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Re: [mythsoc] Owen Barfield

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  • John Davis
    Hi, It s not a field of music I m an expert in, but I believe that certain harmonies and harmonic progressions are based on the same mathematic progressions as
    Message 1 of 38 , May 26, 2011
      It's not a field of music I'm an expert in, but I believe that certain harmonies and harmonic progressions are based on the same mathematic progressions as are found elsewhere in nature - which is to say it has been explained to me several times, but goes in one ear and out the other! As a result, a third will sound harmonious to our ears whilst a diminished fifth will sound discordant. And whilst what is discordant is to culturally dependent to some extent, you'll find the more naturally-pleasing harmonies, such as a major or minor third, cropping up time and time again in different cultures. Even where a melody is using quarter tones and modal scales, chances are the harmonies being sung are in thirds or fourths or octaves above it, not seconds or sevenths. 
      I don't know much about Gamelan music, but to pick another example, that of Australian Aboriginal music, when I first heard it, it sounded completely discordant and alien to my ears. But as I grew used to the unfamiliar sound world, I began to hear that much of what was going on was still utilising familiar harmonies and progressions, right down to the sub-vocalisations used in the didjeridus. So I would hazard a guess that in the same way, Gamelan music relies on the same natural harmonies as Western music, but employed in an unusual manner. But that is just a guess, I hasten to add!
      In other words, perhaps, the way the harmonies are employed is culturally dependent, but at their core they share a great deal of similarity, and are 'natural' rather than 'discordant'.
      All of which said, I know more about performance than theory of music, so perhaps someone more knowledgable can set me straight if I'm in error?
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2011 2:17 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Owen Barfield


      Hi John,

      Question about tonality in this context -- isn't a lot of the concept of tonality dependent upon culture? A lot of weird harmonies come out of the old modal system -- weird because they sound off to me as a modern listener, though they would have been familiar to the folks of the middle ages (if I remember correctly when the system was used). I find traditional Gamelan (Indonesian music typically using mallet instruments) to have some weird atonal stuff going on, but I don't think that's a recent development.

      I'm not very well versed in ethnomusicology, so I'm really just throwing this out there to John or other folks who will know more than me (and maybe explain the difference between what I'm hearing in styles like Gamelan vs. the atonality discussed below).


      On Thu, May 26, 2011 at 4:30 AM, John Davis <john@...> wrote:

      What might be a result of this alienation, however, is an emphasis on atonality, which is in essence 'unnatural' harmony. And certainly music with this emphasis is connected with modernism in other arts, 20th c. industrialisation of western society, and is often used to reflect or represent a sense of alienation or unnaturalness. So if you exchange melody for natural harmonies and rhythm for unnatural harmonies in your email, I think you may have an interesting point.


      Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
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    • John Rateliff
      Very sorry to hear it. I never met Edward Carlos Plunkett, though I did meet his father (the famous Lord Dunsany s son). Thanks for posting the news, Dale. We
      Message 38 of 38 , May 26, 2011
        Very sorry to hear it. I never met Edward Carlos Plunkett, though I did meet his father (the famous Lord Dunsany's son). Thanks for posting the news, Dale.
           We can be grateful to this Lord Dunsany for one thing: he allowed the publication of a number of his grandfather's works that had lain neglected in a bank vault for decades -- a novel, a play, a volume of short stories, and various odds & ends. None of them had the stuff of greatness that makes me rank Dunsany as the best fantasy short story writer ever, but it's good to have even the lesser works of a great writer.
           --John R.

        current reading: THE BOOK OF WONDER [1912]

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