Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

NO USE FOR MUSICAL LANGUAGE IN NON-ABSTRACT MUSIC By Michael John Ellingford / 2013. Special thanks to Richard Snow.

Abstract art is typically understood as a visual medium, although it is certainly not confined to this, existing through sonic mediums as well. It is important to understand that the term abstract means the same across the board, but is applied quite differently according to the reference point it is viewed from.

Non-abstract visual art, at its core, is a form of representation which attempts to depict the real world around us, understood as an objective representation. Visual art in its abstract form then, may be simply understood as non objective representation, the artist attempting to use the same basic shapes, lines and colors, in other words the very materials used in objective art, to produce something removed from what we know and understand in the real world. This may be seen as a subjective or abstract attempt at visual representation.1

Simply, music may be viewed as a rearrangement of sound into a structured language. Based on strict rule set, this language takes the forms of notes, scales, rhythm, tempo, chords, harmony, bass and melody, which further inform how one should play music.2 Music then, as a sonic language, is fundamentally abstract in that it does not represent (or reproduce) sounds encountered within the natural world on a daily basis in the way visual art does. As such however, music is often considered as somewhat objectively neutral or self contained. This is demonstrated by the further definition of abstract music as something different or removed from normal music. In this essay I will argue that forms of music traditionally considered to be abstract, are closer in principle to an objective form than non-abstract !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1

Kendall L Walton. "What Is Abstract About The Art Of Music?" The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 3rd ed. Vol. 46. [Philadelphia, PA]: American Society for Aesthetics, 1982. 351-64. Print. 2 Dorrell, Phillip. "What Is Music?" N.p.: n.p., n.d. 18. What Is Music?: Solving a Scientific Mystery. 2004, Accessed on 14 Nov. 2013.!

"!

music and perhaps even painting. This is not a common view of what abstract music is. Take the most objective form of visual art (perhaps a photograph or film), note that these may be considered as temporary objects as they can only ever capture a moment in time and space. What happens outside the parameters of the lens and after the images are taken may never be truly captured within the photograph or film. Abstract music on the other hand, may be seen to contain the potential to create a more lasting object in that the music itself becomes the object, representing only itself.

On a conceptual level, true representation of all art contains abstraction but that is beside the point in this case. The point is that music and abstract music in particular is a more direct art form in which concepts are not alluded to by form, but rather give way to new form.

Non-abstract music does not have to mean it is not abstract in any sense. It might not conform to musical ideals but it certainly applies within the technical and mathematical sense, measured according to waveforms and frequencies. This is using the term abstract in conjunction with an existing language as a reference point, instead of judging it purely based on a non-abstract understanding, perhaps somewhat closer to how nature might represent itself.

This view works by using our modern idea of music as a normal reference point and judging that which differs to be removed from its (musics) existence and therefore abstracted from it. All Natural sound events contain unorganized, chaotic sounds that are completely unrelated to one another, unable to be fit into strict criteria. It is often chaotic and seemingly impossible to predict. Pierre Schaeffer coined the genre Musique Concrte (French for real sound) in 1948. He defines this genre to be one made of raw sounds: thunderstorms, steam-engines, waterfalls...etc.3 All these sounds are naturally !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
$Pierre

Schaeffer. "An Interview with Pierre Schaeffer - Pioneer of Musique

#!

unorganized (therefore technically not music). It is only until these sounds are spliced, edited, performed or organized that these sounds become music, whilst not conforming to the traditional form of music. This is what is traditionally defined as abstract. This seems to run counter to visual definitions of abstraction, in which the more a picture can accurately simulate an object, the less abstract it is deemed to be on a visual level. If this new idea of non-abstract music was formed, it would likely fall into genres such as Musique Concrte (now considered electro-acoustic music)4, Noise or the Avant Garde. Then again, it is possible for this new idea of non-abstracts to fold back into itself (coming full circle) in that musics direction can depend on high technology, as seen with electronic music for example. Pierre Schaeffer believes that the future of music can take two paths, ...either, technology itself seems to come to the rescue of art - which is in a state of collapse - (that was my starting point, musique concrte with the tape-recorder, now electronic music, etc), or its the ideas of technology, ideas from mathematics, ideas with a scientific aura, or real scientific ideas given an unreal relevance to an art which is seeking its discipline - its ordering principles - outside itself instead of within the source of its own inspiration.5 Abstract music could also be considered a non-abstract form in the performance component of the art in that its pure physicality and intuitive primal expression is a part of basic bodily functions that are likely not taught (as seen in Nika Shirocorads performance of Michael Finnissys piece, English Country Tunes for example).6 It is important to note though, that the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Concrte." Interview by Tim Hodgkinson,. ReR Quarterly 2 May 1987: n. pag. Print.!
4

Ibid Ibid!

