallize or symbolize or capture in certain kinds of magic formulae the spirit of a particular occasion say the quality of a time of day or maybe the essence of an emotion. Well Fred Miller's British musicologist writing about players of Eastern music notes this that while the vena player tries out the raw GA appropriate to the time and the place which could be a melodic formula say that is appropriate to a particular hour of the day. Maybe between 7:00 and 8:00 at night on a summer evening the percussion or the player will tentatively explore the tala or the rhythmic pattern which is also ritualistically relevant. Those words sound a little complicated but they needn't be. The TAL law usually embraces the physical energy of the body and it usually tends to be some kind of
additive pattern often of considerable complexity. It will be increasingly swept into the melodic player's ecstasy as the composition begins but to compose in the east and I suppose this is really the important thing is to improvise with a well the mike for tonal inflection and with the utmost subtlety on rhythmic nuance or patterns which are pre ordained. They have been handed down by tradition as apt. Relevant and absolutely right for whatever the situations are which are common to man. The string player and the drummer usually stimulate one another and it is almost true to say that the composer player's talent or his genius is manifest in inverse proportion to his to rest real passions for the better composer he is more sensitive to human agony or mirth. The more his improvisational flowed and soar the more his complexities of rhythm will defy the metrical pulse of time. The fact that he employs
pitch distortion which brings with it a high quota of nervous dissonance is part of the effect the anguish and the physical tension of our earthly lives are present and both the discs tone ation and the nasal quality of the vocal production are considered in this case to be erotic. Yet the function of the music. Is precisely to release this tension when the player emulating vocal technique in playing closer and closer to the bridge of his instrument achieves his ultimate ecstasy and his melodic non harmonic non metrical music takes flight. Liberating both himself and the listener participants from time and from the will. It is interesting that Jasmine still use the word flight to describe their wilder arabesque. And although these arabesque circular to the sense of progression is
irrelevant to them as it is to those of the Indian being a player. Theoretically of the players improvisation could go on all day and all night into Westerners Sometimes it seems to do just that. However much we may admire the moments of ecstasy how irrelevant are temporal and harmonic concepts are to Oriental music as indicated by the fact that Indian folk singers can still be heard singing the same tune at and in different times simultaneously and the Japanese Buddhist monks will sing the same chant in any time at any pitch often 20 or more at once convenient to their voices. If a Westerner came on such a performance accidentally he would say merely that it sounded bad and that means that he is listening. And I suppose there are jazz people and there are people nowadays who will tell you it is indeed the better of the lot to that. Sometimes the great mistake with a certain kind of music is to listen to it. And I think I've said something like that about Beethoven. There are there are times when it's
possible listening to late Beethoven quartets and in fact probably all of the times. For someone to listen technically and to admire the construction of the music but to do that is to be listening in the wrong quarter of the mind. When Beethoven seems to want us not to be listening at all but to be caught away somehow by the essence by the significance by the symbolic moment. Well here is her some of that music about which Mr. Miller's was just speaking. Music of the East. Time reducing it releasing music. Music which carries us away. In its ecstasy. Music which we would say at some level is monotonous but at another level when it has become us or when we have become it we see as a as a kind of a tide. A kind of river a kind of stream of sound which carries us of ourselves and possibly even as it is meant to do away from Time. What's is mysterious as opposed to many of us in. The West is that.
