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EXPANSIONS ON MUSIC                              

By Marilynn Stark                                             


























 The encumbrance of language in the spoken word which arises from the sheer volume of words essential to imparting a given conceptual meaning, progression of intended meaning or message in the skills of verbal communication, becomes cogently obvious to one who composes in the non-verbal language of music. The same barrier to such fluid and ultimate meaning in perceptual purport as exists in verbal expression is found in classical music. Although therein the beautiful flowing dynamics may also misbeseem such a barrier, that sonorous sleight of hand is the magic of why many music lovers appreciate classical music so profoundly. It draws one into absorption. Thus it becomes critical to the music devotee to go beyond that communicative barrier inherent also in the language that is music. This barrier may express as an interpretive block of emotion, for example, or of conceptual awareness as another example. For once comprehension past any such block occurs, something is simply understood more deeply. There might be a certain passage in a symphony which brings about the resolution of emotion one holds for a person, a memory, a concept or a thing, even, and which resolution may help to vitally determine the course of one's day, or eventually destiny in life. This is precisely why it is said that classical music enlightens its devotees. There must be figure skaters and ballerinas who became engrossed in their discipline only to pursue their deep fascination with such other-worldly music, and to express in physical form their love for classical. How many times we hear of a love song or an entire style of dance music which had helped bind together a couple in marriage for a lifetime; and how many citizens gain perspective and vision at community gatherings at all levels when hearing the National Anthem, and other patriotic songs? The power and moment for instrumental music of all styles to affect the listener much as any spoken language even minus the music is perhaps more subtle, more difficult to comprehend directly, and yet this end result is what the composer of a classical piece works to achieve in any composition: in effect a story is told.          

Now for the purpose of exploring how the structure of classical music works in eliciting conceptual awareness, perceptive ability and acuity, as well as emotional reaction, and further, emotionally reactive resolution, the jazz style of composition might prove dialectically useful to an analysis. An analysis of jazz composition constitutes a useful tool in the understanding of the utility of structural elements in the classical music art form, since jazz can be considered to be in its most improvisational dimension, as much as raw numbers. These raw numbers are not assorted in an easily discernable sequence. For such an easily discernable sequence would have allowed predictability based upon strict harmonics, for instance. And further, those harmonics which do sound, may occur then again in dramatically asymmetrical chord changes. Therefore, they are as much the raw material of a highly subjective interpretation for the listener, and as well for the performer. Essentially, each note and/or chord in such a jazz music style, since it has its own place in yet sheer sequence, and in perhaps even varying, syncopated or "straying" rhythm in that sequence, carries a lesser degree of expectedness; therefore, the very infrastructure of the improvisational/free jazz piece largely constitutes its greater structure, its overall direction and sound. This means that the utmost dimension in jazz music, as is achieved in such an ultimate form of jazz, relies upon an expansion of notes, whose place in regard to one another is quite arbitrary, or loosely contained. Such an expansion relates to the listener a broad venue for interpretation, and thus the expansive style of the styles of jazz, the improvisational reaching into the free style, lends the greatest leverage perceptively for a deeper subjective realization when it is heard; in the vernacular, it is, 'way out there.' This composer was greatly enlightened unto all of music by understanding improvisational and free jazz, and most especially by listening to the music compositions of Miles Davis. 

People in general enjoy the subjective mode in which to revel. In such a subjective reverie or even query they tend to realize a deep inner calm and assuredness, or perhaps a new revelation to some degree on any topic which might be posed for reflection in the art of everyday living. For it is the subjective aspect of cognition upon which an individual relies in order to process the moments in living, the way to be chosen for such living, and what to expect at each turn, as the next moment or juncture is met. A highly integrative process occurs when the realm of music is visited. While enjoying the sound of a free jazz composition, the subjective query is at once met and resolved to some extent, lending a deep satisfaction. The expansive mode builds accordingly to an overall and even more expansive style, and once this ever-expanding realm of music is heard and understood, the mind rests upon a new venue, a new truth. The new insights thus gained might have the power to also affect the rational, discriminating faculty of the one so completely moved, and whose direct awareness of this integration of discerning mind and emotion might not even be there. Yet that awareness of such a deep inner process in the self is exactly what drives the composer and the musician to create, and more especially is this so for the composer. For it is the composer who drives the musical artists in their expression and in their desire to find what the composer had intended to say. Any musical form of course owes its aesthetic roots to the selfsame theoretical truth, whereby the objective reality is related back again to the ability to synthesize that objective venue according to its essential truth through the use of the subjective discriminating faculty. A musical form whose message calls forth a subjective platform more elevated than that of non-discriminatory sense desires will tend to nurture a deeper self-realization in an individual. 


Now if the greater challenge in classical music composition is indeed that barrier of communication within the language of music; and, if as compared to the expansive attributes of free/improvisational jazz, the macrostructure of classical is constrained unto its symmetry in harmonics, melody and timing; then a serious question is indeed posed as to the attributes of classical music to match those of jazz insofar as its expansion capabilities. 

