Monday, February 2, 2015

Exploring Raja’s musical symmetry – a simple introduction

Let’s next focus on symmetry in Raja’s music and how we will approach this in this series of analysis posts. Firstly, most of the symmetry definitions that we saw in the previous posts are ‘perfect symmetry’.  In the research I have been conducting with Raja’s musical arrangements, I notice that ‘perfect symmetry’ is a rare occurrence. In this electronic music age, most computers are easily capable of generating perfectly symmetric music as machines are designed to do such things. However, for a logarithmic device such as our ears, it is never obvious. I have observed more symmetry with instruments that are manually arranged than electronic music as it is easier to perceive the symmetry that the composer has manually created.

There are two approaches one can take to analyzing musical symmetry:


  1. Instrument based symmetry: Here, you look for the different musical instruments and the bars that have been allocated by the composer and look for symmetry
  2. Arrangement based symmetry: Here, you do not focus on the bars, but look for instrument pairs (who are involved in a call and response) and see how these pairs lend beauty by being symmetrical


In this analysis series, I will follow the arrangement based symmetry. The trouble with arrangement based symmetry is that trying to get a perfect symmetry is very hard. Looking for musical symmetry created the need for understanding a new idea, called ‘musical bridge’.

A musical bridge is a piece of music that is not C&R based that sits somewhat inside a set of C&R arrangements. It can be a simple harmony or a lone instrument being played. 

Bridge based perfect symmetry is a piece of music, where you can have perfect C&R arrangements to the left and right of the bridge and there is true reflection symmetry if you consider the musical bridge as the plane of symmetry. There are some Raja compositions that qualify.

Bridge based imperfect symmetry is a piece of music, where you have near perfect C&R arrangements to the left and right of the bridge and there is imperfect reflection symmetry when you consider the musical bridge as the plane of symmetry.  One of the C&R arrangements will not have a complimentary arrangement on the other side of the bridge.

Multi-bridge based imperfect symmetry is a piece of music, where there are multiple musical bridges within the arrangement and the C&R arrangements hover around these bridges in a loose way and it is hard to figure the symmetry among these arrangements. This applies to cases where 4 or more instrument combinations are used in the arrangement.

In other words, the basic requirement in our analysis is to have an arrangement that has one or more C&R parts. Once we have qualified a musical piece as worthy of symmetrical exploration, we will look for one or more bridges that may be rendering the piece as either perfect or imperfect symmetry, bridge based or otherwise. A word of caution: Most symmetries we will explore are pattern based symmetry and not exact reflection symmetry. It is best explained when examples are demonstrated. 

No comments: