Thursday, December 29, 2011


The German word fortspinnung refers to musical passages where there is a sense of forward direction of, as the translation goes, "spinning out". This is an effect I am often searching for when I compose, but it is one that many composers and songwriters these days seem to want to avoid. For example, a while back in this post, I mentioned that in Paul Simon's recent song "So Beautiful So What" he avoids any movement to a different harmony, relying solely on rhythmic activity for a sense of motion. Steve Reich as well, has made a specialty of relying more on rhythmic activity than harmonic activity for a sense of motion. So, movement is out (at least harmonic movement) while static is in. Why is that?

Perhaps it is out of fear of sounding like the music of the past, where fortspinnung was essential in musical structure. I'm not sure why fear of sounding like Bach or Beethoven would be so overwhelming, but perhaps that has to do with one of the precepts of modernism, that you have to come up with something new all the time--art as fashion show.

But that doesn't bother me too much. I couldn't sound like Bach if I tried! On the other hand, I really like the sensation of movement, of harmonic process.