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The score for Brown’s work is shown in.

Brown's december

The composer offers no suggestions as to how to interpret the image: All decisions are left up to the performer. Brown’s goal was to provide the impetus for a musical performance but not to impose an outcome. With such ambiguity in the notation, enormous variation in performance is possible.

Ambiguity in notation represents perhaps the greatest extreme reached in modern music. The more the musical text leaves open, the more it moves away from the constructive clarity of the classical era.

Listening to ambiguity

Tolerating the ambiguity

In Samuel Beckett’s“Waiting for Godot,”two vagabonds—Vladimir and Estragon—await the arrival of a mysterious visitor, Godot. Godot’s arrival is anticipated, it is hoped for, it is repeatedly heralded--but it never happens. No matter how many times you see the play, Godot will never appear. Similarly, the ambiguities in a modern musical work are built in and can never be removed . Acknowledging this is the first step to a deeper understanding. Listeners are so often frustrated because they expect the ambiguities eventually to be clarified—if only they knew more or could listen more attentively. Doing so does not remove the ambiguities, it only makes them more acute and palpable .

Thinking clearly about ambiguity

Once you learn to tolerate the ambiguity, you can begin to discover its source. Are pulse and meter absent or erratic? Is dissonance heightened? Is the continuity unpredictable? Is there minimal exposition? Perpetual variation? Do noise and silence figure prominently? Any or all of these may contribute to the work’s open-endedness.

Considering the sources of the ambiguity will help you relate different pieces to each other and enable you to become more articulate about what you hear.

Ask comprehensive questions

When listening to a modern work, the most effective way to surmount the challenges created by an individualized musical language is to ask comprehensive questions that are not style specific.

Each of the questions below is addressed in its own module:

  • What is the form of the work? If it is an“A-type”form? If so, what is being prolonged? Is it an“A/B-type form”? If so, how is contrast created and where does it occur? [] Musical Form
  • What is the balance of expository and developmental sections? [] Expository and Developmental
  • What is the overall destiny of the work? Do you consider it a strong round-trip, weak roundtrip or one-way progression? [] Overall Destiny
  • What is time’s effect upon the material? Does any music ever return in its original form? Or is it always subjected to transformation? [] Time's Effect on the Material

Be prepared for more personal reactions

Progressive modern works often do not strongly direct the listener’s attention: There may not be a clear hierarchy of theme and accompaniment; structural arrival points may be more subtle or evasive. Be prepared for your reaction to be more personal; and be prepared for your perspective to change with repeated hearings, as you focus on different aspects of the work.

Celebrating ambiguity

In the same way that a Jackson Pollock drip painting will never resolve itself into a clear image, the ambiguity in a progressive modern composition is irreversible . Whether it is now or in fifty or five hundred years, the only way to appreciate such music is to learn to sustain , tolerate and celebrate the ambiguity. There’s nothing that we can do to make the ending of Boulez’s Dérive sound like the end of Beethoven’s 5th. We cannot remove the noise from Dark Angels or make a single performance of Earle Brown’s December 1952 definitive.

In an art form that is already abstract and non-verbal, heightening the ambiguity only increases the feelings of isolation and uncertainty. In addition, music is conventionally taught using concepts and terms specific to the common practice era. This training conditions listeners to certain expectations that modern music often fails to meet, leaving them baffled. To enjoy modern music, you must recognize the integrity of our own experience with the music—you must learn to trust your ears . You must also learn to abandon your pre-conceptions and listen in a style-independent way.

Most of us live comfortably in a Newtonian world, with modern advances in physics only at the periphery of our awareness. In a recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, the physicist Brian Greene lamented that, even one hundred years after Einstein’s insights, the Theory of Relativity has not yet infiltrated our daily experience. In life and in music, we often long for clarity. And yet, in so many ways, we are learning how deeply ambiguity is embedded in our experience and how acknowledging and tolerating it enlarges our spirit. Progressive modern music offers one of the safest ways to experience ambiguity. If we can learn to reckon with modern music with an open mind and careful attention, it may help us deal more patiently and constructively with a world filled with contradictions and paradoxes.

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, Sound reasoning. OpenStax CNX. May 31, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10214/1.21
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