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       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E
                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1995 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 1, Number 3        May, 1995      ISSN:  1067-3040   |
  All queries to: mto-editor@boethius.music.ucsb.edu or to
AUTHOR: London, Justin M.
TITLE: Misreading Meyer: a reply to Cochrane
KEYWORDS: Cochrane, Meyer, conformant relationships, ontology,
epistemology, hierarchic levels, closure, Deleuze, Narmour, Eco
REFERENCE: mto.95.1.1.cochrane.art
Justin M. London
Carleton College
Department of Music
ABSTRACT: A response to Richard J. Cochrane's article "The Phases of
Fire" which appeared in volume 1.1 of this journal.  Two main aspects
of Cochrane's presentation are critiqued: (1) that in a number of
substantial ways Cochrane has misrepresented Meyer's account of
conformant relationships in musical structure (which Cochrane refers
to as "Meyer's concept of 'conformancy'"), and (2) that the tripartite
notion of model, copy, and simulacrum does not map onto musical
structures in general and Meyer's account of conformant relationships
in particular.
[1] Let me begin by first citing a number of minor examples of where
Cochrane, either explicitly or implicitly, misquotes or misconstrues
various aspects of Meyer's argument.  Right off the bat it should be
noted that Meyer does not use the term "conformancy," but rather
speaks of "conformant relationships."(1) Cochrane's transformation of
this word from Meyer's adjectival use to a nominative reveals the way
in which he has reinterpreted Meyer, as we shall see below.  Another
problematic alteration (in this case, an addition) to Meyer's argument
is Cochrane's repeated use of the term "dialectic."(2) While Meyer
does speak of the tension between musical continuity and musical
closure--indeed this is one of the guiding principles of his entire
book--it is not accurate to describe Meyer's view of music as
dialectic or dialectical.  Indeed, Meyer takes Reti to task for the
latter's dialectical approach to musical structure and his reification
(not to mention blatant overuse) of conformant relationships.(3) Yet
another example of Cochrane's interpretive ventriloquism occurs in his
summation and discussion of Meyer's "five factors for coherent musical
structure."(4) Here Cochrane notes that "copies must be separable
units, or poses," a grammatical construction which implies that
"poses" is Meyer's term, whereas in fact it is Cochrane's.  As a final
example, Cochrane claims that Meyer's analyses "show a development of
large-scale, or macro-dialectics . . .  out of smaller dialectically
constructed units, down to the micro-dialectical copy itself."(5)
Here Cochrane seems to mistake hierarchic nesting (where in his
characteristic fashion Meyer notes subordinate and superordinate
relationships between various structural levels) with dialectic
structure.  Meyer explicitly denies that the structural patterns he
describes are the product of recursive processes:
	The way in which a particular parameter acts in articulating
	structure may be different on different hierarchic levels.
	For example, on lower levels dynamics and orchestration 
	tend to contribute to the articulation of rhythmic patterns,
	but on higher levels they generally serve in the 
	structuring of large-scale formal relationships. . . .
	The syntax of particular parameters tends to change as 
	one moves from one level of the hierarchy to another.(6)
This is in flat contradiction to the kind of conformant relationships that 
Reti pursues and that I infer Cochrane to be describing.
1. Cochrane, paragraph 1.
2. ibid., para. 3.
3. See *Explaining Music* (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973) pp. 
64-65.  Though Meyer does entertain notions of music history in dialectic 
terms (ibid., pp. 56-59), this is a historical perspective, not an analytic 
4. Cochrane, paragraphs 3 & 4.  Actually, Meyer's "five factors" are not 
those which give rise to musical coherence, but are factors which delineate  
musical patterns, and to that end are mainly aspects of articulation and 
closure which serve to individuate units of musical structure (Meyer, p. 