The particular melodic formulae and rhythmic patterns which characterize the ragas are not chosen because they are atmospherically appropriate to the color of the sky or the temperature or whatever. That may have something something to do with it in much the same way that if Claude Debussy writes a piece of music about the moon sweeping over a heap of ruins that it is essential to him to have some allusions to night and to light and to the past. But that the succession of tones and the Concord to nation of. Rhythmic sounds are meant actually to have. Achieved in some kind of s some want that moment. Finally use. The sounds a little like the baroque archers and again who uses affections. We haven't had time to speak about that and we
likely will come back to it again. But it is often true that with the baroque artisan who had his best is also concerned with removing us from time that he captures in a few notes and appropriate essential rhythmic structure what is the essence of the experience and does not then depart from it. For the rest of his piece of music. So that in fact the moment of greatest absorption is the moment of arriving at. The initial sounds of the piece of music. Maybe the Indian raga player is fortunate because he has these formulae handed down to him and then it is his business to make improvisations upon them. Beethoven would say he has his themes given to him and then he makes variations. Beethoven happens to be one of those western people who has to arrive at the essential theme and then make variations on it himself which makes it a little more difficult to do perhaps. Reminds me of Coleridge symbols or affections or rug or whatever you want to call these things. A
symbol he says is characterized by a translucent so the special. In the individual or of the general in the special or of the universe in the general. Above all by the translucence of the Eternal. Through and in. The temporal. And all of that requires a good deal of thinking and I don't really have time to say it again. The final judgement especially he says above all the translucence of the eternal through and in the temporal is what much of this music is about. To go back to Meller's for a minute he says. It's interesting that Jasmine still use the word flight to describe their wilder our best SKS. And in these Wilder our basks the sense of progression that is of moving from one place to another moving from one thing to a later achievement. Building
building building building to something is not really relevant. But flight is a flight from a time of flight from ordinary consciousness of flight from the everyday flight from the front of the mind when to play just a little music by Cecil Taylor for a minute. It's a piece called steps. Unit structures he has called them in about steps he writes very strangely. Steps Anacrusis he says that is the downbeat was meant as. Light rain about to fall not fallen yet. Distances like differential between nourished impulse and act Having the way to the beauty and peace a good tree laughs. The plane is considered rapture. All limbs mellow spent ground in winding dramaturgy. Mainly two pillars constitute shape. Frontal and anger. Too short. Drop the piano forte resident
and tree. Then off in tonight's third Archer world of recovery. Paranoid participle. Prison vision like Verity about love between the ages the opposites that grew to draw found naked statues and attenuated sadness running across blackened Lakes shuttered birds directionless weathervane your eyes closed filling us with pain and yet. Like the separateness that brought hearing it is not the origin but acceptance of hypothesis that ultimate authority. Poetry. Dependence. To.
Us. Thank her the IT
her. And thank. You and thanks to him. And. The listener. Listener. Cannot embark on a. Trip. That is cacophonous and it's ugly. He may even find himself twitching a bit. Neurotically. And I suppose if you were if you were to consider again Miller's reference to the Japanese Buddhist monks singing the same chant in any time and at any pitch which is convenient to their voices and all doing that simultaneously then the effect. If you were a listener you would be just like this music and you would say. If they would only all get
together if they would be less disciplined if they could sort of make the pitches coincide if they wouldn't sound so ugly. But that's the mistake of listening. To. About. Music like this about experiences like this. Different people have written a good many things. I'm always drawn back to writers on myth and legend because they're the other people who talk about the eternal instant or The Great to dream time or the escape from the temporal or what it is that really happens when when the Southwestern Indians do catching advances or when primitive tribes set out to do rituals which are not meant to be reminiscent but actual recreations of things which are happening now. The opening of the door into the eternal dream time that is the awareness of what is ultimate beyond all appearances happens in moments of ritual. These things are still exists largely in the United
States as compared with some other countries in the world where people have to travel much further. To observe people participating in you know the fact of entrance into another place which is out of time the opening of that kind door. And Priestley says is through ritual and its ceremonies abolished profane or passing time. When these rituals ceremonies the original great deeds of mythical heroes are re-enacted the men who take part in them enter the time when the deeds were originally performed not into the past but into an eternal present. Access to the eternal dream of time. The Aborigines believe can be gained only by observing the traditional rules of behavior. The Secret Life of ritual and mythology is infinitely more important and meaningful than day to day existence earning a living trying to appear important and so on. It is the life as Elkan tells us in which
man really finds his place and in which he is brought in touch with the invisible things of the past and the present and future. And when that happens. When men seem to strike out of irrelevant passing time they derive from that experience courage and strength. And then it begins to sound like Beethoven. Speaking of the more reality of power which is his and which he can make accessible to man through music on certain levels is very mysterious. Here is a piece of music by Olivier Messiaen which purports finally to achieve it for us and something like a ritual sense it is from the quartet. For the end of time. And then Angel steps forth in the Book of Revelation He says declaring in a loud voice there shall be no more time. And the important thing is to many people to Wagner to Quincy to Missy and
to the Aborigines to Cecil Taylor. The important thing is that this sense of no more time this sense of the point of intersection of time with the times must happen while we are in time. We must die before you die says or a wall and C.S. Lewis was till we have faces and carrying it. The last and probably And I suppose that the necessary step further to Quincy is the man who says. You must be resurrected before you die. This has been music and other four letter words featuring
Paul Burnham associate professor of music at the University of Utah. Music another four letter word is a production of University of Utah radio executive director Rex Campbell series director Gene tak. This series is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Us
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Music and other four letter words
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Music and other four letter words; 4,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 21, 2024,
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