to the world of music archive

the world of music 47, 2005-2

Notation, Transcription, Visual Representation

Editor: Max-Peter Baumann
Co-Editor: Jonathan P. J. Stock
Guest Editor: Marin Marian-Bălaşa

ISSN 0043-8774

Articles

Marin Marian-Bălaşa
Who Actually Needs Transcription? Notes on the Modern Rise of a Method and the Postmodern Fall of an Ideology

Rytis Ambrazevičius
The Perception and Transcription of the Scale Reconsidered: Several Lithuanian CasesTriinu Ojamaa

Triinu Ojamaa
Throat Rasping: Problems of Visualisation

Regine Allgayer-Kaufmann
From the Innocent to the Exploring Eye: Transcription on the Defensive

Gerd Grupe
Notating African Music: Issues and Concepts

Wim van der Meer
Visions of Hindustani Music

Nicolas Magriel
Visualising North Indian Music: Looking at Khyål Songs

Frank Kouvenhoven
Transcribing "Time" in Chinese Non-measured Songs

 

Book Reviews (Tina K. Ramnarine, ed.)

Daniel Avorgbedor
Charry, Eric. Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa

Tong Soon Lee
Matusky, Patricia and Tan Sooi Beng. The Music of Malaysia: The Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions

Jonathan McIntosh
Stige, Brynjulf. Culture-Centered Music Therapy.

Katherine Butler Brown
Ruckert, George E. Music in North India: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture—Viswanathan, T and Allen, Matthew Harp. Music in South India: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture.

 

Recording Reviews (Gregory Barz, ed.)

Geoffrey Whittall
Masters of the Balafon: (1) Friend, Well Come! ; (2) The Joy of Youth; (3) The Wood and the Calabash. Produced by Hugo Zemp. Sélénium Film

 

Abstracts:

Who Actually Needs Transcription? Notes on the Modern Rise of a Method and the Postmodern Fall of an Ideology
Marin Marian-Bălaşa
This article surveys samples of theoretical contributions to the discussion of problems and developments of the major and basic ethnomusicological pillar that is transcription. It also summarizes issues raised at a recent meeting of the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology. Ideas and practices that are pro- and anti- "faithful" or microscopic transcription are analysed, and the possible pluses and minuses offered by computer programs mentioned. Yet, the major concern here revolves around the ignored aspect of ideology, and so this paper puts forward a critique which revisits and questions our view of transcription from the perspective of both its first grounds and multidirectional ultimate meanings. In the light of a postmodern critique, what was traditionally conceived and performed as open method is now tackled and discussed as covert ideology. In the end, the issue of transcription is revealed as one of the gates musicology and musicologists set up to act, unwarily but efficiently, as makers of specific politics—the politics of ethnomusicology—which is similar to other ideological and political processes.

The Perception and Transcription of the Scale Reconsidered: Several Lithuanian Cases
Rytis Ambrazevičius
The adequate transcription of musical scale can be quite problematic because of the biased perception of the scale. This is demonstrated by a thorough examination of the tunings of skudučiai (Lithuanian multipipe whistles) and the scales of Lithuanian traditional singing. Original “emic” scales are reconstructed on the basis of acoustic measurements: they show essential differences from the scales encoded in the conventional Western staff transcriptions, i.e., not only do the scales differ in microtones, but also the pitch classifications are completely dissimilar. The use of Hornbostel’s paradigm and its alternatives to visualize the specific features of scale are discussed.

Throat Rasping: Problems of Visualization
Triinu Ojamaa
This article discusses a particular vocal technique of the North Siberian Nganasan, called throat rasping, in reference to the specific sounds made. Such rasping sounds are used to imitate a bird or an animal. The problems analysed are: 1) what kind of additional information does visualisation provide to that obtained by ear; and 2) what are the techniques used by the performer to produce an intended timbre. The research process included different methodologies: audio-visual analysis of a dance; interviews with indigenous performers and with a professional singer with Western music education; spectral analysis of rasping sounds (programme Multi-Speech Model 3700, Version 2.5); and an experiment where an outsider imitated an insider. Since throat rasping is a musical artefact encountered only in the circumpolar region, and because it does not concur with the European concept of music, some musicologists consider throat rasping to be just extra musical sound. Scholars of Siberian music have tried to analyse rasping, because the tradition carriers themselves perceive this phenomenon as music. Research in this field has continued for decades, but only through listening-based study. While admitting the limited capacities of human ear, more would be expected from a computer analysis, which can expose deeper structures of the phenomenon examined. The current study, however, results in a conclusion that spectral analysis cannot actually provide any essential information in addition—it may only prove or disprove the impression already obtained.