5. Cochrane, paragraph 6.
6. Meyer, p. 89.
[2] Cochrane begins his essay by presenting Meyer's "formula" for
gauging the strength of perceived conformance/musical similarity:(7)
		Regularity of        Individuality of   Similarity of
		pattern (schemata) .   profile        .   patterning
Strength of =  _______________________________________________________ 
perceived		variety of intervening       temporal distance
conformance	            events               .     between events
With this equation (which Meyer presents as a summary to several pages
of discussion) Meyer tries to unpack a relatively straightforward
analytical notion: "the greater the variety of intervening events and
the greater the separation in time between two comparable events, the
more patent the shape of the model must be if a conformant
relationship is to be perceived"(8).  In his exegesis of this equation
Cochrane misconstrues a number of its terms.  First, Cochrane claims
that "regularity of pattern . . .  is the most ill-defined of terms,
but it seems to mean simply that a pattern which is very complex will
not be easily recognizable when it reappears."(9) Cochrane
ignores/omits Meyer's inclusion of "schemata" in this term.  Schemata
are, of course, given substantial treatment by Meyer; indeed, a
discussion of melodic schemata comprises the entire second half of
Meyer's book.  In context it is thus clear that by "regularity of
pattern" Meyer means syntactic regularity--that is, the extent to
which a particular musical shape can be recognized in terms of its
relation to a stylistic archetype (e.g., a cadential progression
characteristic of a particular style).  This term has nothing to do
with the relative complexity of any particular pattern.  Next,
"Individuality of profile" does not mean, as Cochrane claims, that
"the pattern must not be too like the surrounding music," but rather
that some aspects of the musical shape itself must be distinctive, and
not just a presentation of generic syntactic patterns.(10)
"Individuality" is thus included to balance the generic features of a
particular motive that are recognized by the first term of the
numerator (for example, a figure that is a triadic arpeggiation) with
other features (such as a characteristic rhythm) which give the
otherwise generic shape a particular identity.  Likewise "Similarity
of patterning" does not mean, as Cochrane claims, "similarity between
copies of the model" (for of course this is precisely the product that
the "Strength of perceived conformance" is supposed to represent), but
rather the ways in which various parameters are involved in varying
subsequent presentations of a musical shape.  Finally, the product of
this equation is not "strength of the conformant relationship" but
rather the "strength of the *perceived* conformance."  Meyer is keenly
interested in the perceptual aspects of musical structure and musical
experience.  The terms in the numerator of the equation are those
factors which make a particular musical shape easy to remember and
recall when it re-appears, while the terms in the denominator are
those factors which inhibit recall.  Conformance is not simply a
property of the musical object(s); rather it arises through our
interaction with the musical object, hence Meyer's use of the term
"conformant relationships" and not "conformancy."  Meyer's essential
question is not ontological, but epistemic.
7. Meyer, p. 49; Cochrane paragraph 1.  (Cochrane presents these terms in   
an abbreviated fashion, i.e., C = R.I.S./V.T).
8. Meyer, p. 49.
9. Cochrane paragraph 1.
10. This difference between generic structural patterns versus musical 
figures characteristic to a particular work has been discussed at some 
length by Eugene Narmour, who draws a distinction between "style 
structures" and "style shapes" in *The Analysis and Cognition of Melodic
Complexity: The Implication-Realization Model,* (Chicago: University of 
Chicago press, 1992).
[3] Cochrane's misappellation of "conformancy" reveals his own
ontological reification of conformant relationships.  Given that Meyer
is interested in *perceived* similarities between musical structures,
it follows that he is less concerned with the "real" similarities and
differences between musical objects as he is with the ways in which
listeners come to make judgements regarding similarity and difference.
The validity or invalidity of analytic/listening judgements based on
conformace-as-heard (to paraphrase Clifton) informs Meyer's subsequent
critique of Reti.  Reti's analyses are called into question not
because the conformant structures he finds are not there, but rather
(a) because many of the relationships Reti claims to be present are
not likely to be perceived as distinct instances of conformance, and
(b) even if they are perceived (perhaps with the help of Reti's
analyses) their musical relevance is often questionable.
