9,10-13, 2022






Less than 2'



Here is a test of my new polyphonic landscape in a very spartan study. It occupies a zone that the cantor and plainchant do not, and represents the third tier of phonetic vocal writing. Where the cantor is tied to the sound of the word, and plainchant is tied to the church modes, polyphony is tied to the tetrachord.

The equivalent rate of speed is also different: the cantor is fast, with eight and quarter notes; plainchant is brisk, with quarter and dotted quarter notes; polyphonic is slower and glides, with quarter notes and half notes. This naturally extends to the final indeterminacy of instrumental writing, where the upper tiers of abstraction destroy the notion of rhythmic rates of speed, leaving only floating halos of sound.

Thus, as the style of expression moves further away from the pure word, the harmonic and melodic language becomes much more varied, complex, and perhaps even incomprehensible. It aligns well to my general formal outsides: intoned intro, chanted response, polyphonic elaboration, etc. Each of these layers build up into and out of one another through interior melodic and harmonic processes, retaining a unity by means of identity despite differences in quality. Being built upon a single idea expressed by the first few sounds, then exploded and contracted across section, ideally it can be understood as expressing multiple aspects of a single thing, so much so that to cut one off from another would lead to essential incoherency.

In order to maintain a highly phonetic polyphony I devised a set of rules:

1) the amount of pitches maximum for each syllable is equal to the syllable rate. Short receives one black, long can have one white or two black.
2) one rest value exists, equivalent to short. A rest can be added before a word to stagger voices, but a word cannot be broken up by a rest.
3) pitch length modifications are only allowed through mensural signs. Rests are not altered.

Because the ideal is phonetic, the rate of speech creates a false polyphony by destroying the notion of rhythm and rhythmic stress as the object of time. As the tempo remains the same, but each rate of speed is altered, it is not the rhythmic aspect of short/long that you engage with, but rather the perception of time. The rhythmic values are static, they are always proportionally short/long, but the rate at which you count against the tactus alters the rate in such a way that everyone has a different perception of what time actually is. The power of this comes not from the core value changes, but situations in which "uneven" or "nonproportional" values are created: lengthening only the black note causes it to have a the same fundamental rate as a normal white note, 2:2; likewise, lengthening only a white note causes black notes to work at a 1:4 rate, despite the essential rhythmic units not changing. The consequence is that the experience of time as we conceptualize it is distinctly out of step with what the actual object is.

In a sense, we create the time by thinking about it, but because this musical time is fabricated out of our perception, the core aspect of it is naturally without time. The idea is that, since in my original conception of "true" music being vocal, it is the vocal that creates a feeling of time in performance.The instrumental is out of time, and it is only given a sense of time by being given a rhythmic body to latch upon, otherwise it occurs and just decays, fading away.

So here we see that concept I defined in Eleatic Conceptions: Time as Verbum, the experience of the expressed word initiating the concept of time. That which is without a word, without the ability to be expressed, cannot be experienced as time, thus a rest is a pure conceptual value that the tactus beats out, but cannot be transformed or altered because it cannot actually be perceived. Thus, phonetic polyphony. The result could be neither homophonic nor polyphonic, the waves overlap on a word, but the words are pillars–the Savonarolan compromise. The difficulty is creating something that has this homophonic rate, but flows smoothly and doesn't sound detached. Every moment should bridge the next effortlessly so the text may occur naturally.

Sean Patrick Ignatius Tartaglia