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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


Music for the Day and the Year

by William Harris


   Thinking of the Day as the unit of time we all accept calendar-wise, psychologically and to a surprising degree biologically, we would of course want to adjust a day/week/month Yearlong Art Music Program to more realistic parameters than our 'nine-to-five' routine throughout the year. We have enough of that already in our industrialized society.

   Recent studies have pointed to a rise in levels of awareness and inventiveness early in the day, after the initial drowse of awakening. Problems left over from the preceding evening often snap into clear focus in the morning for a certain type of person. After a morning's attention, lunch is a break followed by a period of rest, somnolence, in many societies a conventional nap or siesta. Later in the afternoon, perhaps from four PM through the early evening, physical strength is at the maximum; later a gradual decrescendo before the day fades into sleep.

   It is possible to consider programming music with a basic pattern, the normal pattern of many uneventful days, in mind. In the morning evocative music, strong and clear in sound, but not dominating. Lunch time is quiet, slow-paced, but later comes an almost meditative music during the siesta period. Late afternoon would seem to call for strong thematic material, energetic dynamics, leading to the evening recession with a full-sounding tempered richness, which will taper off into the evening dream-world.

   These are not hard to tabulate in the world of music, we have traditional paces which virtually match the above categories, and New Music emulates the traditional ways most in rhythmic patternings. But there are several yearly Seasons, each with dynamics of its own. Without becoming as programmatic as Vivaldi, we can let the seasons modify our diurnal, "circadian" patterns in subtle ways, much as classic Japanese haiku was able to key poems and experience to the four climatic shifts.

   In narrower focus, there are two changes which have a strong impact on most people. The bright sunny days always seem to raise a certain expectation in our minds, while barometric shifts in the direction of rain, even more sudden short barometric fluctuations as in the annual Swiss Fon winds, can wreak emotional and semi-medical effects on the general population. So we will want to make many varied changes in our seasonal and annual music-design, possibly best done by computer generated data.

   Entering the month and day gives us a rough place to start. Since the working week starts with a lazy-Monday and ends with a hang-in-there-Friday, we should probably enter diurnal/weekly data on the primary level. Time of sunrise and sunset are important events, but perhaps more dynamic are the barometric data which indicate a sunny/cloudy prospect. Levels of relative heat over a hundred degree F swing can be worked into our data. Events of national or international importance appearing in newsprint and on TV may have a strong impact, e.g. the Oklahoma bombing, the Savings and Loan scandals, a Presidential race for election.

   By now we have an overly complex set of initial data, so we will have to introduce some loading to make this into an operable system. If we load the most regular features with a factor of 1, those which are most unusual and explosive with a factor of 10, and try different loadings for the other functions on an experimental basis, we may find that our computer program can select pieces to perform from a roster like this:

  1. Largo
  2. Meditative
  3. Andante
  4. Picking up speed, but controlled
  5. Energetic but controlled
  6. Forcefully dynamic
  7. Crashing and driving
  8. Ecstatic in a forceful mode
  9. Furioso

   Any set of orchestrative devices can be associated with any of the above classes, but the rhythmics may well fall in a range of one to ten spread over the above groups in the order listed.

   Is this a practical way of organizing a year's worth recorded instrumental music, ranging over a wide spectrum of styles and dates, so as to provide a minimally-recursive Annus Musicalis at the present time? The answer is clearly no.

   But is this possible, and even more is it a worthwhile project to pursue as a way of bringing to an extended audience a wealth of many thousands of pieces of music which might never otherwise be heard at all? Here the answer, in the world of "what can come to be...", is decidedly in the affirmative.