chapter  4
14 Pages

Musical Gestures and Musical Forces: Evidence from Music-Theoretical Misunderstandings

WithSteve Larson

This chapter argues that some theorists misunderstand musical forces in ways that are analogous to the ways in which people misunderstand physical forces. These misunderstandings become a part of the converging evidence in support of theory that music is shaped by analogues of physical forces. Computer models of melodic expectation rely on an algorithm that quantifies the interaction of musical forces and gives higher ratings to melodic completions that were produced more often by participants in several different experiments. According to the theory of musical forces, L. B. Meyer’s statements mistakenly conflate some musical tendencies the inertial tendency of a pattern to continue, and the magnetic tendency of a motion towards a goal. Plenty of musical passages seem to work in the way Meyer describes. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ illustrates how inertia continues beyond points of stability in gestures that may be regarded as elided patterns shaped by musical forces.