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Against Nature? or, Confessions of a Darwinian Modernist

Smith, Murray (2014) Against Nature? or, Confessions of a Darwinian Modernist. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 75 . pp. 151-182. ISSN 1358-2461. (doi:10.1017/S1358246114000174) (KAR id:57522)


A few years ago I gave a paper on the aesthetics of ‘noise,’ that is, on the ways in which non-musical sounds can be given aesthetic shape and structure, and thereby form the basis of significant aesthetic experience. Along the way I made reference to Arnold Schoenberg's musical theory, in particular his notion of Klangfarbenmelodie, literally ‘sound colour melody,’ or musical form based on timbre or tonal colour rather than on melody, harmony or rhythm. Schoenberg articulated his ideas about Klangfarbenmelodie in the final section of his Harmonielehre (1911). ‘Pitch is nothing else but tone colour measured in one direction,’ wrote Schoenberg. ‘Now, if it is possible to create patterns out of tone colours that are differentiated according to pitch, patterns we call ‘melodies’…then it must also be possible to make such progressions out of the tone colours of the other dimension, out of that which we simply call “tone colour.”’ In other words, traditional melodies work by abstracting and structuring the dominant pitch characterizing a musical sound, while ‘sound colour melodies’ work, Schoenberg argues, by structuring the combined set of pitches contained in a given musical sound (the overtones as well as the dominant pitch). Schoenberg is emphatic that, although a neglected and underdeveloped possibility within Western classical music, ‘sound colour melody’ is a perfectly legitimate and viable form of musical expression; indeed for Schoenberg it is a musical form with enormous potential.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S1358246114000174
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Murray Smith
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2016 07:33 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 01:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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