Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy (Robert Jourdain)
Chapter 6: Composition

  • Imagery describes what perception cannot
  • The brain always works through abstract hierarchies, connecting ideas with a web of relations rather than storing a single data bank for a specific subject
  • Composers' brains group notes, chords, and progressions with such relations
  • [My own deduction] "Categorization circuitry" is essentially what is needed to build a computer capable of composition
  • A soloist draws upon a vocabulary of sounds a phrases that comprise a musical language
  • In terms of improvisation, a brain can't generate complex, far-reaching structures enough to improvise a piece of significant depth [but perhaps a computer can?]
  • Mozart mapped out the structure of his compositions before filling in the details (this is great news, because it's how my program is designed! So at least I know this method is workable!)
  • Scores can limit the capacity of composers (this again is good news: my program is not bounded by traditional scoring)
  • Intelligence comes from neural networks
  • "It is memory that is the composer's workshop"
  • "The phenomenon of musical ideas arriving full-blown in the composer's mind is called inspiration"
  • "[The soloist] works from a vocabulary of sounds, and a kind of grammar for juxtaposing them, that has become his musical language"
  • "Musicians work through a hierarchy of ready-made movements. Thousands of patterns of scales and arpeggios and chord progressions are deeply channeled in their nervous system"
  • "[Mozart] began by mapping a composition's structure. Only later did he go back to fill in supporting voices and embellishments that could be written in any number of ways without changing the basic character of the piece"
  • "Music notation tends to discourage complex melodies and rhythms"
  • "By promoting abstracted, hierarchical thinking, the score can seduce composers into a theoretical, unmusical approach to composition"
  • "In the end, intellectual power of any kind arises from the laborious creation of networks of neurons"