just hair, bones, sinew, muscles and skin

tightly bound, a compactly wound-up package of potential energy. you see the tension on its seams, barely holding on, if you take the time to do so.
all you have to do is, well, add a drop of pulse,
and bam! it uncurls, grabs the ground with pure momentum, stretches itself out as this long, lean, projectile, a silver arc across the stillness. then, out of sight! gone.

what could i be possibly talking about?
well, i was thinking about stravinsky. specifically the pulcinella suite and piatgorasky's trascription, now known as the suite italienne. and cage, esp. his chamber ensemble pieces, such as credo in us, constructions and bacchanale for prepped solo piano.

the bookbomber and monkey agreed on one thing in middle of a snow flurry in the middle of nowhere mountains of banff recently, not that it ever started as an argument. it really was a specific problem (well, not a problem, but per say, a troublesome sight) that started from the idea of 'dead' music.

ya, am afraid this particular piece may relate somewhat specifically to music, western classical music and its descendants, but if you think you can stand the musical bits that may be a little foreign, please do keep reading and let me know what you think at the end. because i think the problem is not specific to music or musicians, but in much larger scheme. but me being a musician makes it difficult to take a totally objective point of view.

see, i often call my branch of music dead music. shock tactic? yes. completely out of context? no! see, western classical music, bulk of it comes from the past. even the music from just last century, the 'early' part of what we still want to call 'contemporary' music, much of the composers dead or dying. i seriously think it's not even funny anymore when someone addresses, ahem, let's say bartok or stravinsky as contemporary music; come on, they wouldve been long eaten as dinner by worms. the great recycle factory cycle of carbons. so composers dead, and their 'music' gets circulated as 'scores.'

scores, however beautiful they may be (have you seen those beautiful scores of george crumb? gosh, they are true visual pieces as their own), they do not equate to music. how to define music? now, that's too much to bite for now, but let's say in a nutshell that it's series of sonic events (sound) that happens in the proximity of listener (if you cant hear, there's no music for you), and the listener perceives as much as one can (depending on the degree of their hearing damages, the lower or real high upper range will be undetectable) and make some sort of intangible connections- of knowledge, memories, recollections, cross-references, whatever goes. so let's call that a music.

so the time is the essential element then isn't it? music at its plastic form (note, it's not a concrete form), a score, a cd, whatevers else, does not communicate anything directly. so one needs to pick it up, somehow translate it into sonic material, and listen, then proceed to process of sensation and comprehension. and all these activities have one major common element: TIME.

a pulse is a crucial concept here in understanding time.
a brief heritage of the word pulse: "a throb, a beat," c.1330, from O.Fr. pous (c.1175), from L. pulsus (in pulsus venarum "beating from the blood in the veins"), pp. of pellere "to push, drive," from PIE *pel- "to shake, swing" (cf. Gk. pallein "to weild, brandish, swing," pelemizein "to shake, cause to tremble"). The verb meaning "to beat, throb" is first attested 1559.

we push through time, and our activities also push through time. as we push through, with all the baggages of daily life, the heart continues to beat away, creating that pulse you can feel if you put your fingers on your jugular. when it stops, well, you would be dead. a simple example how pulse is the common element of all your life-things, including music. it exist in humans, animals, plants, anything that lives and dies, and even non-life-related concepts such as thought and expressions (poetry, paintings, music, sculptures, whatevers. building. fractals, fibonacci series, you name it. it's all over)

okay, now let's go back to the musical arena and look at some other common terms that gets mistaken with pulse. there are: ooh, i see some hands in the air, yes, sir, that's right, we have rhythm and meter. are they all the same? NO. oooh hell no.
now, i see some confused faces, let me explain this one.
let's go dig up some sources,

rhythm: c.1557, from L. rhythmus "movement in time," from Gk. rhythmos "measured flow or movement, rhythm," related to rhein "to flow," from PIE base *sreu- "to flow"

meter:"unit of length," 1797, from Fr. m├Ętre, from Gk. metron "measure," from PIE base *me- "measure" (cf. Gk. metra "lot, portion," Skt. mati "measures," matra "measure," Avestan, O.Pers. ma-, L. metri "to measure")

so these are somewhat short, if incomplete etymological root of the words.
so rhythm involves concept flow- well, in order for something to flow, it must start from one place and get to another. so it exists within time, and that's how it may relate to pulse. rhythm has pulse, and it travels from one point to another, remember, pulse had that concept of 'driving through time?' okay. you are allowed to cheat. go back up and look.

and what does meter do? well, if we look at rhythm as a flowing motion, from one point to another, we may have to put some landmarks, not for the rhythm or pulse themselves, but for us to have a better sense of comprehending and executing what the plastic form of music, the score, indicates. so it's a convenience grouping we adopted from the concrete world to plastic world of written music.

then why is that we play music as if we have no pulse? we continue to ignore it, we beat some meter and rhythmic figures (mind you, the fact it was expressed as rhythmic figure indicates that it's not rhythm itself; we are approaching from the secondary level AGAIN, gah. so close but so far). senselessly in our brain, and then we play some things, make noise, run concepts in our heads, and call it music.


if you have a pulse, the audience has a pulse, and the plastic form of music that you are drawing from has its own innate pulse, why do we need to kill it? why do we so blindly continue to trudge through sonic material that does not become alive? didnt every living thing have a pulse? (go back up couple paragraphs and cheat, if you need to). hence, my claim of 'living' people pretending to be 'dead' to create 'dead music,' isnt really all that crazy is it.
there's no point of being dead unless you mean it. and if you mean it, well, you wont be reading this, because you wont be able to!

i listened to music of stravinsky and cage; those music, far apart in soundscope and instrumentation, both screams and resonate loudly to the audience who's got some pulse. the raw potential energy explodes in your face when you sonically realize their music; the pulse of their being takes you by the ears, and pulls you through time. and that's when you realize, shit, this is good music. once you pulsate with it, the rest of musical elements- the tone, color, volume, accentuation, phrasing, micro and macrophrasing, historical and theoretical performance practice, etc etc., will fall into place. you just have to be careful to not to rush the process, as your brain start to put stuffs together, it will also need it's own rhythm to function, once again, following your own pulse.

and now, whose gonna be patient enough to read this one to the end and write me back something? i honestly think this was a bit too long of a rant, but... am sure there are more application of this pulse concept. not in music, not in arts, not in tasks, but in life in general.
because we all have some sorts of pulse to continue to live.
if you arent so sure, poke your fingers on your neck.
not only it'll hurt a bit, you will find that pulse.
let it not be still, and let's not pretend we dont have one.
why live a life of dead person when you can either really live or completely die?

and ya, that goes for all of you non-musicians as well!

1 comment:

  1. right to make the distinction.

    pulse will be understood better by non musicians, who have not had it thrashed out of them by stiff classical trainers obsessed with minutiae.

    the body is aware of pulse, a natural, physical thing.

    rhythm is then invented to divide it into interesting portions.

    my rock drummer friend loved the emperor concerto but struggled to comprehend the rubato. I'd never thought of it that way, though the pulse is still there if it's done well. it can be done badly and i get very frustrated by conductors who slow down at the end of every phrase and speed up when it gets louder. grr.

    hey, i'm ranting on monkey's rant. subcontracted ranting.