Music by Chapter
Music by Chapter
After composing music working from ‘the coincidence of opposites’, I found my music much more interesting, contrasting and diverse. To understand better what it means to work from Iains suggested philosophy, I decided for the coming year to read the books chapter by chapter (again for most chapters) and comment on them from the perspective of a composer. I will use this platform to contemplate on the subject, besides my personal blog on http://www.anneloeswolters.com
In short, I asked Iain these two questions and the answers motivated to do this project:
1. How does the coincidence of opposites help create music?
2. Where does the music come from? (transcription will follow)
Transciption of the answer to question 1:
Iain McGilchrist 09-12-2023
How does the coincidence of opposites
help create music?
It’s a terribly good question. I put it in partly
because I thought this is a really testing question. And I think
partly, I don’t think I have said that the coincidence of opposites
helps create music.
I’ve talked about music and I’ve talked
about the coincidence of opposties and most probably the coincidence
of opposites applies in the case of music. And I think it does. When
I come to think more about it, first of all, music is all about
relations.And that’s not the same as opposites, of course.
But in those relationships and
relations you can have things that do oppose one another and produce
something very beautiful. So for example, there can be lines of music
that in some sense both blend and contravene one another. So you get
interesting discords that then resolve into something else.
And the resolustion is more beautiful
then could have been, if there had not been the passing discord,
which is an image for those of you who know my work.
Well, that will bring back the idea of
Kintsugi, the idea of the caballistic myth of creation and the
repairing of the vessels and so on. So, and I use an example in the
book, from, one of Bach’s keyboard suites, where there is a chord,
which is actually A,B,C,D, played simultaneously. If you’ve got an
piano nearby, play them and think, how can that possibly be part of a
beautiful piece of music?
But it is, and when you hear it, you
are not at all, disturbed by it. In fact, there’s a sort of beauty in
the fact that is does resolve. And a lot of renaissance music has
these, so-called false relations, in other words, where you are led
to feel and suspect something and they’re at odds with one another
and then they come together and create something more beautiful.
I think there’s also a coincidence of
opposites in rhythm, because rhythm seems to be and is a matter of
punctuation, if you like, in, what is in essence, as I’m constantly
saying, a flow.
So a melody, a piece of music is a
seamless flow, but rhythm is a punctuating force. And it’s no
surprise therefore that broadly speaking, at least in a non highly
educated musical mind, that the left hemisphere deals with fairly
simple rhythms. The left hemishpere deals with fairly simple rhythms,
the right hemishpere with harmony and melody and with complex
And I think what’s going on there is,
that the harmonies and melodies and even complex rhythms like
syncopations actually activate the flow so that in a syncopation you
feel the flow even more because of the rhythm. So instead of being a
punctiating element, the rhythm becomes an extending and unifying
And this way in which an element of
differentiation ultimately ends up as a force for union is essential
to the nature of creation. I say, this is part of the creation of the
cosmos, of what exists. And I think, in the book, I quote Jury(?) is
saying that individuality is a decisive phase on a process towards
continuity. So, in the building of continuity and flow, there needs
also to be elements that punctuate and articulate. And they may seem
to be going in opposite directions, they’re not.
So those would be a couple of things
that occur to me, off the top of my head, as ways in which the
coincidence of opposites works for us. And we’re often sensing the
possibility of that unspoken opposite. And then when it actually is
revealed in the music, it’s particularly beautiful. We may not notice
it, but we may notice that something beautiful happened.
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