Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prosidy, Music, Pitch and Language

I know that I blog a lot about Tangerine Dream but one of the reasons that I listen to them so much is to pick on on their techniques. There are many I could mention but the one that fascinates me is there use of pitch to create often complex phrasing of individual notes. One of the writers who I also have learned a great deal from is Treavor Wishheart sho speaks of the relationship of music and speech. Change in pitch or intonation is used much in speech. In English and many western languages it is used to express additional information not necessary contained in the words themselves. In eastern languages, it is part of the meaning of individual words which is often what makes it difficult for a westerner to learn languages such as Mandarin.

But musical phrasing using variation in pitch is also significant in music. As a guitarist I often will bend notes and use vibrato. However, more recently, in the music of bands like Tangerine Dream, I have found that the fluid movement of pitch within a phrase can add much to an electronic composition. One of the unfortunate consequences of musical notation is that it has relegated phrasing of pitch within the confines of musical style. While this is not entirely true because certainly there are certain elements within the notational system to alert the musician to phrase passages or individual notes a certain way, it is a limited system.

Many 20th century composers have expanded on notational systems and invented their own. Karlheintz Stockhasen certainly comes to mind for me but there are many others. I also can think of Olivier Messiaen who took the phrasing of birds and try to express them in rapid phrasing expressed in individual notes and in fact, transcribed if you will the songs of many birds.

However, I often wonder what benefit might be derived from actually recording the actual variation in pitch and using these to phrase other sounds. In some ways, this is what the Roland V-Synth does which I always thought was a nice idea and could be used more. Morton Subotnick also did with with ghost tracks as he called them.

It also seems to be that the use of analogue synthesizers to explore the realm of phrasing of pitch is largely unexplored territory. Using control voltages rather than MIDI CCs creates a far more robust environment not subject to the limitations of finicky CPUs.

Anyway, just a few thoughts on this to perhaps spur further conversation.

No comments: