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Musical subjectivity from sayable structure to sounding ethics in the Princeton school

Scott Gleason
mars 2019



Dans cet article, j’interroge la manière avec laquelle l’école de compositeurs-théoriciens de Princeton a transformé sa conception des limites et des objectifs du discours sur la musique, passant d’un souci intense de verbalisation de la structure musicale à un souci intense de sonder la situation morale et éthique de la musique. Je soutiens que pour intégrer le son de manière approfondie en tant qu’aspect explicite de leurs discours et de leurs pratiques musicales, l’école a dû abandonner sa conception scientifique antérieure du discours musical. En s'éloignant du scientisme et de la composition d'œuvres musicales, toutefois, l'école a radicalement réinventé la subjectivité musicale, abandonnant celle de membres appartenant à un cercle restreint de théoriciens hautement qualifiés et spécialiste de la structure musicale, pour adopter une subjectivité plus générale englobant le son tel qu’il est perçu et créé. Alors que la préoccupation première des compositeurs théoriciens de l’école de Princeton a toujours été la musique, j’affirme qu’un souci marqué de la moralité et de l’éthique oblige finalement à poser la question suivante: quel genre de vie musicale dois-je vivre ? La réponse : une vie en musique, dans le son, même dans la structure, et seulement secondairement dans le discours.


In this article I discuss how the Princeton school of composer-theorists shifted its conception of the limits and goals of discourse about music from an intense concern with verbalizing musical structure to an intense concern with sounding out music’s moral and ethical situation. I argue that in order to accommodate sound thoroughly as an explicit aspect of their discourses and musical practices the school had to abandon their previous scientific conception of musical discourse. In moving away from scientism and composition of musical works, however, the school radically reimagined musical subjectivity as from members of a coterie of highly trained and specialized theorists of musical structure to a more generalized subjectivity embracing sound as heard and created. While the primary concern for the composer-theorists of the Princeton school was always music, I argue a pronounced concern with morality and ethics ultimately forces the question: what kind of musical life am I to live? The answer: a life in music, in sound, even in structure, but only in discourse secondarily.


Texte intégral   


1 In this article I discuss how the Princeton school of composer-theorists shifted its conception of the limits and goals of discourse about music from an intense concern with verbalizing musical structure to an equally intense concern with sounding out music’s ethical situation. I argue that in order to accommodate sound thoroughly as an explicit aspect of their discourses and musical practices the school had to abandon their previous scientific conception of musical discourse and musical composition as research. The only alternative—to retain a scientific, behaviorist, and eventually cognitive-scientific paradigm while investigating sound—destroys subjectivity, and was untenable for a group of composers who still held, in some way, to aesthetic tenets of the charismatic composer as the seat of subjectivity and musical creation. In moving away from scientism and composition of musical works, however, the school radically reimagined musical subjectivity—and radically redisciplined the musical subject—as from members of a coterie of highly trained and specialized theorists of musical structure to a non-hierarchical subjectivity embracing sound as heard and created; moved to an investigation of aesthetics, politics, ontological, and even metaphysical discourses about music; a sonic ethics of approach and withdrawal; and began improvisational and experimental musics and discursive practices.
In order to demonstrate the importance of ethics for Princeton theory I examine a Heideggerian ethics of temporalized care for the other offered by Benjamin Boretz (b. 1934); discuss how Princeton composer John Rahn’s (b. 1944) model of the relations between pieces and composers implies a discourse of approach and withdrawal between the self and the sonic experience modeled on the argument of Jean-Luc Nancy’s Listening; and I end with Boretz’s argument that a fully musical being is a resonant closeness, one in fact lacking motion, but rather simply being-together, in musical listening, which I examine by offering an analysis of Boretz’s 1976 piano piece, ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’. It is this being-together that opens avenues for authenticity of musical experience, of stripping away what Boretz, for example, might regard as inauthentic musical acculturation, so that we may forever question the place of the self in regard to its own musicality. The question of why music, of what discourse has to do with music, thus becomes a moral imperative. An ethics arises from this mutual questioning, but is not primary; primary is morality: what kind of musical life am I to live? The answer: a life in music, in sound, even in structure, but only secondarily in discourse.

The Princeton school’s turn from sayable structure to showable sound

2 By 1958 Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) and Edward T. Cone (1917-2004) had instituted the formal study of high modernist music composition at Princeton University with the argument that such composition was a form of scientific research.1 In quick succession the ‘Princeton school’ founded summer seminars for like-minded composer-theorists, in 1962 the journal Perspectives of New Music (then published by Princeton University Press), and awarded the first PhD in music composition in 1965, to Godfrey Winham (1934-1974).2 The Princeton school was a kind of American answer to the Darmstadt school, proffering an aggressively modernist compositional style buttressed by a scientific and formal music-theoretical discourse.3 A kind of mute musical structure was the topic of conversation, sound bearing the dual weight of musical and scientific theories. If any particular experience of music was mute, language about music was in a sense unproblematic and transparent, sounded out, this despite the technical language developed for music theory at this time. Musical structure, at Princeton, was explicated using formal, axiomatic logic and conceived in terms of Rudolf Carnap’s Aufbau: as reconstructing musical worlds, yet, following the early Ludwig Wittgenstein, worlds bracketing aesthetic, ethical, metaphysical, and phenomenological questions.4 These music-theoretical worlds specified musical objects and relations within phenomenalistic systems, systems based on musical qualia: the ‘feels’ of (musical) experience, what it is like to experience the opening E-flat chord or sonority of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, for example; the chord’s ‘sound’.5 But qualia, although addressing experience, are still objectifications, stand outside any inimitable personal experiences.6
By the early 1970s, and influenced by countercultural currents, many of the Princeton composer-theorists turned from masterwork composition to experimental music-making practices and multiple-hour improvisational sessions, and they abandoned scientific discourses in favor of writings about music that attempted to capture something of its phenomenological presence, its slippage. The profound pressure placed on the musical subject during this turn likewise occasioned a rethinking of the degree to which discourse could address morality and ethical considerations amongst members of a highly ramified musical community.7
Accommodating sound specifically as experienced by an individual musical person during analysis occasions a complex problematic, however, one that includes the question of temporality: how does one capture the fleetingness of sonic experience in a different, we might argue comparatively static medium such as written discourse? Written discourse projects its own temporalities—of reading, of writing—temporalities which cut across a musical unfolding. In unpublished notes, Princeton composer J. K. Randall (1929-2014), for example, critiqued Darmstadt composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s (1928-2007) account of Webern’s temporality in his String Quartet Op. 28, mvt. 2. In his article ‘Structure and Experiential Time’, Stockhausen reads Webern’s quartet movement as fully integral in its serialization, along the way providing an account of what he calls ‘experiential time’: ‘when we hear a piece of music, processes of alteration follow each other at varying speeds’.8 Randall critiques Stockhausen for his numerical inaccuracies: a breakdown in the temporal domain. Randall: ‘The appropriate measurements destroy the basis of S’.s argument…. More fundamental: his argument requires the degree of some kind of event to increase… while its density remains constant. But we have shown that degree and density are measured, by S., for different kinds of events. I acknowledge that in the metaphysics of ‘experiential time’ my corrections might support the same S’.s contentions just as well as S’.s confusions do. What concerns me here is S’.s apparent inability to take a few simple measurements without compounding all sorts of logical errors’.9 While Randall argues Stockhausen’s was a breakdown in accounting—not, that is, in the ‘metaphysics’ of temporality10—Stockhausen’s inadequate reckoning of Webern’s musical phraseology equally demonstrates the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of mediating sound with discursive structure. That is, while a primary reading of Randall’s critique would offer the coordination of time and pitch (as well as dynamics) as the problematic Stockhausen was addressing,11 I would argue Randall’s analysis witnesses the pressures of musical discourse and structure as against sound, pressures which overwhelm the subject as Babbitt and the institutionalization of music composition and theory at Princeton University had constructed it.
A remedy, the remedy taken by Randall, Boretz, Elaine Barkin (b. 1932), and others, was to turn from scientific discourses and musical structure to musical sound. As an attempted balm, a number of techniques of contorting academic prose to address this temporal, sonic, and subjective problematic were proffered by the Princeton school, including highly performative discourses and discourses free of words altogether: discourses with images or musical notation in place of verbal communication. We may speculate that images were thought to convey the feels of experience more precisely than language. Randall’s Compose Yourself—A Manual for the Young was the watershed text, a text which includes a poetic meditation on time and space; a poetic reading of Act II, Scene I of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; a series of models for representing vowel sounds across world languages; a story of a train ride; a story of multiple temporalities unfolding from a single perspective in a baseball game; and ultimately a kind of script for a television show promising to foment the utopian revolution.12 As Randall has said, in one of his very few discussions of what he was up to:

My writing looks peculiar, you know, like why did I do all this?  And I remember that in working to describe music well, and as I think I’ve said plenty I was a real fanatic for analyzing music but that at the same time feeling that, ‘gee wait a minute, I haven’t yet found a way that’s really getting at what this is going on’, so that caused me not only to write a little funny but to write sometimes with the conscious idea that, wait a minute, how about writing like music, instead of writing about music.  Well there’s obvious mileage in that notion that others than me have also pursued with great results and I’ve pursued that from time to time.13

3While Boretz, too, during the early 1970s turned to discursive performativity to express a musical unfolding, by the late 1990s he ultimately disagrees by arguing a strict bifurcation: words and images, because not music, are unable to allow music to speak of and for itself.14 The only musical communication is in, we might say during, music, and specifically music as experienced and created by human agents. If verbal discourse can touch music, it is not a discourse that projects structure or sound onto music, but rather listens to music and reveals what music may say, of itself. Or, following the early Wittgenstein, it is a discourse which in some way empowers music to show itself to the listener, performer, improviser, at the cost, however, of saying.

What can meaningfully be said

4Wittgenstein’s 1921 Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus set much of the tone for mid-century thought about aesthetics, ethics, and metaphysics within the logical-positivist and analytic philosophical tradition(s), and, indeed, Princeton theory before its performative turn.15 That is, the Tractatus specifically excluded these normative domains from conversation: ‘so too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics’.16 This is because ethical propositions must lie outside the world, for if they were to lie inside the world, they would not be ethical propositions, they would be factual propositions, empirical propositions capable of testing.17 Given that ‘ethics and aesthetics are one’, music and the arts generally may give rise to a poetics but cannot be the object of scientific knowledge.18 Rather music, like the metaphysical, ethical, and aesthetic generally, is not verbal in character: these domains are not conceptual, they are things we perform. The aesthetic, like the ethical and metaphysical, are showable but not sayable for Wittgenstein, who in fact goes one step further: ‘There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical’.19 And the mystical, as for the showable generally, must be passed over in silence.20 While we may be discursively silent, we should still listen.
Following Wittgenstein, Carnap’s famous critique of metaphysics and Martin Heidegger pushes the issue one step further, whereby the showable but not sayable (the mystical, aesthetic, ethical, and metaphysical) are meaningless, both in the literal and pejorative senses. Carnap accounts for much of twentieth century philosophy’s bracketing of aesthetic and ethical questions when arguing that, ‘in the domain of metaphysics, including all philosophy of value [aesthetics] and normative theory [ethics], logical analysis yields the negative result that the alleged statements in this domain are entirely meaningless. Therewith a radical elimination of metaphysics is attained…. Logical analysis reveals the alleged statements of metaphysics to be pseudo-statements’.21 As Figure 1 shows, Carnap critiques Heidegger’s discussion of the ‘Nothing’ by showing it cannot be transformed into a logically valid and hence meaningful utterance.


Figure 1: Carnap’s schema showing ‘the possibility of forming pseudo-statements is based on a logical defect of language’.22

5In this connection we can read Boretz’s own chart as a generalization of this schema for musical discourses, as reproduced in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Boretz’s scale showing terms ‘more-to-less-observational’ from ‘fully observational’ to ‘totally metaphysical’.23

