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Conversation between Alex and Stephen (prev top next)

2007feb24

Alex,

Your description of a way to deal with unfulfilled expectations sounds good.  You suggest "the path there is obscure with darkness" ... another possibility would be for the path to lead offscreen, so that as the players move toward the edge, the known future shrinks; this would have the effect of heightening the viewer's uncertainty, which is sort of paradoxical, since they'd tipped off to expect the unexpected.

I like the "carving out paths in the process of playing" idea.  Another way to describe this is "playing leaves a residue."  Either way, it's a nice approach because it has a parallel with memory.  What's left behind becomes part of a structure that informs what happens later.

Related to all this is the descriptive/prescriptive issue.  If what you see is a visual expression of "what you're hearing now makes you expect X" ... then what happens if the viewer doesn't expect that?  Is it okay to induce expectations in the visual that aren't paralleled in the aural?

And this gets into the question: where do our expectations come from?  One of the pieces of research Huron talks about in Sweet Anticipation has to do with expectation of pitch.  In their experiments, they play a few notes of a melody, and ask listeners to guess what the next pitch will be.  As you might expect, this is very culturally dependent --- melodies are much more easily predicted when they behave according the norms of the music you have experience with.  (The converse way to express this is: if you're listening to unfamiliar music, you'll expect the wrong thing.)  So, when you're modeling expectation, you're presumably modeling your expectation ... or perhaps your prediction of the listener's expectation.

A way that I'm planning to deal with this is to limit myself to certain kinds of expectations, such as: those that are common across all kinds of music, and those that arise from the material in the piece itself.  For example, if a melody happens once, and then later it starts to happen again, it's reasonable to expect that a listener will expect it continue in the same way.  Or, there are certain music gestures, types of phrasing, for example, that we're hard-wired to expect to follow a certain course (this is discussed in the Clynes book I mentioned).

S.

P.S. You say you wish you had a grant.  How might that happen?

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