10 and improvisation

April 30, 2008


SB defended his dissertation today. His aesthetic includes a musical score on a screen that includes well thought out symbols cast in motion graphics that represent musical improvisational activity. The symbol we focused on was the ourobouro, or the snake eating its tail. Musically this activity seemed to imply cyclical action, or in musical terms, repetition of some musical parameter.

For SB, there is a group of musicians who improvise according to a motion graphic score that each player either watches on a monitor, or projected on a screen. My objection to this liberating idea was that the whole ensemble would look like deer in the headlights as they stare at the score. This is dramaticallly just weird looking. It occurred to me that if everyone had computer monitors in their glasses, they would be free to walk around and look natural.

When we go to live concerts, we DO like watching the orchestra. And as Dudamel has shown us, orchestras can be SEXY.

I provide this background only to report an amusing discovery. In improvisation, he claims, and we agreed, there is the idea, or the seed, and developing the seed. This principle is true in classical music, and literature as well. SB then fessed up to these principles being male and female. I tried to lead the discussion another direction:

“Might you not consider it akin to Nietzsche’s notion of the Dionysian persona — the bold idea, the main theme in a nutshell, a simple discovery, the raw throbbing idea there on the table is unformed but beautiful — as opposed to the Apollonian persona who takes this jewel in the rough and turns it into a beautiful diamond, or works out all the ramifications of the single discovery.”

“McClary would have been proud I” I thought to myself.

“No, masculine and feminine is IT” he calmly insisted.

I glanced down at the page and saw that some scholar pointed out the the first two numbers of our number system are the ur-male and ur-female symbols. I will never look at the number 10 again without a little flush in my chest.


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