Author Topic: East and West in music  (Read 526 times)


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East and West in music
« on: March 09, 2016, 04:04:36 PM »
It's possible to construe that the system of tonality itself, based on an hierarchy of sonance in relation to a single tonic note, as the harmonics of a fundamental note relate, is a "sacred" concept, since it relates every diverse harmonic function to a tonic, which becomes the "great note,' metaphorically representing God, "the one." These harmonic functions of Western tonality are based on the division of the octave into 12 notes, which was derived from Pythagoras' (imperfect) cycling of the 2:3 perfect fifth, with its inverted counterpart, the 4:5 perfect fourth.

 Fifths are a value of 7 semitones, and fourths are 5 semitones. These are the only two intervals which do not coincide within the octave or divide it evenly until many cycles of projection are completed; in the case of fifths, 12 x 7 = 84, and for fourths this is 12 x 5 = 60. These are the main harmonic stations of traditional tonality, which is based on root movement by fifths as being most closely related.

 12 is not divisible by either of these intervals, so an 'outside the octave' common denominator must be used. This makes these intervals "outgoing" by nature.

 The other basic intervals (of the 6 possible basic intervals, not counting inversional counterparts0) can be divided into 12:
 1 (m2)
 2 (M2)
 3 (m3)
 4 (M3)
 6 (tritone)

 These are intervals which coincide in their cycles or projections within the octave, and divide it symmetrically, so I call these "inward-going" intervals.

 Conversely, systems which are not tonal (based on harmonic models), but use local tone-centers and small divisions of the octave (geometric systems), like Bartok and most modern systems which diverge from harmonic-based hierarchies, are "inner-directed."

 These two different systems represent what I have earlier called "Western" (outward-directed, objective), and "Eastern" (inward-directed, subjective).

 If we continue to stretch this metaphor, we can see that each system represents a different way of conceiving a religious system, or approach to the sacred.

 The Western represents an objective, outer system which must be approached in a receptive (and many times literal) belief in a God 'out there' which is part of the objective scheme of things. If anything, we are merely small extensions of this great oneness, if that. Until we establish a connection, we are separated.

 The Eastern represents a 'going within,' a diametric reversal, where we are connected internally with the sacred. For me, this is a more inclusive model, as every being is assumed to have an inner connection with the sacred, with no recognition of external symbols necessary. For me, this precludes the establishment of 'objective' belief systems of religion.

 On a number line, these two approaches, the inner and outer, can be seen as two directions to infinity: The Western going to the right, in ever-increasing numbers, from 1 into infinity; The Eastern going to the left, from 1 towards zero, in ever-decreasing degrees of fractions.

 Both are based on the starting point of "1," the big note, or the octave.

 La Mont Young was well aware of these ideas, and avoided the use of 5 and 7-based intervals.
"In Spring! In the creation of art, it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg
"The trouble with New Age music is that there's no evil in it."-Brian Eno