Chunks and gruel

I had a bit of a breakthrough for myself regarding the structure of that C#m thing that had been puttering along but never felt “congealed” to me. Part of the problem was that it felt sort of amorphous/isotropic to me, like a bowl of gruel. Not a lot of large-scale structure. It’s in 3/8, which I think is related.

Stuff that’s in 4/4 or 12/8, or some larger chunky measure size like that, reminds me of American food, where every course is pretty much a large chunk of something that has to be cut up at the table. A steak, or a whole potato. Mostly large-scale structure.

Stuff that’s 6/8 or 3/4 strikes me as Chinese food, where the courses are cut into small, bite-size or at least more manageable chunks. Medium-scale.

This blasted 3/8 is like food where the “chunks” into which things are cut are the size of a grain of sand. It’s like a goddamned bowl of farina. There is much less large-scale structure, so it was hard for me to grasp what was going on with the thing on a large scale. I ended up having to plot it out and just mark up the music by hand to find out what was going on with these three pages of stuff I’d written. How I still managed to get three pages out without knowing what the hell was going on I have no idea; I guess that’s part of the “fluency” argument that can be made about music, where people can speak a language without grammatical understanding. (Think it’s impossible? Try teaching linguistics to undergrads.)

Untimately, it seemed that what was going on was that the end measure for each phrase was functioning as a pickup for the next one, but it appeared staggered to me until I just sat down with a pencil and worked it out.

Once again … composing completely “by feel?” What a charming, romantic, cluelessly false notion. Perhaps some day when I’ve gotten closer to my 10,000 hours I will be going by feel, but until then, not a chance. Some things can be done by feel, and some just require one to lift the lid and get out the owner’s manual.

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