6In his diagram, Boretz shows the transition of traditional musical discourses from ‘metaphysical’ (unverifiable, normative, aesthetic, etc.) to ‘theoretical’ to genuinely ‘observational’ terms, seeking to establish the boundaries of discourse about music, so that we may explore musical worlds but faintly glimpsed previously. We can hear, Boretz purports to show, that for example, a B-flat-G-sharp dyad is a simultaneity, and we can even specify conditions under which it carries distinct qualia, what it ‘sounds like’ (as the outer voices of an augmented sixth resolving outward to a tonic chord, such as the ‘Till Eulenspiegel Chord’ in Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche; as an interval class 2 under inversion, A-flat-B-flat, coinciding with the arrival of the first sf/sfp group in the Webern String Quartet Op. 28, mvt. 2, ms. 3-4, forming an axis of symmetry, perhaps). These conditions are theoretical in nature, but bring us closer to the mystical notion of the Chord of Nature, a discourse tracing itself through what Babbitt critiqued under the label of the ‘overtone follies’.24 We cannot, that is, hear the Chord of Nature, or if we can, we cannot say that we do. At most the Chord of Nature is experienceable in a mystical sense; at worst, it is completely meaningless, but purports to be meaningful: a lie.
If the pivotal moment for Princeton theory’s turn from scientism to sound was during the early 1970s, and represented by Randall’s publication of Compose Yourself, then the pivotal moment for Princeton theory’s turn to ethics must have been Boretz’s critique of Brown and Dempster. In 1989 Matthew Brown and Douglas J. Dempster notoriously (from the perspective of the Princeton school) proffered an aggressive critique of Princeton theory,25 arguing that its axiomatizations of music failed as completely replete and reducible rational reconstructions of tonal, twelve-tone, and/or atonal systems: Boretz’s reconstruction of music from Meta-Variations and John Rahn’s pedagogical system served as their examples.26 Further, Brown and Dempster argued that Carl Hempel’s deductive-nomological strategy of scientific explanation, which answers ‘explanation-seeking why questions’, as discussed by Boretz,27 could not sustain what it called the Princeton school’s ‘particularism’: its interest, as composers of individual musical works, in precisely that, the uniqueness of unique pieces of music, pieces’ importance as unique pieces over and above their participation in generalized styles, such as might interest an historical musicologist.28 While Babbitt had theorized this ‘particularism’ already, under the notion of ‘contextuality’,29 Brown and Dempster’s critique was received by the broader music-theoretical community as damning, having occurred at a critical mass whereby the figure of the composer-theorist was waning; minimalism, downtown, postmodern, and Neo-Romantic musical styles had caught the cultural imagination; and hermeneutic musicological and music-theoretical discourses, under the influence of what became known as New Musicology, were ascendant. Oddly, Brown and Dempster’s (unacknowledged) response to these currents was to kill their fathers: to argue Princeton theory, far from being not cultural enough, was in fact not scientific enough. And so ends that story, for Brown and Dempster.30

A princetonian ethics of time

7But for the Princeton school, I would like to suggest Brown and Dempster’s critique provided a moment of clarity, specifically along the lines that it brought into focus the reason for musical discourse in a kind of biographical first place, before its institutionalization. Boretz’s quasi-response to Brown and Dempster barely controls its rage, offering explicitly ethical claims in defense of the Princeton school and its discourses.31 After diagnosing the displacement of a ‘tribal-ritual experience-code’ of musical culture by ‘self-conscious meta-musical discourse’,32 Boretz states that, ‘a ‘music theory’ emergent within this subculture [of academia] will perforce be prescriptive, making claims of right thinking, right methodology, and presumptive universal intradisciplinary hegemony…. Within such an institutionalized enclosure it is not perhaps even discriminable that there might be other music-ontological commitments than its own’.33 Boretz then designates one group the ‘institutionalizers’ and another the ‘contextualizers’.34

In fact, I perceive that an ‘institutionalizer’ is likely to read a ‘contextualizer’s’ thoughts as a fascist would read an anarchist’s: the ontological assumption (social organization consists of an ordering based on relative power) implicates objectives (a program for position within that society) which automatically locks in issues of strategy, and prescribes a certain intention as to the ordering, formulation, and purpose of each proposal, analysis, observation, and thought-sequence in that text (persuasion, enforcement, appropriation of the authority of the true orthodoxy are invariant ploys; and steeltrap consistency, irrefutable authority, and ultimate universal prescriptive force and effect are inevitably being sought, or implicitly even being claimed).35

8These are damning lines of thought, for they compare institutionalized music-theoretical discourse—indeed, Princeton theory in its high-modernist moment, we might argue—and its sociality to fascism, a form of social organization we cannot countenance. They situate Boretz’s own work—and those of the authors of the turn—as anarchists and ritual-producing creators (composers) of musical being. Dramatic lines of thought, but perhaps for that reason we should attend to them. They clearly show an ethical concern on the part of Boretz, making stronger claims than Brown and Dempster’s concerns to critique and adjust music theory to become a better science. That is, in their critique, Brown and Dempster thought they had broadened the scope of music-theoretical inquiry to a scientific conception the Princeton school could not answer. Boretz, in his reply, broadens further still, opening out onto a world of actual ethical relations.36
While the primary concern for the composer-theorists of the Princeton school had always been music, clearly by 1989 a pronounced concern with ethics accompanies and perhaps eclipses this concern with musical structure and musical sound. In the language of the early Heidegger, we can read Princeton theory’s turn as from an investigation of entities to the investigation of being.37 In the initial English translation, the translators draw a distinction in which ‘ontological [ontologisch] inquiry is concerned primarily with being [Sein]; ontical [ontisch] inquiry is concerned primarily with entities and the facts about them’.38 Heidegger discusses the ways in which ontical inquiry regarding entities constitutes the specific sciences, whereas ontological inquiry—philosophy—inquires into ‘the question of the meaning of being [Sein]…’.39 Entities (Seiendes) have being, but are not identified with being. Being, we might say, is the general state or structure of existence, in which entities share: it is that which makes entities be. Ontology is the study of being; ontic, referring to individual existing entities. ‘Ontological’ studies concern being. ‘Ontical’ concerns the specific entities of the sciences: in music theory, the ‘fundamentals’ or ‘stuff’ of music: chords, melodies, rhythms. In the words of Babbitt, in Meta-Variations Boretz ‘penetrates and transcends thematic, motivic, and comparable facets of individuality to discover and uncover uniquenesses of process, internally analogous modes of progression, and means of cumulative containment which themselves yield the characteristic thematic, rhythmic, timbral, and other aspects of the surface, and which depend only minimally on communal attributes’.40 Although Babbitt here attributes to Boretz the ability to dig deeper than the ‘stuff’ of music—the ontic level—this is not the same as discussing being, the ontological, within a horizon of temporality: ‘the provisional aim is the interpretation of time as the possible horizon for any understanding whatsoever of being’.41 For that the Princeton school had to turn.42
Princeton theory, before the turn, concerns the specific science of music theory and its justification of music as an object of scientific and scholarly inquiry. After the turn it inquires into being. Indeed, there is a pronounced thematization of ontology in the Boretzian text after the turn: Boretz and Randall’s collected texts are entitled Being About Music, for example.43 As Boretz says later, ‘in music, as in everything, the disappearing moment of experience is the firmest reality’.44 In a Heideggerian context, ‘reality’ reads as a stand-in for being, which is always already on the move, in flux. ‘The meaning of being [Sein] of that being [Seienden] we call Dasein will prove to be temporality [Zeitlichkeit]’.45 If Dasein is defined as that being for whom being is continuously at issue, the problematic,46 then Boretz’s constant concern for his, music, and others’ ontological status shows just how intensely he has felt this problematic of being, of Dasein. In commenting on Boretz’s writings, Martin Scherzinger also temporalizes the problematic: ‘as it is with Heidegger, we find in Boretz the language of privileged disappearance… and the systematic inflection of being with time’.47 As Boretz has said, ‘The resources of pitch association in music are, of course, realized through time. All musical structure is thus in a fundamental sense rhythmic structure’, statements whose meanings carry renewed valence when read through the optic of Princeton theory’s turn.48 In the words of Charles Stein, Boretz’s ‘ever-widening resolution to keep the concept of ‘what music is’ an open question, is an action that has a sub-agenda (that is also perhaps a super-agenda), it seems to me, to keep the question of being open as well’.49 It is easy to read these statements into the overarching course of Boretz’s career, as Boretz moves from Meta-Variations, which we might say conceives of the being of music as a language, to ‘Language ,as a Music’,50 which conceives of language as a music, to ‘Music, as a Music’,51 which conceives of music as its own internal space, remote from language but susceptible to its influence. The being of music in relation to language, then, shifts dramatically over time, remains open, but Boretz still chases after it. Read from the perspective of Adorno’s implicit critique of Heidegger, however, Boretz, although discussing the social in a number of pieces from the 1980s especially, seems to lose the social in considering music as solely a music: for Adorno, ‘music is ideology insofar as it asserts itself as an ontological being-in-itself, beyond society’s tensions’.52
As Boretz has said, in a private communication: ‘in life, as in music, time and taking time is the indispensable resource, the real human meaning of the art and the practice in its most generic form. Taking time, taking care, taking, even, pains to get it right and to ‘get somewhere’ with it—the pragmatics of imagination, in fact’.53 This is a composerly ethics—the imaginative act, in life and music, inflected with time and care. It is also evocative of Heidegger’s notions of taking time as part of the vulgar (vulgären) conception of time, and of conscience as inflected through a temporality of care (Sorge), the latter which unites past (being already thrown into the world), present (the ecstatic character of Dasein in relation to others), and future (Dasein’s continual openness to possibilities).54 While Heidegger considers ‘taking time’ a vulgar conception of time which he is in the process of overcoming, he does discuss taking time into the reckoning of Dasein’s interpretation of being. ‘Everyday Dasein taking time initially finds time in things at hand [Zuhandenen] and objectively present [Vorhandenen] encountered within the world. It understands time thus ‘experienced’ in the horizon of the understanding of being that is closest to it, that is, as something that is itself somehow present [Vorhandenes]’.55 Presence-to-hand (Vorhandenheit) is a theoretical stance which regards objects as objects as against the experiencing subject, anterior to use or readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit).56 Although Heidegger downgrades the vulgar conception of time in relation to the primordial conception he has set out to disclose, Boretz articulates such a deeper conception of temporality as care, the self immersed in the duration of time as care, as Boretz says, ‘the indispensable resource’. As Heidegger says, ‘temporality is the primordial, ‘outside of itself’ in and for itself. Thus we call the phenomena of future, having-been, and present the ecstasies of temporality’. Further, ‘the primordial unity of the structure of care lies in temporality’.57 Care unites past, present, and future. Temporality and thus care are always intended, directed to the world and others, a caring for, ecstatic, stepping outside of one’s self. In caring for the other, I constitute my self.58 Dasein’s essential existence as being is care, and Dasein’s meaning is time.59 It is only through caring that being has being.60 As stated, after the turn Boretz especially concerns himself with ontological issues surrounding (discourse about) music, and it is in this context that he discloses a temporal, primordial ethics of care for the self as Dasein, other, world—life—and music as fundamental, ontologically creative acts.

Sounding ethics as a reciprocal motion of spacing

9For Emmanuel Levinas, who both adapts and critiques Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology, the experience of the Other is fundamentally that of a height, of a standing before a being whom I trace vertically, but whom I cannot grasp and whose own visage I cannot encounter.61 The experience of the Other is that of a visual encounter with a being who breaks my categories, leaving me in a state of aporia, humility. Understood aurally, my encounter with the Other demands attunement to that Other’s self-presentation, self-theorization.62 There is in the Levinasian text a need for a notion of proximity, of the fragility and mutual need of intimacy. In discussing Babbitt, Boretz, and the Princeton school, Martin Brody has used Hannah Arendt’s notion of togetherness to provide a rapprochement that recognizes difference and togetherness.63 I argue it is the movement of this spacing, the expansion and contraction of human relationships, which defines proximity more than sheer closeness, which can engulf. And this proximity, following Levinas, arises when we encounter an Other who demands of us a response, which is the seat of the ethical. We can use this reciprocal motion of spacing, which I borrow from Jean-Luc Nancy’s Listening, to explicate a sonic ethics of care.64 While as with people, music is always on the move, slipping away, also as with people music confronts us with a being who demands of us a willing reflection upon our own need to be in the world.65
In this way musical discourse can act as a kind of healing, an energy-work surrounding, not touching, not too closely, but closely enough to convey concern, care.66 We might, then, ask of any music we encounter: is this music that tells me how to listen to it? That is, is this music to which I listen, and therefore, not with whom I listen? I can think of musics with whom I listen. Listening to (which) implies achievement, an ability, to have overcome and attained a certain proficiency and rigor and discipline, aurally, and subsequently a certain relaxation. Listening with (whom) implies a person, a hearing with, a being with, a shared space and resonance, and a non-competitive relation of shared interest during which lives unfold, lives which have their needs met individually and can thus self-actualize, together. Listening with seems to answer a higher calling, as listeners, musicians, and thus people. Listening with does so by at first noting that listening is an ethical situation, and then subsequently answering the implicit questions of, how should we listen, for whom, and, with whom? One way to circumvent the issue might be to ask to what or with whom am I listening as I am listening? Why, that is, in either situation, is the listening directed to another? Why am I not listening to myself? What might a listening to myself in the presence of music, then, be like?67 And so perhaps the problem was never hearing structure, and perhaps not even simply listening and writing before, during, or after listening, nor perhaps even listening to which or with whom, but rather duration, temporality, time, and taking time. Which, music does. Perhaps the issue then becomes maximization, maximization of listening and writing and being and people and communication and times, but, now, of the time of duration, the rate or tempo, we might say, of events, their spacing, and the need, simply for practical purposes, to slow them, to allow them to linger and last, to think, to just take the time to think and care and, importantly, express that time.

Saying the ethical


Example 1: Opening of Boretz’s ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’

10Thus, ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’,68 a piano composition by Boretz, although serial, projects its phenomenological character on its surface, invites a concerned hearing and reading because its surface is comprised of sustained sonorities sounding longer in their lingering than the rapid articulations, the information overload, we have come to expect of post-War new music. But first, something of the backstory: Boretz published this piece in Perspectives of New Music as his contribution to the 60th birthday Festschrift for Babbitt in 1976. Babbitt, whose music had always been about ‘maximization’, about putting as much ‘music’ into a piece of music as possible, was apparently disappointed by this piece, whose minimal surface sounds of bell tolling.69 S. E. Scribner, comparing the piece to Morton Feldman’s later music, says that it seems ‘not so much [a] meditation on single phrases; more (and at the same time less) thematic development. My descriptions are perhaps rather vague, but that’s how this piece should be talked about’.70 Were we to heed this admonition, we might stay in the realm of the music-critical, of the biographical, of a withdrawal that promises not to approach too closely, and that might proceed as follows: we might notice a certain stasis, a certain strain in playing two dyads, equidistant, perfect fourths, now interval class 5s, the (second) i.c. 5 a coloration of the first (perfect fourth), sounding slightly higher, as an aftereffect of what preceded. Inversions, gesturing upward, enable me to hear anew what I had heard previously. Playing this piece, the music sounds almost as if it arises from within my fingers, lifting up out of each gesture, perhaps because a performer would best not approach the keyboard as if pushing down into the keys. In a certain sense this piece is all about piano resonance, acoustic sonority, pianistic ‘touch’, pacing, phrasing. Indeed, as with Feldman’s music, there’s a breathing to this piece, an expansion and contraction, a closeness, yet not too close, for fear of engulfment. We approach and withdraw, as sands shifting underneath us. In this sense, this piece enacts the kind of performative ethics Nancy reads out of all resonant listening. Music, and Boretz’s ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’ in particular, urges a hearing during which we meditate on our musical lives, with one another.
No bar lines, the music begins in whole notes, dotted half notes, and slightly longer durations. To me, none of the durations should sound lilting; we should never feel a meter creep into this piece. Michael Fowler invites us to ‘hear the ends of notes,/not the beginnings…’,71 a practice which again, emphasizes resonances and decays rather than precision of event onsets, such that might imply a time series. But, this music asks questions of us; through Martin Scherzinger, it asks, to what do we attend, ‘line or sonority?,/line and line?/sonority as line?/color with line?/relation in relation?’72 That is, the mutual, non-competitive question spaces imply more respect, more resonant closeness, than mastery, than ascent or descent.
We read that Boretz’s piece is ‘highly organized; complex. Requires more musicianship than technique. M-D [Moderately Difficult]’.73 An odd paring, this: complex organization, not so much technical as ‘musical’, moderately difficult. And yet, it does convey a sense of the piece: in the shadow of serialism, after the turn, after Meta-Variations and the Princeton school’s high-modernist moment. As Scherzinger says, the piece ‘is, on the one hand, seduced by the relentless disappearing act of the piano’s coded tones…. The piece back-winds to ontological basics, reckons with the intrinsic elements of the piano…’. However, ‘it should be clear that the piece, shining high on set-orientated permutational logics, does not inveigh against music construed as an established system of coded relationships as such’.74 For John Rahn, in fact, ‘it’s now all on the surface in a way, the bare chart, right in your face. It’s aggressively uncomplicated and obvious’.75 Indeed there’s something almost didactic about its permutational logic: every possible combination of its opening finger overlaps; every possible iteration and meditation on its opening dyads. What, that is, could sound more like a Chord a Nature—heard through its descent, its trailing off, its decay rather than its onsets—than Example 2? (Both staves are in treble cleff.)


Example 2: p. 19 of Boretz’s ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’


Figure 3: Pitch space showing symmetric generation around an absent D-A-flat dyad

11Alternatively, the piece opens with a B-E sonority, followed by an C-F sonority, which, taking a step further backward by looking at Figure 3, we can consider to have been generated symmetrically around an absent, mute D-A-flat dyad.76 That is, the piece never completes its chromatic, never gives us the D-A-flat dyad, so we come to expect it to unfold in pentachords rather than the typical hexachords Schoenberg, Webern, or Babbitt, for example, lead us to consider normative for what became known, by the mid-1970s, as ‘array composition’.77 Joseph Dubiel has floated the point that for the Princeton school, array composition, not total serialization, was considered the compositional way forward, by the mid-1960s, and in distinction to the Darmstadt school.78 But whereas Babbitt classically presents a kind of Bachian and Schoenbergian recursive organicism, wherein every new event refers backward and forward and in all directions, and requires multiple listenings, multiple passes through the score to learn to track the music, Boretz’s whole point with this piece seems to have been to present its array structure on its surface, to reduce its pitch vocabulary such that, as a kind of mute response to the first wave of minimalists, we could hear its structural unfoldings, its structure as gradual process. This piece certainly sounds minimal, sounds gradual.
For instance, by my reckoning this music takes two pages—the piece is unmeasured, so that like late Feldman we measure almost a-metrically, by page number—to arrive at its first hexachordal completion. That is, page 6 rounds off the first hexachord via a B-flat-E-flat dyad: (B-C-E-F-B-flat-E-flat). Learning this enables us to hear the hexachord working through the first three pages: hexachord (B-flat, B, C, E-flat, E, F), an instance of (0, 1, 2, 5, 6, 7). Listening in this way, we can hear through the surface pitch-redundancy, the surface half-steps and (0, 1, 2) trichords abounding, their transpositions at the fourth, which the opening sensitizes us to, listen through the diverse accompaniments and textures, to a kind of polyphony of pitch and pitch class content, one that both obscures a typical performativity and reinforces a complexity of listening. Yet, a listening that takes its time to unfold.


Figure 4: Chart showing pitches in near-note class position for the first 19pp.

12Figure 4 shows the pitched, registral differentiations of its symmetrical opening. Listening in this way sensitizes us to page 19, for example, shown earlier as Example 2, which we now realize sounds significant for its registral completion, absorbing into itself all the registers we have heard previously, rounding the music off in ways differentiated from its descent. Less a Chord of Nature, more a plentitudinous moment.
From a yet different vantage point, Dorota Czerner says that the music’s gestures are ‘like learning to breathe in the dark, to breathe with the ears alone’.79 Although filled with images, linguistic utterance, when we listen to Boretz’s piece, we listen ‘each time music first’.80 This is Scherzinger’s return to music-ontological basics. But in Czerner’s hearing we merge ecstatically with the music: ‘music now/being/me’.81 I am floating the idea that a slightly more distanced stance, one that respects this kind of closeness but also maintains its distance, enables a greater freedom. Breathing and friendship as the models, sometimes we see each other quite a bit, feel relatively close; sometimes we grow distant. This distance need not feel melancholic, but rather can imply a stance of mutual respect, a knowing surety that we will take time to return to one another in the future, and to return to (the) music.


1 For their correspondence in preparation for this article I am grateful to Moreno Andreatta, Benjamin Boretz, Mahir Cetiz, Joseph Dubiel, Yoshiaki Onishi, Antonia Soulez, and the anonymous reviewers.

2  For an institutional history of the Princeton school see, Aaron Girard, ‘Music Theory in the American Academy’, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 2007. The first use of this term, of which I am aware, is Joseph Kerman, ‘The Proper Study of Music’: A Response’, Perspectives of New Music 2/1 (1963): p. 151-60.

3  We can certainly critique the notion that the Princeton school was a school of scientists. Soulez (op. cit., p. 4) has done so by critiquing the implicit logical slippage from: mathematicsprecisionstructurescience. Soulez appeals to the dissertation by Andreatta (op. cit.) for her critique. Later (p. 15) Soulez agrees with Leonard Meyer, who argues the breakdown of serializing time on the basis of pitch at Princeton lead to a questioning of scientism. See, Leonard Meyer, Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Patterns and Predictions in Twentieth-Century Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967, p. 245. I am less convinced by Meyer’s critique: although the serialization of rhythm, along with array composition, was indeed one of the next frontiers for the Princeton school during the early to mid-1960s, its members did not appear to locate their scientism in this pursuit. For historicizations, see, Christoph Neidhofer, ‘Musiktheorie als exakte Wissenschaft: Milton Babbitts Modell einer ‘scientific method’ zur Formulierung musikalischer Konzepte’, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie 2/2 (2005), p. 11-19; Aaron Girard, ‘Music as a (Science as a) Liberal Art at Princeton’, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie Sonderausgabe (2010): p. 31-52; and, Stephen Peles, ‘Every Theory is a Choice’: Babbitt and the Post-War Reinvention of Music Theory’, Music Theory Spectrum 34/1 (2012): p. 22-24. See also the collection, What Kind of Theory is Music Theory? Epistemological Exercises in Music Theory and Analysis, Per F. Broman and Nora A. Engebretsen, eds. Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2007.

4  Rudolf Carnap, The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudoproblems in Philosophy, trans. by Rolf A. George. Chicago: Open Court Press, [1928] 2003.

5  For relevant discussions of the notion of qualia, see, Scott Gleason, ‘Princeton Theory’s Problematics’, PhD. dissertation, Columbia University, 2013, p. 110-113; Antonia Soulez, Au fil du motif: Autour de Wittgenstein et la musique. Sampzon: éditions Delatour France, 2012, p. 341­-380; Steven Rings, Tonality and Transformation. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 41-43; and Benjamin Hansberry, ‘What Are Scale Degree Qualia?’, Music Theory Spectrum 39/2 (2017): p. 182-199.

6  This raises the question of solipsism, which I discuss at length in Gleason, ‘Princeton Theory’s Problematic of Solipsism’, Theoria: Historical Aspects of Music Theory, vol. 22 (2015): p. 131-188.

7  In 1986 David Lewin (whom I consider to be a Princeton theorist who ultimately transcended the role), published a groundbreaking application of phenomenology to music theory. See, ‘Music Theory, Phenomenology, Modes of Perception’, in, Studies in Music with Text. New York: Oxford University Press, [1986] 2006, p. 53-108. Brian Kane and Maryam Moshaver have recently historicized this work against West Coast phenomenology (Kane), and a longer history of phenomenological investigation (Moshaver). See, Brian Kane, ‘Excavating Lewin’s ‘Phenomenology’, Music Theory Spectrum 33/1 (2011): p. 27-36; and Maryam Moshaver, ‘Telos and Temporality: Phenomenology and the Experience of Time in Lewin’s Study of Perception’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 65/1 (2012): p. 179-214. I have argued that what is important in the context of the Princeton school’s turn is that in Lewin’s text, directly before he critiques his own phenomenological model, Lewin comments on the turn of Boretz, Randall, and Barkin (p. 100-103). Lewin must come to grips with his contemporaries’ turn to expressive and experimental discourses, and improvisational music-making, to sound, in order to come to grips with an extreme limitation of his own phenomenological model: its performability. For Lewin’s mathematical relationship to Babbitt, see Moreno Andreatta, ‘Mathématiques, Musique et Philosophie dans la tradition américaine: la filiation Babbitt/Lewin’, in, A la lumière des mathématiques et à l'ombre de la philosophie. Dix ans de séminaire mamuphi, Moreno Andreatta, François Nicolas, Charles Alunni, eds. Sampzon: éditions Delatour France, 2012, p. 51-74.

8  Karlheinz Stockhausen, ‘Structure and Experiential Time’, trans. by Leo Black Die Reihe vol. 2 ([1955] 1958): p. 64, emphasis original. An Adornian reading takes place in Gianmario Borio and Hermann Danuser, eds. Im Zenit der Moderne: Die Internationalen Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt 1946-1966. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach Verlag, 1997, p. 450-458.

9  J. K. Randall, notes on ‘Die Reihe 2. Stockhausen: Structure and Experiential Time. (Analysis of passage from Webern’s SQ op. 28) (II, m. 1-18)’, b. 38, f. 7, p. 3, unpublished manuscript; J. K. Randall Collection, JPB 12-03. Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

10  By Stockhausen’s ‘metaphysics’, Randall probably means something like Stockhausen’s statement that, ‘if we realize, at the end of a piece of music—quite irrespective of how long it lasted, whether it was played fast or slowly and whether there were very many or very few notes—that we have ‘lost all sense of time’, then we have in fact been experiencing time most strongly’ (Stockhausen, op. cit., p. 65). I discuss ‘metaphysical’ language further below.

11  Clearly the mid-1960s attempts to serialize durations in the USA were of primary import here. See, e.g., Milton Babbitt, ‘Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium’, in, The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt. Stephen Peles with Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead, and Joseph N. Straus, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, [1962] 2003, p. 109-40; and J. K. Randall, Pitch-Time Correlation, Robert Morris, ed. Red Hook: Open Space, [1962] 2016; see also, Meyer (op. cit., p. 245).

12  See J. K. Randall, Compose Yourself—A Manual for the Young. In, Benjamin Boretz and J. K. Randall, Meta-Variations and Compose Yourself. Vol. 2. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1970] 1995; see also, Scott Gleason, ‘Improvising Compose Yourself’. Current Musicology, no. 95 (2013): 247-257.

