A Challenge: Pure Deception in Music

Please watch this video and have a listen to the music:

We call cadences like the one heard at 6:15 “deceptive cadences.”  Were you fooled? (Assuming you haven’t heard this piece before!)

A successful deception requires a special relationship – a relationship cultivated over time, with repetition.  I haven’t investigated the nature of deception, but I suspect its existence, in any kind of activity, signifies relationships and languages that are highly evolved and complex.

Music definitely has the power to deceive, but the label “deceptive cadence” is narrowing and presumptuous.  Indeed, some listeners may detect shades of deception and trickery from anticipating a perfect cadence at 6:15.  But it would be incorrect to think that “deceptive cadences” are meant solely to deceive, or are effective in accomplishing that goal.

In fact, some people, while listening to music, may be hearing and participating in a narrative that has, in their mind, no connection with deception.  For them, maybe it would be more appropriately called a “dramatic cadence,” or an “emergent cadence.”

We should be wary of words, theoretical or otherwise, used to describe music, lest we take them for granted and impose them on our listeners.  The relationship(s) between listeners and the sounds heard at 6:15 cannot be convincingly reduced to the word “deceptive.”  Upon further reflection, I think we’d find that these relationships are infinitely complex, meaningful, powerful, deeply rooted, logical, illogical and inconsistent.

To help my point, here’s a challenge:

Compose a piece of music (or a cadence) that is unmistakably deceptive – something that can be wholly reduced to, and only described as pure, utter deception. Such a composition would have to be free from all other gestures and innuendo. Such music would also be totally undesirable.  Nobody wants to be deceived!

I think it’s impossible, so I also think labels like “deceptive cadence” should be taken very lightly.

This is fun to think about, so I took up my own challenge. The following excerpt is the closest I could come to pure deception in music.  Please have a listen.  What do you think?

Download the Mp3 here: Decpetion-in-Music

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