Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A few nights ago the weather here was affected by a hurricane far out in the Atlantic. There were eerie calms mixed with cells of turbulence that seemed to come and go like armies in the night. That line supposedly said by Henry II about Thomas à Becket came to mind, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"

There are lots of ways to talk about the details of music making, but fewer about its general nature. The notion of "gesture" can be helpful, but only goes so far. I keep coming back to "equilibrium", but that sounds so clam and flat. Until I can find a single word that includes the meanings of both "equilibrium" and "turbulence", talking about different pieces of music having different mixes of the two might work.

The Oxford Companion to Music has a graphic of Mozart playing with billiard balls, as he is said to have done while thinking about music. When you set a ball in motion you're introducing turbulence into a system than then seeks equilibrium. That language helps me more than the usual tension/release chestnut, which seems so one dimensional.

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