13  J. K. Randall, ‘Interview with J. K. Randall’. With Dorota Czerner. Princeton, NJ. Recorded June 30. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. LDV 1723 DVD. 2011, disc 3, c. 44:39.

14  See Benjamin Boretz, ‘Music, as a Music: A Multitext in Seven Fragments’, in, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 2: 1978-2003. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1999] 2003, p. 479-91.

15  Soulez (op. cit., p. 12) sees the Princeton school as a coming to grips with the two ‘Européanités’ of Wittgenstein and Schoenberg, that is, as an attempt to regenerate the past’s law of form within the context of the university-as-institution (ibid., p. 7-8) and of forced immigration (ibid., p. 4-5 and p. 14-15). Cage’s recognition of his rupture with the musical institution of Schoenberg represents the complementary extreme (ibid., p. 8 and p. 17). I find Soulez’s work deeply compelling. Also on Schoenberg and Wittgenstein, see, James K. Wright, Schoenberg, Wittgenstein, and the Vienna Circle. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

16  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness. New York: Routledge [1921] 1961, §6.42.

17  Ibid., §6.41.

18  Ibid., §6.421.

19  Ibid., §6.522.

20  Ibid., §7.

21  Rudolf Carnap, ‘The Elimination of Metaphysics Through the Logical Analysis of Language’, in, Logical Positivism. trans. by Arthur Pap, A. J. Ayer, ed. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, [1932] 1959, p.  60-61, emphasis original.

22  Ibid., 69.

23  Benjamin Boretz, Meta-Variations: Studies in the Foundations of Musical Thought. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1969] 1995, p. 20.

24  Milton Babbitt, ‘The Structure and Function of Musical Theory’, in, The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, Stephen Peles with Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead, and Joseph N. Straus, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, [1965] 2003, p. 198.

25  Mathew Brown and Douglas J. Dempster, ‘The Scientific Image of Music Theory’, Journal of Music Theory 33/1 (1989): p. 65-106.

26  See, Boretz, (op. cit., p. 113-173); and John Rahn, ‘Logic, Set Theory, Music Theory’, in, Music Inside Out: Going Too Far in Musical Essays. Amsterdam: G&B Arts International, [1979] 2001), p. 114-120.

27  See Boretz, (op. cit., p. 54-60).

28  Jan LaRue, Guidelines for Style Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1970, must be in the background here.

29  See, for example, Milton Babbitt, Words About Music: The Madison Lectures. Stephen Dembski and Joseph N. Straus, eds. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, p. 12-13, p. 167-172, and p. 148-151. Zachary Bernstein has floated the idea of the influence of the New Criticism on Babbitt’s notion of ‘contextuality’; see, Zachary Bernstein, ‘Reconsidering Organicism in Milton Babbitt’s Music and Thought’, PhD. dissertation, City University of New York, 2015, p. 16 n 57.

30  Eventually Brown offered his own tonal system in, Matthew Brown, Explaining Tonality: Schenkerian Theory and Beyond. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2007.

31  Benjamin Boretz, ‘The Logic of What?’ In, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 2: 1978-2003. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, p. 271-80.

32  Ibid., p. 272.

33  Ibid., p. 273.

34  Ibid., p. 274.

35  Ibid., p. 274-75.

36  There is a tradition of analytic discourse about ethics, one which has distinguished between the moral, ethical, and the meta-ethical: ‘the practical thinking of the agent trying to work out his own personal problems; this is the level of moral discourse…. There is philosophic thinking about the principles, patterns, and methods of making decisions in regard to moral problems; this reflective examination of practical thinking is the level of ethical discourse. Finally, there is the study of what might be called the logic and epistemology of ethics, the consideration of some very general problems which go beyond the scope of ethical reasoning (such as the differences between ethical and nonethical judgments, the nature and relation of freedom to ethics, the comparison of empirical science and ethics): this third level is that of meta-ethical discourse’. Vernon J. Bourke History of Ethics. Vol. 2: Modern and Contemporary Ethics. Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press, 1968, p. 209-10, emphasis original.

37  I am aware of the difficulty of discussing Heidegger in the space of the Princeton school. See, for broader discussion, Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991; and Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992. For a compelling reading of Babbitt’s Judaism, see Alison Maggart, ‘Referential Play in ‘Serious’ Music: Allusions to the Past in Several of Milton Babbitt’s Works from the Late 1980s’, PhD. dissertation, University of Southern California, 2017, p. 86-141. The classic text in this connection is Martin Brody, ‘Music for the Masses’: Babbitt’s Cold War Music Theory’, The Musical Quarterly 77/2 (1993): p. 161-192.

38  Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Haper Perennial [1927] 1962, p. 31 n 3, emphasis original; see also, p. 28-35.

39  Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, Rev. ed. trans. by Joan Stambaugh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press [1927] 2010, p. xxix, emphasis original.

40  Milton Babbitt, ‘Foreward to Beyond Orpheus’, in, The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, Stephen Peles with Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead, and Joseph N. Straus, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, [1979] 2003, p. 375.

41  Heidegger ([1927] 2010), p. xxix.

42  On his Kehre, see Martin Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’. In, Pathmarks. William McNeill, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1946] 1998; and Martin Heidegger, ‘On Time and Being’, in, On Time and Being, trans. by Joan Stambaugh. New York: Harper Torchbooks [1969] 1972.

43  J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. 2 vols. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, 2003.

44  Benjamin Boretz, ‘Relevance. Liberation. (Interface Part IV)’, in, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 2: 1978-2003. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1987] 2003, p. 241.

45  Heidegger [1927] 2010, §5, emphasis original.

46  Ibid., ¶79; Frank Schalow and Alfred Denker, Historical Dictionary of Heidegger’s Philosophy. 2nd Edition. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, 2010, s.v. being-there.

47  Martin Scherzinger, ‘Heideggerian Thought in the Early Music of Paul Hindemith (With a Foreward to Benjamin Boretz)’, Perspectives of New Music 43/2-44/1 (2005-2006): p. 83.

48  Benjamin Boretz, ‘Babbitt, Milton’, in, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 1: 1960-1978. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1974] 2003, p. 325.

49  Charles Stein, ‘Heidegger without Heidegger: The Musical Thinking of Benjamin Boretz’. Perspectives of New Music 43/2-44/1 (2005-2006): p. 126, emphasis original.

50  Benjamin Boretz, ‘Language ,as a Music: Six Marginal Pretexts for Composition’, in, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 2: 1978-2003. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1978] 2003, p. 1-85.

