Machine-Time, Passion-Time, and Time that Trembles: Debussy and Baudelaire
There is no escaping time in music; music enforces its own time. You have no choice, unless it is to walk away — as long as you listen you are in the music’s time. Even as a performer, your liberty is limited. You’re not like an actor who can introduce pregnant pauses and changes in tempi at will. Music has an internal clock which cannot be ignored.
KeywordsTonal Function Walk Away Tonal Music Tonal Center Musical Language
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.Musicologists tend to emphasize analysis of harmony over all other aspects of music (this is reflected in musical education as well); rhythm is the least popular element to discuss. Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style, generally viewed as the best work on the subject, treats the Alberti bass as follows: “This accompaniment blurs the independence both of the three contrapuntal voices which it theoretically contains and of the chordal or homophonic harmony which it supposedly illustrates. It breaks down the isolation of the voices by integrating them into one line, and of the chords by integrating them into a continuous movement” (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 29.Google Scholar
- 2.The piece was once considered one of Haydn’s most famous works, but the attribution is apparently a mistaken one.Google Scholar
- 3.If Louis’s action were a commentary on Necker, it would be a way of pointing out that economics are a mechanistic fantasy as toy-like as the clocks. The clock-fantasy was not confined to the ancien régime. The revolutionaries of 1789 were also fascinated by the clock, and proposed a new, even more rational one, that would divide time into decimal units.Google Scholar
- 4.It was this belief which made the Enlightenment credulous with regards to robots (and makes our time credulous with regards to “artificial intelligence”).Google Scholar
- 5.Lawrence Wright writes that “From the day when machines had been installed in any factory, all workers had to start and finish at the same time, with foremen to keep them at it; no one could pause even briefly, because the machines did not. The mills were being lit by gas from 1802, so that working hours need be limited only by human endurance. There was now no season or weather when work need cease.” Clockwork Man (London: Elek Books, 1968), p. 118. Wright quotes Lewis Munford to say that “The clock, not the steam engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age” (p. 208).Google Scholar
- 6.The waltz itself — a nineteenth-century invention-escapes strict time, pushing the second beat and delaying the third.Google Scholar
- 7.“Then they formed into two camps: on the one side the exalted spirits, sufferers, all the expansive souls who had need of the infinite, bowed their heads and wept; they wrapped themselves in unhealthy dreams and there could be seen nothing but broken reeds on an ocean of bitterness. On the other side the men of the flesh remained standing, inflexible in the midst of positive joys, and cared for nothing except to count the money they had acquired. There was only a sob and a burst of laughter, the one coming from the soul, the other from the body.” Translation by Kendall Warren, in Volume VIII, The Complete Writings of Alfred de Musset (NY: James L. Perkins, 1908), pp. 16-17.Google Scholar
- 8.In music, Schubert had given profound expression to the myth in his settings of Müller’ s poems, Die Winterreise. The last song in that cycle, “Der Leiermann,” shows an organ-grinder, barefoot in the snow, off on the outskirts of town, with only snarling dogs for an audience, and the poet asking him: Can I go with you? Will you sing my songs?Google Scholar
- 9.Macdonald goes on to say that the French “are not humbled by music the way the English and Germans are.” Quoted in Rice, Patricia, “Snatched Back from Oblivion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 19, 1995, p. 4C.Google Scholar
- 10.The composer Paul Dukas is often quoted as saying, “The strongest influence on Debussy was that of writers, not musicians,” and Debussy himself is said to have preferred that his style be called Symbolist rather than Impressionist.Google Scholar
- 11.Quoted in John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981), pp. 226-227.Google Scholar
- 12.Kockelmans, Joseph J. Phenomenology and Physical Science, trans. Henry J. Koren (Pittsburgh: Duquesne Univ. Press, 1966) pp. 30–40.Google Scholar