[4] At the core of Cochrane's critique is Meyer's omission/exclusion
of "the simulacrum" in the latter's discussion of conformant
relationships.  Instead of speaking only of "models" and "copies,"
Cochrane believes that a third term--the simulacrum--must be
introduced.  It should first be noted that Meyer's use the term
"model" (or "model event") differs substantially from Cochrane's.  For
Meyer "model" is simply the first instance of a distinct musical shape
in a particular musical context, whereas for Cochrane "model" assumes
a higher ontological status.  Cochrane gives "a favorite example" to
explain his notions of model, copy, and simulacrum: The idea of a
table (model), the table (copy), and a sculpture of the table
(simulacrum)."(11).  Let us consider two ways in which this tripartite
ontology might map onto a piece or pieces of music.  Having done this
we will be in a better position to evaluate Cochrane's claim that
"Meyer . . .  views a whole piece of music as governed by the logic of
model and copy."(12)
11. Cochrane, paragraph 7, from Gilles Deleuze, *The Logic of Sense* 
(London: Athlone, 1990) p. 257.  For another (and extremely entertaining 
account) of the notion of simulacrum see Umberto Eco's discussion of 
"absolute fakes" in his *Travels in Hyperreality* (Orlando: Harcourt Brace 
Jovanovich, 1986), pp. 1-58.
12. Cochrane, paragraph 8.
[5] Let us first consider how the idea-table-sculpture example would
map onto an entire piece of music and its relationship to other
musical objects.  Right off the bat we have the interesting problem of
where to place the "model" of a particular piece--Is the "model" of
Beethoven's 5th symphony an a-priori sound object which Beethoven was
fortunate to discover (versus a musical object which Beethoven brought
into existence through his creative actions)?  Is it an ideal
structure that exists only in Beethoven's head?  Perhaps it is that
ideal structure which is embodied in the score, or (since scores are
only partial maps of the work-in-performance) in the apprehension of
a score by a musically competent score-reader?  Any one of these might
serve as "models".  Then we have particular performances of
Beethoven's fifth.  It is fairly safe to consider these, at least for
the present purpose, as "copies" or instantiations of the ideal 5th
symphony.(13) And clearly recordings of a particular performance could
be considered copies.  But what would count as a musical simulacrum,
the analog to the sculpture of the table?  Perhaps some
transmogrification of the score? (this is not so far fetched, as we
have everything from Switched on Bach to Hooked on Classics--
Beethoven's Fifth with a disco beat).(14) At the very least one would
have to acknowledge that a simulacrum of Beethoven's fifth would be
based upon an artwork--not a sculpture of a table, but a sculpture of
a sculpture.  Note that this relationship (sculpture #1 to sculpture
#2) is one between two items in the same ontological category, not
between items in different categories.
13. In *Music, Art, and Metaphysics* (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 
1990, pp. 86-88) Jerrold Levinson draws a very useful distinction  
between "performances" of a work (which we usually get) versus 
"instances" of a work (which exactly and completely fulfill the musical 
directives embodied in the score as executed by competent players); 
under this framework "instances" could serve as "models" while 
"performances" would count as copies.
