Meter as Rhythm

Meter as Rhythm

Meter as Rhythm

Meter as Rhythm

Synopsis

In this book Christopher Hasty presents a striking new theory of musical duration. Drawing on insights from modern "process" philosophy, he advances a fully temporal perspective in which meter is released from its mechanistic connotations and recognized as a concrete, visceral agent of musical expression. Part one of the book reviews oppositions of law and freedom, structure and process, determinacy and indeterminacy in the speculations of theorists from the eighteenth century to the present. Part two reinterprets these contrasts to form a highly original account of meter that engages diverse musical repertories and aesthetic issues.

Excerpt

In thinking about music it is difficult to avoid representing any concrete instance as if it were a stable and essentially pre-formed entity composed of fully determinate and ultimately static objects or relations. Certainly, in the actual performance of music there is no escaping the contingency and indeterminacy that inhere in every temporal act. When we attempt to analyze the musical event, however, it is most convenient to imagine that the intricate web of relationships that comes into play on such an occasion has already been woven in a prior compositional act or in a determinate and determining order of values and beliefs. We can, for example, point to the score as a fixed set of instructions for the recreation of an essentially self-same work or as a repository wherein the traces of a composer's thought lie encoded awaiting faithful decoding by a receptive performer/listener. Or, with even greater abstraction, we can point to the presence of an underlying tonal system, the governing rules of a style or "common practice," the reflection of a set of existing social relations, or the role of hardened ideologies in music's production and reception.

It must be said that there is some truth in the variety of determinacies that intellectual analysis would ascribe to music (if little truth in the claims of any one perspective to speak for the whole). But it must also be said that, to the extent the abstractions of analysis deny or suppress the creativity, spontaneity, and novelty of actual musical experience, analysis will have misrepresented music's inescapably temporal nature. The challenge of taking this temporal nature into account lies in finding ways of speaking of music's very evanescence and thus of developing concepts that would capture both the determinacy and the indeterminacy of events in passage. Stated in this way, such an enterprise appears to be loaded with paradox. However, much of the paradox disappears if we can shift our attention . . .

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