Michael Finnissy, English Country Tunes, Nika Shirocorad. Perf. Nika Shirocorad. Michael Finnissy, English Country Tunes, Nika Shirocorad. YouTube, 05 July 2010, Accessed on 14 Nov. 2013.

$!

application of musicianship is studied under an abstract rule set in which an understanding of the language is required to implement it in a functioning nature, resulting in a non-abstract expression that utilizes the abstract language of music. Although again, in Nikas case, I cannot imagine that type of vigorosity being of high order or study, it perhaps should be considered instead spontaneous expression. Moreover, emotion can be conisdred more universally understood than language currently seems to be. If you were to witness a physical event in which somebody clenched their fists in rage (performance), Im sure the greater majority would intuitively relate to with anger or displeasure. Just as if a non-English speaker were to hear English being spoken, the non-English speaker would likely have issues understanding its core structures or principles.

Because all art can be considered an abstraction of some kind, an ideal redefinition of the term abstraction within the arts could be used in conjunction with representation.

It could be argued, with this redefinition in mind, the art of Sound Design and Sound Engineering can be considered a new subset for representational art. Modern samplers and keyboards offer the ability to present objective representation through the mimicking of natural sounds and events through the art of synthesis7. This could be considered a modern ideal of what Musique Concrte was understood as in the late 1940s, and could apply with one of Schaeffers ideas that high technology will come to rescue art (and music) and in turn bridge the gap between abstract musical language and foundational sound itself.

To truly represent natural sound then, without first utilizing preexisting sonic form as Schaeffer did, would, I believe serve to complete the gap between abstraction and representation, synthesizing them into a different !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7

Wayne Roberts. "Music as Abstract Art." Web log post. Principles Of Nature. Wayne Roberts, 2005, Acesseed on 14 Nov. 2013.!

%!

concept. This could have two results, firstly through the use of high technology replicating or representing these sounds 1:1, this is only doing so in part however. A sound engineer may be able to field record a tire screech or synthesize a lions roar; (digitally) however this is only ever an isolated sound. To produce or represent the entire of natures cacophony this way seems impossible. Further still, to produce an ongoing track this way seems counterproductive, forking away and becoming abstracted from the actual sound going on outside from the moment it is created and subsequently played. This leads us back to deliberate abstraction, which I believe leads to a truer form of representation.

In his interview, Schaeffer declares the impossiblity of new music. He writes, there is no progress, the world only changes materially.8 Therefore, by harnessing raw sonic energy, one is able to create seemingly self-contained and self sustaining combinations of frequency, waveforms vibrations and otherwise as one might do within an enclosed feedback loop consisting of effects modulation (i.e intended noise as art). Beginning as a deliberate abstraction, the tendency of noise contained within a composed feedback loop, represents its ability to take on a life of its own. Now, instead of being representational, the sound is a representation, of itself. Starting off as an abstraction, unharnessed sound becomes the very medium itself through which expression is possible.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! '!Pierre Schaeffer. "An Interview with Pierre Schaeffer - Pioneer of Musique

Concrte." Interview by Tim Hodgkinson,. ReR Quarterly 2 May 1987: n. pag. Print.!

&!

Conclusion Abstract art attempts to be a form of non-object representation. Abstract music then, tries to subvert musical structure and language via other means such as through Musique Concrte and beyond. Attempting to argue for a definition of what it is to be considered abstract within music as previous attempts have seemingly reversed its properties, so to speak. In some cases of abstract music (itself a double abstraction). I have demonstrated they infact present a more real life presentation of natural form than visual attempts at representation. The problem is that definitive answers are virtually impossible to achieve due to the nature of the approach to art and music varying a great deal. These definitions of abstract, music and art leave themselves open to contradiction by placing a definitive circle around the value of the meaning, so to speak. We will never know what abstract music means until pre-existing codes and structures transgress and new combinations of sounds are arranged. In the mean time art may be seen to bridge a gap between subject and object, by its very nature abstract and therefore undefinable by musical language alone.

(!

References: Dorrell, Phillip. "What Is Music?" N.p.: n.p., n.d. 18. What Is Music?: Solving a Scientific Mystery. 2004. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

Michael Finnissy, English Country Tunes, Nika Shirocorad. Perf. Nika Shirocorad. Michael Finnissy, English Country Tunes, Nika Shirocorad. YouTube, 05 July 2010. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. http://youtu.be/_n00Z-Rv80c

Roberts, Wayne. "Music as Abstract Art." Web log post. Principles Of Nature. Wayne Roberts, 2005. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

Schaeffer, Pierre. "An Interview with Pierre Schaeffer - Pioneer of Musique Concrte." Interview by Tim Hodgkinson,. ReR Quarterly 2 May 1987: n. pag. Print.

Walton, Kendall L. "What Is Abstract About The Art Of Music?" The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 3rd ed. Vol. 46. [Philadelphia, PA]: American Society for Aesthetics, 1982. 351-64. Print.

)!