14. These are precisely the sorts of simulacra that Eco (op. cit.) 
discusses, e.g., Wax museum dioramas of Leonardo's "Last Supper" that 
purport to be *more real* and *more authentic* than Da Vinci's original 
[6] Cochrane does not concern himself with complete works as
simulacra; his interest is in mapping the model-copy-simulacra onto
intra-opus relationships.  Let us examine this mapping with a concrete
example.  Consider the first four notes Beethoven's Fifth as "motive
X."  We then hear the next four notes.  For the purposes of this
discussion let us accept that we have two discernable structural
units--we are not worried about which notes belong to which motive,
etc., though of course these are often crucial questions.  In
comparing these two musical structures it would seem that we have but
three options, as notes 5-8 can be (a) another instance of motive X,
(b) something else--motive y (that is, not X), or (c) a variant of
motive X--an X'.  Of course, it is in option (c) where most of the
musical and analytical fun is--what parameters are varied, what
remains the same, and so forth.  But what strikes one immediately is
that we are not really dealing with a clear "model" which is
ontologically prior to the "copy," as we are unable to determine what
the "ideal" or platonic model of the 4-note motive might be.  Maybe
the model is notes 5-8 (as in a bit of artistic cleverness Beethoven
has given us the copy first and then the model); maybe it is some
other structure we have not yet hear (or may never hear).  Happily,
this is not what goes on when we attend to Beethoven's musical
structure.  What does seem to be going on are judgements of similarity
between two musical objects on the same ontological plane.  One need
not appeal to any ideal structure in order to apprehend their relative
similarity and/or salient differences.  Here is an analogy: I have two
red bricks which I will use in building a wall.  They are both the
same size and weight, but one is a little redder, while the other has
a slightly rougher surface.  Need I appeal to some Platonic brick in
order to mediate my judgements regarding their similarity?  The answer
is no--I can attend to the relevant qualities (roughness, redness) to
discern differences while my other perceptions (size, weight, shape,
etc.) inform me of their similarity.
[7] When we add the notion of the simulacrum into this context the
difficulties in mapping the model-copy-simulacrum ontology to
intra-opus relationships become even more acute.  Do we really want to
claim that the second and subsequent presentations of Motive X are
somehow akin to sculptural representations of the first presentation?
Cochrane warns us that this is not the proper arrangement of
	It is not that the simulacrum resembles the copy which
	resembles the model . . . the copy resembles the model, 
	but the simulacrum resembles nothing, or rather: "If the 
	simulacrum still has a model, it is another model, a model 
	of the Other from which there flows an internalized 
I am not quite sure what this means, but it at least seems clear that
the simulacrum is not going to help us deal with the pragmatic
question of whether or not the pattern formed by notes 5-8 of
Beethoven's fifth symphony are similar to the pattern formed by the
first four notes, and if so, on what would our judgement of similarity
be based.  Cochrane thus seems to be making a bit more than is perhaps
warranted of the presence of iterable elements in musical syntax (this
may well be an occupational hazard of post-Derridean philosophy).
15. Cochrane, paragraph 8; the quote is from Deleuze, p. 258.
[8] At the end of the same paragraph Cochrane claims that Meyer "views
a whole piece of music as governed by the logic of model and copy" and
thus asks if Meyer thus prefers "a structurality [sic.] based on the
single Ideal model, and the similarities and differences which the
copies bear to it?"  The answer to this question is clearly and easily
no, as (again) this is the sort of "structurality" which Reti pursues
and which Meyer critiques.  Furthermore, Meyer does not claim that all
hierarchic music is based on conformant relationships; conformant
relationships are but one of several kinds of organizational
strategies or "musical processes" on one level which give rise to
coherent formal structures on higher levels (Meyer, pp.  88-97, as
well as the quote given above).  And while Meyer is a structuralist,
he is one with a keen cognitive bent: musical structure is significant
to the extent that we can make sense of it.  Meyer's beef here, then,
is not with hierarchic versus non-hierarchic music, but with
intelligible versus unintelligible music.  Meyer quotes Herbert Simon:
	If there are important system in the world that are 
	complex without being hierarchic, they may to a consider-
	able extent escape our observation and understanding.  
	Analysis of their behaviour would involve such detailed 
	knowledge and calculation of the interactions of their 
	elementary parts that it would be beyond our capacities 
	of memory or computation.(16)
Music, especially complex music, is not just something we hear--it is
something we hear and remember.  For without memory, without being
able to apprehend and relate motives, phrases, sections and so forth,
all one can do is listen to the succession of sounds.  To put it
another way, if one cannot remember a piece of music or passage, then
one cannot make any determination of its complexity or coherence, its
hierarchic or non-hierarchic nature.  In *Explaining Music* Meyer's
focus is not on the music, but on the explaining of it, on the
epistemic limits to our understanding of musical structure.
16. Meyer, p. 80; from Herbert A. Simon, "The Architecture of Complexity," 
*Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society* 106.6 (1962): 477.
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