Sunday, September 25, 2011

Re: Wesley's, "Sounds from the past"

Wesley's blog post was about his fascination with Shepard tones, and he questioned whether to call them sound art or music.

In Super Mario 64, the never-ending staircase level is accompanied by Shepard tones which creates the illusion that it keeps rising by overlapping ascending scales. The base part (which is barely audible), and the sudden contrast in dynamics allows this illusion to take place.
It makes sense to have Shepard tones playing with the never-ending staircase, because it is referred to as the auditory version of the Penrose stairs, a never-ending stair case. It is an optical illusion that is used in various artworks.

These Shepard tones are used as a scale, and as the Philosophy of Music article described, scales are not music (because although they are organized "their aim is not to enrich and intensify"). Just like paints on a pallet are not art, but the components that make up an artwork, scales are the building blocks which music is created from or a tool used in it. Yet, we do not call scales sound art either. Perhaps there is to be a new category that is not sound art or music. I would call it musical tools, things that are not musical on their own, yet also not a piece that is interdisciplinary/ thrown together in an 'artistic' fashion. Along with scales, maybe this category would include silence.

Questions: What do you think about Musical tools as a new category? What would it include?


David Kenneth Johnson said...

I like your suggestion to categorize these modes as "musical tools." How about "organizational principles" and/or "musical components," a sufficient number of which properly organized might create music?

Becky-Jo said...

It could be called that too. That's the idea, things that aren't music by themselves but with enough of them put together in a correct order, create music. Yet, the components in this category alone may not be enough to create a piece, since the category would not include things that are music on their own and may be essential to a composition such as chord progressions. Or would chord progressions be in this category? And we would also have to define what "properly organized" is.