Babbitt and Musical Perception

•    Babbitt correlated way in which listeners perceive music with the four categories of perception offered by S. S. Stevens; categories represented as scales:

Is or is not
Texture, density, instrumentation
More/less, louder/softer, etc.
Above/below, by how much (additive)
Relative measurement

•    John Melby feels attempts to organize these parameters is fruitless unless these aspects highlight similarities in other elements, as when dynamics are used to highlight time points

•    John Melby’s main consideration when discussing formalized procedures to organize a work relate to question of perception; specificies 3 ares of concern:

1) ability of “informed listener” to hear certain relationships

2) need for composer to understand those abilities

3) erroneous presumptions made by some (acousticians and music critics) about what is actually necessary for a listener to hear
•    composers must determine what they want people to hear; must realize what people can actually hear; there are underlying relationships and consistency of internal ordering that one can perceive at a subconscious level

•    Babbitt questioned validity of music systems in which all parameters are organized according to the same procedure

•    Babbitt felt correspondence between various musical properties in a composition based upon a universal organization could not be perceived, even subconsciously (a la Schoenberg); felt processes for similarly ordering these various musical properties were incompatable in themselves

•    Babbitt had no desire to re-invent musical properties that had no perceptable, structurally significant role in his 12-tone system