From the Innocent to the Exploring Eye: Transcription on the Defensive
Regine Allgayer-Kaufmann
From the very first moment on Carl Stumpf and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel started to transcribe the music they received from all over the world. They followed the example of musical scores in Western music. Hornbostel believed in the possibility of faithful transcriptions, yet the myth of the innocent eye was not yet exposed as such. Only in the 1950s transcription came under the crossfire of criticism when a new generation of ethnomusicologists challenged—from an anthropological point of view—the usefulness of transcriptions. They argued against ethnocentrism, which in their opinion had shown up here as sound centrism. Anyway, there are still transcribing ethnomusicologists today. In this article we scrutinize closely three examples. Obviously there are many different systems used today analogous to the contents that have become manifold. Aside from this it turns out that ethnomusicologists today do not at all use their transcriptions for exploring, i.e. they do not explore with their eyes, instead, they explore with their ears and their body. The purpose of transcriptions has turned out to be mainly to communicate knowledge that was obtained by these other means. It is finally communicated by transcriptions to those, who give credit to such pictures because they do not have a possibility to experience it otherwise.

Notating African Music: Issues and Concepts
Gerd Grupe
Some 100 years ago Carl Stumpf and Erich M. von Hornbostel promoted what they called the phonographic method as the central means for studies of foreign musics. Transcriptions have been regarded as an indispensable prerequisite for any scholarly analysis of orally and aurally transmitted music ever since. In the light of claims that the visual domain might be an unnecessary or even inappropriate way of approaching music, it may be necessary to reassess the issue of why we need to visualize the music we study. By looking at musics from sub-Saharan Africa it can be demonstrated that listening alone is not always effective and reliable in understanding music: in many cases, for instance, there is a difference between played parts and the aural impression. In order to reconstruct this relationship some sort of notation is needed. Another case in point is the exploration of the motional dimension in African music particularly in respect to ‘patterned movement’ (John Baily) in instrumental playing. If we, therefore, cannot do without the visual representation of sounds, which notation system is suited best to our ends? What has become of Mantle Hood’s three possible solutions to this question? Are there specific traits in African musics which require special kinds of notation or is there any universally applicable system? In presenting two case studies, it will be shown that different purposes may call for different ways of representation, that more specialized systems may be more appropriate than Western staff notation in certain cases, and that a combination of notation and tablature may be advisable in order to account for specific structural aspects of some African musical idioms.

Visions of Hindustani Music
Wim van der Meer
There are many visual reflections of Indian music; in dance, painting and sculpture but also through writing, transcribing, graphing and mental imaging. What is being represented remains as obscure as the question what music itself represents. Musicologists have long believed that transcriptions were a key to representing, analysing and understanding music, in particular “other” music. Over the past decades computer imaging of music has taken a leap forward, showing that transcription is a very complex process of translation that not only crosses cultural but also sensory borders.

Visualising North Indian Music: Looking at Khyål Songs
Nicolas Magriel
Short songs in dialects of Hindi are the basis for improvisation in khyål, the principal genre of contemporary North Indian classical vocal music. Khyål songs are not defined by written representations, but are transmitted orally, committed to memory and re-created through performance. During the twentieth century several collections of khyål songs were published for pedagogical and archival purposes. This development was largely catalysed by the Independence movement and the widespread perception of a need to reclaim and consolidate India’s cultural identity. Songs which had been the closely guarded property of hereditary musicians were brought into the public domain. The written word and graphic representation gave a stamp of alleged authenticity to song compositions, despite their often being carelessly transcribed, shifting the locus of musical authority. Literate Hindu musicians have largely replaced the hereditary, predominantly Muslim, musicians who were the custodians of Hindustani music for centuries. Together with the linguist and Hindi scholar Lalita du Perron, the author is currently working on an Arts and Humanities Research Board-funded project, transcribing and analysing some four-hundred khyål songs culled from classic gramophone recordings from the period 1903-75. The present paper looks at some of the cultural history of transcription in North India, and addresses some of the musical issues arising from this ongoing effort to accurately and accessibly transcribe khyål songs.

Transcribing “Time” in Chinese Non-measured Songs
Frank Kouvenhoven
Music transcriptions in ethnomusicology become more and more “conceptual”: we stress schemata, recurring patterns and overall similarities in musical structures, we reduce complexities in notation, and try to connect the remaining simplified forms meaningfully with native or Western musical concepts and theories. In doing so, we may dismiss many surface details that are perhaps equally (if not more) instructive. A related problem is that transcriptions are too often regarded as “end products”, not as mere snapshots of dynamic and multi-faceted processes. A different picture arises if surface contours of musical pieces are screened in more detail, and over longer periods of time. The present article argues these points with reference to analyses of time organization in Chinese non-measured songs.

 

 

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