If, however, there can be discerned at least an equal ability of classical music to inspire an expansion of mind in the subjective faculty of the listener, then a convincing case has been made indeed for the sheer beauty of classical music, let alone its power to enlighten those who admire it.  For one who revels in the daring riff of endless, seemingly infinite dimension of improvisational jazz, there would be no further question or discussion on the theoretical query before us: for how can a strictly-governed music form such as classical music ever find that place to soar almost untethered?  Jazz is unbound to such constant requirement of ordered sequence and harmonics, not to mention the joy in the feature of random chord changes.  Is this kind of refutational style of music, free jazz, unique in its unabounding reach only because it finds its place by that very refutation of precise structure?   

The evidence in favor of the capability of classical music to achieve an ever-growing venue of subjectively-based ardor for the contemplative and higher realms of endless traverse is overwhelming, indeed.  This composer has a profound love for jazz, so that there is in this query a great desire to be as objective as possible; for the tenets of truth on the expansions of music as can be drawn from this comparative analysis in no way constitute preferential bias towards one musical art form or another.  Rather, in this comparative analysis there might be drawn a greater insight as to truth, and that truth should apply equally to both music forms, free jazz and classical. 

What might be evidence for the expansive realm that is the dominion of the ancient classical music art?  The answer lies in the place of structure, macrostructure, to also equally embrace the musical sense and discriminatory faculties of the classical music devotee and composer.  The answer also is found in the power of the pleasing nature of the horizontal and vertical dynamics, or the melodious and harmonically perfected phrases of classical works. For this precision of structure in the classical style further primes the musical sensitivities of the listener as the piece progresses, causing there to be a  more removed leverage to transcend into the realm of ever-increasing awareness, as the macrostructure of the piece, however exacting, becomes heard.  This less direct transcendence into the ethereal realm through the vehicle of classical is perhaps seemingly a less spontaneous venture into the ulterior mode of launch into the infinite capabilities of the mathematical venue by sound, the mathematical venue that is all music.  However, that spontaneity which embraces the heart of the listener of classical is filled and replete with the very nature of music as to its essential physical comprise.  The grosser-level construct of classical music reflects then again in perfection's hold the more subtle truth of the construction of the sound wave itself.  Since sound waves are cyclic in nature, then it can be assumed that to create a music which is less linear than free jazz, and more contained, yet also expansive within its message, mimics the repetitive moment of the sound waves which becomes heard.  

Moreover, the most valued standard from which to measure the sound of music being made by instruments, is  that of the human voice.  Any musical instrument which approaches the most pleasing, natural sound of the vocal instrument, is valued by the knowers of music, whether studied in music or  not.  The art of singing is traditionally  also constrained unto definite rules of composition and is ordered by harmony and melody, much as in the cadences of talking.  The similarity between solely instrumental classical music and  singing as to the predictable element of progression and the spontaneity found within that sure structure, in contrast to the random nature of improvisational jazz,  even with its freer spontaneity, attracts the ear to the classical music sound in a most deep-seated way.  Thus further, the classical  music which is expressed through choirs of voices together, is so momentous, that the great religious composers excel at creating sonorous tributes to the glory and highness of God.  

The final point which must be addressed concerns the power of virtually raw numbers for equations in music, and which raw numbers are found as was herein said earlier in free jazz, to have a greater impetus in the subjective self for realizing a message in music as a language.  Is it that the generous expanse of the almost random sequence of jazz allows a deeper realization of self as compared to the precise and more symmetrical, definitionally-structured classical style?  This question contends for its ultimate resolution in the mind of the beholder, the listener, of course.  However, that sheer mathematical journey with an upper limit and very few rules of order in its ascent, the jazz piece,  constitutes a less succinct statement than does its dialectically     opposed counterpart, the classical piece.  This basic point causes the dialectically-based analysis of classical and jazz  to rest once again on the value of perfection and wholesome ideation for an ultimate consideration in the solution of the argument.  Contrary to some tastes in music, the vague and formless ideation of the jazz musical art form would challenge a person whose subjective predilection is for visible truth, wherein a more exacting message is also consoling for its likelihood of being widely interpreted in the same way--this is seen as a validation of its universal import.  The one whose subjective demeanor in the interpretation of the resonating annals of sound as according to like mind, wherein a more formless kind of music says the most, will gravitate to the improvisational jazz statement.  Therefore, it becomes debatable in an endless fashion to characterize one musical art form, jazz or classical, as more or less expansive in its respective moment to inspire self-realization.  However, in analyzing the respective differences between classical music and jazz,  more understanding of both musical art forms can be had.  Most importantly, one who has never embarked upon the classical music venture in learning experience at all, or perhaps very little, and who is familiar with jazz, can gain a better idea of what is classical music through this dialectically-posed analysis.  Anyone who cares to know more of this ancient music, classical, is most special to this composer, who had also arrived at classical music as an active composer through the route of intense jazz realization.

Yours ever,

Marilynn Stark   January 1, 2003

2002-2003  by Marilynn Stark    All Rights Reserved.



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 Last edited: 03/03/2012 01:09 PM