A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not

Listening to music is difficult for me.  Many aphasiacs find music soothing, even helpful in increasing fluency.  I find attending to music at least agitating, and it can easily lead to serious sensory overload.

My understanding is that music and speech processing use both unique and shared brain areas.  So my experience of music as an intense version of  listening to another person talk makes sense. I might compare it perhaps to the pain of moving with a significant musko-skeletal impairment.

At any rate, I ran across a video of a string quartets performance of Andrew Greenwald’s A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not.  Back in the day, we listened to a pretty wide array of music, so I had some context for this.  What I found interesting was that it is pretty easy to imagine that many/most people will hear this piece kinda as I do now – irritating noise.

Making my way though it, I can hear that there’s much more to it than that.  In pre-injury days I probably would have found it quite interesting musically.

Now, experiencing it as irritating noise, makes it easier for me to listen to than a more conventional piece.  In fact, I can appreciate it spatially quite nicely.  The title certainly suggests that Greenwald intends the piece to evoke conceptual and  spatial experiences as well as a musical one.

In an interview, Greenwald does discuss this along with a wide range of issues including the relationship of the score to the performance, intention to execution, and the aesthetics of composition to those of listening.  Some short excerpts are as follows.

I started out interested in noise vs pitch.

there’s no rhythmic in a literal sense.  (Interviewer: It’s a weird spatial thing you’ve got going on). Right.

(talking about the gap between his intentions, whats on the page, and actual performances) I have control over the general temporal landscape and also the verticalities.

invariably both (aesthetics and practicality of the score) have a level of presence no matter [how] my aesthetics tell me to align myself.

people who are even non-musicains,people want to see what’s going on (and want to see the score) 1:001

Is it acceptable for things to be inscrutable, or do we want clarity?

You create some kind of wrapper or container that allows people to see something unfold…that there might be some kind of truth behind this overwhelming aural experience..

audibly perceived form containers that are put around things that embrace the larger polemic.

You’re the only one that will know it’s the simpler thing

the simpler the better!

creating forms and creating algorithms that are easier to hear and not harder to hear.

I found video of 2 separate performances of the piece.  One shows the quartet performing it.  The musicians wring the sounds from their instruments as much as play them or sit, looking at the score, not playing.

The other provides the score pages that correspond to the portion of the piece being played.  Here the silences that are part of the piece are presented as (relatively) empty score pages.

Together, the two present many of the issues Greenwald discusses.  In turn they are relevant to thinking about and describing my relationship to stimulus in general and music in particular.