(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘composition

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music”*…

Artistic approximation…

Charles Ives set himself an impossible problem [in his 114 Songs of 1922]. He wanted to use pitch distance to represent the fact that God is infinitely close to man. But what is an infinitesimally close pitch distance? In the end Ives gave up and left it to the singer to decide. Maybe what Ives wanted was a smallest perceptible pitch difference. There is no standard notation for this.

Wilfrid Hodges, “The Geometry of Music,” in John Fauvel, ed., Music and Mathematics, 2006

Vaguely apposite (but in any case beautiful): “Mystical Photographs Taken Inside a Cello, Double Bass & Other Instruments.”

Via Futility Closet.

* Aldous Huxley

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As we ponder proximity, we might send liberated birthday greeting to another musician deeply concerned with wrangling pitch: Ornette Coleman; he was born on this date in 1930. A saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer, he was the principal founder of the “Free Jazz” movement, which abandoned the chordal and harmony-based structure found in bebop for an avant-garde (sometimes jarring) approach to improvisation. Coleman’s “Broadway Blues” and “Lonely Woman” became genre standards; his album Sound Grammar received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

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The Oxford Comma…

The Oxford Comma– AKA, the final serial comma– has come in for some harsh criticism.  Indeed recently, the storied punctuation mark suffered the ugliest of indignities:  the “Writing and Style Guide” in Oxford University’s own “Branding Handbook” (the internal guide to usage meant to be consistent across all University publications) instructed: “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’.”

The Prose Police did carve out an exception:  “when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used…”

Good thing too.  Language Log demonstrates with examples both hypothetical:

…and actual:

Your correspondent operates, as readers may have noticed, on the compositional principal “better safe than sorry”…

As we disagree with Vampire Weekend, we might recall another example of linguistic mutability:  it was on this date in 1966 that Jimmy Hendrix changed his name to Jimi Hendrix.  Hendrix had a good bit of Experience, if readers will forgive the pun, with name changes…  He born was Johnny Allen Hendrix, but his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix (in honor of the father’s dead brother).  Hendrix performed as a sideman as “Maurice James”; he led his pre-fame band, The Blue Flames, as “Jimmy James”; and when confronted with confusion of having two Randys in the group– Guitarist Randy Wolf and bassist Randy Palmer, he dubbed the latter “Randy Texas.”  The former, anointed by Hendrix as “Randy California,” later joined his step-father Ed Cassidy to form Spirit.

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