Piers Hellawell

 

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Redundancy

"I've become very interested in the (albeit not new or original) application of information theory, using redundancy to chart meaning/information in music. Given the depth of our tendency to seek patterns, I think Leonard Meyer's bang-on, that "musical meaning arises when an antecedent situation, requiring an estimate of pattern continuation, produces uncertainty..." and of course a prevailing uncertainty that widens to lack of pattern amounting to very low redundancy, as found in much of the European avant-garde, leads to bemused listenership. Meyer has a brilliant encapsulation of this: "It is probable that new music angers listeners not because their aesthetic sensibilities are offended but because their psychic security - their sense of control - is seriously threatened."

Nowadays I find that everything I enjoy in music, from weird figurations in late Beethoven to clunks in Birtwistle, can be calibrated according to fluctuations on a scale of redundancy. But alas I don't know anything more widely about information theory..."

Page last updated: Sunday 30 September 2012