51  Benjamin Boretz, Music, as a Music: A Multitext in Seven Fragments’, in, J. K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz, Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003. Vol. 2: 1978-2003. Red Hook, NY: Open Space, [1999] 2003, p. 479-91.

52  Theodor W. Adorno Philosophy of New Music Trans. by Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press [1949] 2006, p. 100; see also, Martin Scherzinger, ‘Feminine/Feminist? In Quest of Names with No Experiences (Yet)’, in, Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, Joseph Auner and Judith Lochhead, eds. New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 141-76.

53  I have secured Boretz’s permission to reprint these thoughts here.

54  Heidegger [1927] 2010, §79; Magda King, A Guide to Heidegger’s Being and Time, John Llewelyn, ed. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001, p. 36-7.

55  Heidegger [1927] 2010, §78.

56  Schalow and Denker (op. cit., s.v. presence-at-hand, readiness-to-hand).

57  Heidegger [1927] 2010, §65, emphasis original.

58  Ibid., §64.

59  Schalow and Denker (op. cit.), s.v. time; King (op. cit.), p. 36.

60  King (op. cit.), p. 97.

61  Portions of this paragraph reprint portions of Scott Gleason, ‘Review: Music and Ethical Responsibility. Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 72/3: p. 546-547.

62  See, Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press [1961] 1969, p. 37-38, p. 50-51, p. 194-197, and p. 216-217; and, Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being: Or, Beyond Essence, trans. by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press [1974] 1981, p. 9-12, and p. 89-93.

63  See, Martin Brody, ‘Togetherness’, Perspectives of New Music 43/2-44/1 (2005-2006): p. 425-33; see also, Stephen Dembski, ‘…alone. Together’., Music Theory Spectrum 34/1 (2012): p. 7-8.

64  Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, trans. by Charlotte Mandell. New York: Fordham University Press, [2002] 2007.

65  For Princeton composer Rahn, pieces of music are almost people; we should thus approach pieces as we would colleagues or friends. See John Rahn, ‘Introduction: The Aesthetics of Perspectives’, in, Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company 1994, p. 1-4.

66  Portions of this paragraph reprint portions of Scott Gleason, ‘A Group of Listenings’ The Open Space Magazine, nos. 19-20 (2016): p. 222-242.

67  Jann Pasler has discussed Boretz’s notion of ‘question-spaces’, which she feels are more important—tell us more about the questioner—than answers. See, Jann Pasler, ‘Boretzian Discourse and History’, Perspectives of New Music 43-44/2-1 (2005-2006): p. 182-184.

68  Boretz, ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’, Perspectives of New Music 14-15/2-1: p. 337-423. See also the recordings available on Open Space compact discs: Benjamin Boretz, ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’, Open Space CD 1, Sarah Rotherberg, piano; Benjamin Boretz, ‘(‘…my chart shines where the blue milks upset…’)’, Open Space CD 18, Michael Fowler, piano.

69  Bell-tolling in the new music puts us in mind of James Tenney’s notion of the clang, which is both the fundamental unit of music and resonant with bell tolling; see James Tenney, ‘Meta + Hodos: A Phenomenology of Twentieth-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form’, in, From Scratch: Writings in Music Theory Larry Polansky, Lauren Pratt, Robert Wannamaker, and Michael Winter, eds. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, [1961] 2015, p. 33ff.; and Schoenberg’s Klangfarbenmelodie-as-bells, as discussed by Alfred Cramer; see, ‘Schoenberg’s Klangfarbenmelodie: A Principle of Early Atonal Harmony’, Music Theory Spectrum 24/1 (2002): p. 1-34.

70  S. E. Scribner, blog post on Saturday, June 12, 2010: http://stormsoundcycle.blogspot.com/2010/06/concert-review-piano-recital-by-keith.html (Accessed 9 August 2017.)

71  Michael Fowler, ‘Hearing through Chart: A Second Listening’, The Open Space Magazine nos. 19-20 (2016): p. 274.

72  Martin Scherzinger, ‘Piano, Ontological Object: On (‘my chart shines high where the blue milk’s upset…’) by Benjamin Boretz’, The Open Space Magazine nos. 19-20 (2016): p. 277.

73  Maurice Hinson and Wesley Roberts, Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire. 2014. 4th Edition. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, p. 164.

74  Scherzinger, op. cit. p. 279.

75  John Rahn, ‘Blue Chart: ‘(‘my chart shines high where the blue milk’s upset…’)’, The Open Space Magazine nos. 19-20 (2016): p. 282-283.

76  Boretz, in a personal communication, shared some of this information (and much more) with me. The diagram and discussion are mine.

77  Maggart (op. cit., p. 404-406) provides a helpful glossary of technical terms which, going forward, should serve as an introduction to Babbitt’s (and Princeton’s) serial practice. Elsewhere, texts by Joseph Dubiel and Andrew Mead start as introductions that quickly become explorations; see, Joseph Dubiel, ‘Three Essays on Milton Babbitt (I)’, Perspectives of New Music 28/2 (1990): p. 216-261; and Andrew Mead, An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

78  Dubiel (op. cit., p. 219); see also, Boretz ([1974] 2003), p. 325-327. Joseph N. Straus calls the general assumption that total or integral serialism was the crest of the research agenda in the USA as it had been in Darmstadt ‘The Myth of Integral Serialism’; see, Joseph N. Straus, Twelve-Tone Music in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 196-198; see also p. 47-52 for an approachable array analysis of Babbitt’s Danci.

79  Dorota Czerner, 2005-2006, ‘A Poem Playing ‘Chart’, Perspectives of New Music 43-44/2-1: p. 70.

80  Ibid., p. 71.

81  Ibid., p. 72.


Scott Gleason, «Musical subjectivity from sayable structure to sounding ethics in the Princeton school», Filigrane. Musique, esthétique, sciences, société. [En ligne], Numéros de la revue, L'éthique de la musique et du son, Perspectives historiques et analytiques, mis à  jour le : 21/03/2019, URL : https://revues.mshparisnord.fr:443/filigrane/index.php?id=889.


Quelques mots à propos de :  Scott Gleason

Scott Gleason was awarded the PhD by Columbia University, where he teaches music theory. He has also taught at Fordham and New York universities, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He edits for Perspectives of New Music, The Open Space Magazine, Grove Music Online/Oxford University Press, and formerly for Current Musicology. His writings appear in those publications and in Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Philosophy and the Public Realm, Tacet: Experimental Music Review, and Theoria: Historical Aspects of Music Theory. His research interests include the history of music theory, music and philosophy, and phenomenological and experimental analyses of new music.