NARRATIVE STRUCTURE IN COMPOSITION (PART A)

It’s Oscar here!


In my last post, I introduced my personal background, my approach to music and how that has influenced my development as an artist (and human). This time, I will continue deeper into how I like to think about and deconstruct music.


This was originally intended to be my first article, until the introduction section grew to the size of a full blog post and became an entity itself!


One of my favourite topics is musical analysis. While my interests have grown and expanded from this point of origin (really, it all came from here) in ways which I could never possibly have anticipated or imagined, music and an obsession for understanding the construction and nature of the sound itself was the point from which all my passions first grew. Through some of my posts here, I will take you down that rabbit hole with me.


I thought I’d start off with a few overarching thoughts relating with music and music analysis, which have shaped how I think about music, art and life. I’m specifically discussing these ideas in the beginning for two main reasons:


  1. It’ll allow for a greater understanding and richness of interpretation of future blog posts here.

  2. Many of the concepts discussed are specifically relevant to the music that we make together as UDAGAN.


As I’ve gotten further and further, deeper and deeper into music, I’ve found that my focus (especially in creating or identifying that most subjective of terms - ‘interest’) has become more distant from ‘technical’ musical considerations, such as avenues of theory or instrumental technique.


I was very (very!!) passionate about learning literally everything there is to know about music theory during the first decade of my musical (self) education (the weirder the theory, the better) and equally obsessed with pushing my instrumental performance technique as hard as I could. I placed these considerations front and centre and took great enjoyment from pushing them beyond any reasonable limits (oh - to relive those moments of wild, joyous creativity!). As time has passed and I’ve philosophised and contemplated over the nature of music, I’ve slowly moved into a mindset which puts emphasis on the development of ideas rather than the ‘actualisation’ of those ideas.


To make an analogy with language (something I’m sure we’ll talk about a lot more), it is usually (and I’m sure there are exceptions) a lot more interesting to consider *WHY* a statement was made, rather than *HOW*. Take the following examples:


  1. “As she sang the words, her voice seemed to dance and quiver in response to the emotions they summoned, as if raw emotion might overwhelm her.”

  2. “First, she inhaled. She then immediately forced this breath over her vocal folds to create a fundamental pitch, while simultaneously adjusting her embouchure to accentuate the higher overtones.”


Which of these two statements tells you more about the meaning of a song that I’ve given no prior context for?


In exploring the meaning and context, the actual formation of sound is taken for granted! Now, I’m never going to ‘outgrow’ the fascination with the movement of melody, counterpoint and harmony (and further, the process of analysis opens all aspects of a piece to critique -- a wonderful thing!) but I’ve found that applying this alternative mindset to music certainly opens up a great many creative possibilities that were previously closed off or inhibited by the restrictions of instrumental technique and the imagined limits imposed on the ‘fundamental’ building blocks of sound creation by the various schools of theoretical study in existence.


To summarise it in the shortest form possible:

Considering any musical piece as how the musical landscape or ‘progression’ of the piece changes or redefines the nature of its ‘protagonists’ - musical motives.


These elements do not have to be limited to ‘traditional’ musical entities; a motive could just as effectively be based on timbre, be an abstract sound, be the absence of sound (or the exposure of environmental sound -- an ‘alternative’ form of silence!), or even a specific kind of reaction to any kind of musical or incidental occurrence. Likewise, it could be a formally classified melody or rhythm. The ‘landscape’ could be a formal musical score, it could be a location, it could be abstract sound design, it could be improvised or it could even be something such as how the motives develop naturally in the absence of human interference. The only real constant here is the relationship between motive and landscape, and the fact that the ‘third axis’ of this equation is the passage (or experience of music) in time.


In the follow up article to this one I’ll go more into more specific (theoretical!) detail as to how I personally feel that the music can tell its story through the interaction between these two variables along the axis of time.


I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts, opinions or developments on the ideas here. If you have any thoughts or questions on anything at all, please leave a comment or in touch and I will address it in a future Blog post!


Oscar

UDAGANuniverse