Future Beacon

Temporal Frontiers in Music

by James Adrian

      Surely the most obvious correspondence between the timing of speech and the flow of music is what both the speaker and the musician call a phrase. "Sonata VI for Violin and Piano" (shown on the right) seems decidedly verbal - perhaps even conversational. Given the conventional timing distinctions notated and performed in music, this kind of "talking" is quite an achievement. The fuller development of this aspect of music is left to genres yet to be created.

      Current limitations are not due to those of instrumentalists or dancers. Music that changes time signatures with each measure can be choreographed and animated by dancers. Within the limits of speed, musicians can perform any time distinctions for which there are unique notations.

      What is lacking is a more complete musical timing language. Time signatures and conductor-specified fermatas and accelerandos are not sufficient. Any good orator knows that the emotional impact of a sentence can be ruined by either pausing for too long a time or for too short a time - and that is just to mention pauses!

      The composer is always first to imagine new music. Today, a composer can specify a piece of music with a mouse and a sound-enabled computer instead of a pencil and an orchestra. Software vendors include Finale and Sibelius. Unusual timing remains the musical feature most difficult to specify. If a speaker's timing or any new musical timing is to be further developed, it will begin with more complete and convenient timing notation incorporated in music software. Then, it will be written.


      Please feel free to write to me directly for more information or to make suggestions or comments. My email address is jim@futurebeacon.com. You can also go to my contact page to get my full contact information. Suggestions, questions, additional information and critiques are very welcome.

Olga Goija playing on a viola Handel's
"Sonata VI for Violin and Piano"