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Re: Music-conlangs & music

From:Jackson Moore <jacksonmoore@...>
Date:Sunday, July 9, 2006, 1:14
On Jul 5, 2006, at 1:21 PM, James W. wrote:

On Wed, 5 Jul 2006 18:00:58 +0100, "R A Brown"
<ray@...> said:
Bruce Koestner's Eaiea seems also to deal with absolute pitch, thus:
Eaiea letter       Musical pitch
a                        A
b                        A#/Bb
c                        B
d                        C
e                        C#/Db
f                        D
g                        D#/Eb
h                        E
i                        F
j                        F#/Gb
k                        G
l                        G#/Ab

But I am skeptical about the practicality of this for ordinary mortals.

Indeed. Having taught ear training to university music students I can
attest that even for them it is not possible. Once in a while someone
come along with incredible aural ability, but they are very rare.

Here's how I would paraphrase these issues - the most fundamental
operation referred to by the notion 'musical language' would seem to
be the substitution of pitch space for (phonetic) timbre space.  But
maybe it's more appropriate to speak of a reduction of phonemic space
to one vowel (and no consonants), and an introduction of harmonic
space, due to the fact that pitches aren't phonologically atomic - if
you were walking down the street and somebody sang one pitch to you,
it would sound the same to you regardless of whether it was a C# or a
Eb or what have you; but if somebody articulated a single phone, you
would hear specific phoneme out of a range of different phonemes.  In
music, the minimum distinctions are intervals, hence at least two
sounds are necessary to form a significant atom.

So the fundamental difference of pitch space is that paradigmatic and
syntagmatic relations are crossed.  In natural languages you have two
completely orthogonal dimensions - each sound specifies a value in a
'vertical' dimension. Whereas in music, each pair of sounds specifies
a value.   When a third sound is added, we have three pairs of
pitches, but one of them is broken by an intermediate pitch, with
four pitches we have six pairs...but are the intervals between the
non-consecutive pitches more or less salient, and by how much?

There seems to be a top-down and a bottom-up solution to this
dilemma.  In the former, each note is measured from a tonic instead
of its neighbors.  The interesting thing about this approach is that
grouping has to be re-established by means other than pitch -
solresol for instance would be completely unintelligible if one
didn't pause between the words.  The other option is to measure
intervals 'endocentrically' between head and complement pitches,
which basically boils down to defining an inventory of interval
sequences at every scale of magnitude in terms of an inventory of
interval sequences at a subjacent scale of magnitude.  This is
obviously a more grammar-like way of organizing pitch.  Carsten's
proposal represents a compromise between the two approaches - if
roots are bare sequences of 2 to 5 intervals, but each root is played
in just one transposition relative to the others, then roots occupy
the point of transition between a 'bottom-up' and 'top-down'
measurement of pitches.