Author: Adlington, Robert C.
Title: Temporality in post-tonal music
Institution: University of Sussex
Begun: October 1993
Completed: September 1996
Existing accounts of musical temporality presume concepts of time which are, arguably, not adequate to experience. They also serve to marginalise post-tonal music. Experiential absolutes might better be sought in the cognitive sciences, in the form of principles governing our organisation of change.
Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) claim to identify some of these universal principals, and they would seem to support prevailing concepts of time. But Lerdahl and Jackendoff's dependence upon intuitions about experience betrays a simplistic view of the relation between automatic cognitive processes and conscious experience. The complexities of consciousness make it difficult to correlate cognitive activity and musical temporality.
Descriptions of music appear to confirm the existence of certain absolutes in temporal experience. But the description of musical activity in terms of motion (for instance) is problematic. However, the alternatives are not obviously preferable; rather, competing descriptions 'determine' music differently. Dennett's model of consciousness (1991) suggests that linguistic thought may be involved in musical experience, but the descriptive 'determining' of experience does not constitute a faithful rendering.
The difficulty of identifying experiential absolutes, and the limitations of describing, suggest that accounts of musical temporality are touched by the interpretative interests of the describer. Favoured concepts of musical form are examined in this light. Claims that music presents a 'narrative', or a 'structure', serve certain interests and institutions, and discriminate against others. As changing sound, music may be organised by listeners in ways less analogous to language and visual objects.
Adorno's is the most ambitious attempt to interpret musical meaning on the basis of music's temporality, but his music criticism too readily smooths over the difficulties raised in earlier chapters. Paul de Man's defiantly anti-spatial concept of temporality is a useful corrrective, and can be accommodated within the broader trajectory of Adorno's philosophy.
Ideas raised in earlier chapters are revisited in a discussion of the first movement of Ligeti's Violin Concerto.
Keywords: time, temporality, intuition, motion, description, narrative, structure, form, Adorno, Ligeti
(Temporality. Post-tonal music)
I. MUSIC AND TEMPORALITY
(Temporality, time, clocks. Other concepts of time: Barry and Kramer. Conceptualising time. 'Psychological' temporality and 'interpretative' temporality.)
II. 'PSYCHOLOGICAL' TEMPORALITY
(The cognitive organisation of tonal music: Lerdahl and Jackendoff. Intuition about experience. The structural representation of music. Memory. Metre, memory and measuring. Cognitive processes and consciousness. Limitations of the cognitive approach.)
III. DESCRIBING MUSICAL TEMPORALITY
(Post-tonality and stasis. Music: 'time in motion'? Metre and musical 'motion'. Describing music. Interpreting musical temporality. Temporality and spatiality.)
IV. MUSIC'S TEMPORAL FORM
(Narrative. Plot. Sequential form. Verbal organisation. Unfolding structure. The construction of musical form. Musical sound: questions of organisation and form.)
V. TEMPORALITY AND MUSICAL MEANING
(Adorno's critique of musical temporality in context. 'Negative Dialectics', antinomy, and the concept of dialectic. Adorno and temporality: a summary and a suggestion. De Man and temporality. De Man and musical temporality. Critical temporalities.)
VI. TEMPORALITY IN LIGETI'S VIOLIN CONCERTO
Dr R C Adlington
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9RQ