The Axis of Music

This post was inspired by Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music Lesson Two – The Phenomenon of Music (Amazon affiliate link)

Stravinsky is discussing the existence of certain poles of attraction, specifically where consonance and dissonance are concerned:

“Of course, the instruction and education of the public have not kept pace with the evolution of technique.  The use of dissonance, for ears ill-prepared to accept it, has not failed to confuse their reaction, bringing about a state of debility in which the dissonant is no longer distinguished from the consonant.”

What happens when dissonance evolves to a point where the public no longer understands its function?  We have a serious dilemma; these poles of attraction are collapsing right before our eyes!

Not so fast…

“All music is nothing more than a succession of impulses that converge towards a definite point of repose.”

Think about these:

  • A cadence
  • The downbeat
  • Starting and finishing
  • Sound and silence
  • Life and death

There are poles of attraction inherent in all of these; you don’t need classic tonality to realize them.  Thinking about consonance and dissonance in a classic tonality framework is shortsighted; these poles of attraction run much deeper than that.

At the centre of all of this, around which the poles rotate, is the sounding tone; the “axis of music.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from Poetics:

“All music being nothing but a succession of impulses and repose, it is easy to see that the drawing together and separation of poles of attraction in a way determine the respiration of music.”

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