2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Countershapes, Counterpoints, and the Resistance to Homophony: Music Addressing Complexity


Spring 2013 quarter

Arun Chandra music composition, performance
Fields of Study
aesthetics, computer science, mathematics and music
Preparatory for studies or careers in
aesthetics, computer science, and music.
No prerequisites, but a background in music technology would be helpful.

How can musical compositions express the complexity of their times?  Western European music has had a long development of simultaneous complexity, from the introduction during Medieval times of independent voice leading, to the multi-voiced complexity of Gyorgi Ligeti's  "micro-polyphony" in the 1960s.  "Polyphony" is the opposite of  “homophony”, in which musical lines are not independent of one another, but hierarchically bound to one another, harmonically and metrically, as in a "Barbershop Quartet".

Polyphony has analogues in human and animal behavior. From the 1930s through the 1970s, the anthropologist Gregory Bateson studied the cultures of the South Pacific, the behaviors of alcoholics in San Francisco, and the language of dolphins.  From these (and many other areas of study) he created analyses that addressed the complexity of their subject matters, without simplifying them.  In this program, we will be reading analyses by Bateson, while creating compositions in sound that mirror and address the complexities that Bateson writes about, via the musical techniques of polyphony and voice-misleading.

We will also investigate and learn how to use Max/MSP, one of the mostpopular software packages for the creation of music compositions, in an attempt to create acoustic events that might begin to match the complexity of our own times, using polyphony, and studying the ideas of counterpoint as shown in the compositions of J. S. Bach, Arnold Schoenberg, Gyorgi Ligeti, and contemporary composers. 

There will be regular listening sessions, musical projects, and writing assignments using the Bateson essays as models.  The program will attend concerts of music in Seattle and Portland and give a public concert of our final compositions.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$60 for tickets to performances.
Special Expenses
Students are strongly encouraged to purchase a 1-year student license for Max/MSP (approximately $60) for classroom use.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
April 1st, 2013 The fee has increased to $60.