>>said that she found this easy because "it was just math"
>>she was one of the least inspired bassists I'd ever heard.
I see what you mean, but then I wouldn't fault the chosen route to inspiration (math), but the artist for failing to be inspired. The same is true of any source for inspiration: love, politics, God. Much bad art was made with the best of intentions.
One of my greatest stumbling blocks to my mathematical self was that I didn't understand that, as a musician, I had a fine intuitive grasp of spatial relationships through tone and time. When I was finally exposed to Euclidian geometry in a sophisticated arena and was able to associate Boolean logic with this graphical format; algebra, number theory, and the rudiments of calculus all seemed to make a whole lot more sense. This in turn came back to inform my understanding of intonations and scales.
Rhythm, tone, progression; all of these terms can be (and often are) described mathematically. Math is only a language that describes the characteristics of an object or phenomenon. While it will never be possible to create a language that does not affect the message that it is trying to convey, this is not a weakness, but a strength, in that we as artists may analyze and express ourselves by an increasingly diverse manner of methods.
We already break it down abstractly all the time; on the fret board, on the keyboard, across the keys of the flute. Seriously, think of what the sound of music would be like if all the keys on the keyboard were white, or were reversed where the pentatonic would be big and white and the rest of the keys were little and black. The western mind began to hear what it considered music and created instruments to create that music, which influenced western musicians to create music that was compatible to their instruments. Mozart surely had the faculty to compose microtonal music that would be just as powerful and wonderful as the work that he did with the traditional western scale. He even had microtonally capable instruments (the entire orchestral string section), there just weren't enough sitars and too many well tempered claviers around.
I guess that where this is all going is that raw mathematics offers an open-ended manner to describe and create art with sound. Art conveys meaning (or at least distributes meaning if you want to be deconstructionalist about it). However, meaning is truly dependant on the perceiver. Mathematics is a human method of describing the universe and can convey meaning to the perceiver if the perceiver has the faculty to decode the message. So, in other words, difficult modern composition simply has a limited number of perceivers with the faculty to decode its meaning. If the goal is universal accessibility, we should all give it up and compose pop tunes for Brittany. I admit it, I, personally, get sick of Phillip Glass after a pretty short time. But maybe your bass player girlfriend just had a different target crowd for her workÖ
We, as loopers, have adopted a rather exotic method of performance, if not composition, which restricts our number of potential perceivers to a degree. But then, I like bands that donít have a comparatively large number of willing and successful perceivers. I think that within the loop community, we have the type of artist that is already inclined towards experimentation. So, go for it, base your music on a midi representation of the rainfall distribution pattern across the Amazon jungle over three years. Create shapes by connecting chords on the tune clock. Itís all a matter of interpretation. This is where you come in: the connection with your intended perceiver. Simply consider to whom you are speaking when you are forging your meaning and the language will suggest itself.
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