5/13/08

Bad Metaphors Are Bad

Lawrence A. Johnson of the Miami Herald has a nice piece about the state of orchestras in America. It seems that the Concert Association's new director's bottom-line philosophy is causing the subscribers some consternation.

This is a huge problem. The state of concert attendance, coupled with the state of the economy, is causing orchestras (and, evidently, numerous newspapers' arts sections) financial difficulties.

However, bad metaphors are still not allowed.

Concert Association moves worry ticket subscribers

I bet they do!

Ten days ago, London's Philharmonia Orchestra roared out the end of Mahler's Symphony No. 1, closing the Concert Association of Florida's season on a resoundingly successful note.

Ah, the music season ended on a note. Classic. Pedantic, perhaps, but classic. And apt! Carry on...

But there are minor-key discords on the horizon.

But...What? No. Because, see...

Discords. Minor keys. Both of these things (more concepts than things, really) have...some connotations of sadness, negativity, and the like. But in trying to extend your musical analogy, you have failed. Choosing either minor keys or dissonance to make your point would have been...adequate.

Dissonance is the same in minor and major keys.

Dissonances require resolution (in tonal music). Regardless of the key.

Minor keys have a (completely societal) extra-musical connotation of sadness, gravity, and so forth.

"Minor-key" (why the hyphen?) "dissonances" is just nonsense. Nonsense? Nonsense!

16 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

And if anyone wants to make an argument about the difference between half- and fully-diminished vii chords, I'm your boy: bring it.

Empiricus said...

Nonsense? Nonsense!

Gustav said...

This is my biggest complaint about music criticism...they don't actually know what these terms mean. So-called experts on music misuse words like "dissonance" and "tonality" more often than get them right. And the result is the nearly unreadable nature of most musical commentary.

...5 posts in about 2 hours?!? Space them out a little bit boys. Detritus posts are like a fine red wine, they need time to breath.

Sator Arepo said...

Yeah, sorry, we'd been dormant for a few days. Lots of pent-up posting to evacuate.

"Time to breath"?

Gustav said...

time to breathe = time for discussion [sorry about the dropped 'e']

Anyways, like red wine, I enjoy a good (properly aerated and decanted) Detritus post. Actually, I was just reading an article on letting red wine breathe in which they suggested that some varieties (like Cabernet Sauvignon) require over an hour to be properly aerated...I thought that was interesting since I think most people don't give more than a few minutes.

Empiricus said...

Today happens to be my wedding anniversary and Mrs. Empiricus and I stored up a bottle of ridiculously awesome Brunello di Montalcino (that we got on our last trip to Italy) just for the occasion. The shop keeper who sold us the bottle (he also owned his own winery) told us that we needed to let it breathe for at least three hours. Which is certainly a long time, Bernard Holland is leaving! Yeah!

Murderface said...

...*cough*...metaphor, not simile...*cough*...

TTPFA: Two-Timing Party Farters' Association

Sator Arepo said...

Aw, fuck. [edits blog]

Empiricus said...

Not to worry SA. Someone found us by Googling:

"metaphors i am as confused as a"

You're in good company. Just kidding.

Gustav said...

Happy Anniversary, Empiricus. All the best to you and your wife. Happy drinking as well...sounds like you're both in for a nice treat.

Scott said...

First, happy anniversary. Second, I have to disagree with your complaint. The critic didn't use the term "dissonance," he used "discord." And in this case discord refers to nonmusical matters, which have been colored by the metaphoric minor keys. Discord can be angry, violent, sad, tragic, etc. By saying that these discords are to be harmonized in a minor key, that evokes in me a feeling of dismay or sadness, rather than violence. Thus I believe that discord is not being used as a synonym for "dissonance" but is used in the more generic emotional sense. I do agree that the hyphen is misplaced.

Third, enjoy your wine!

Aaron said...

And if anyone wants to make an argument about the difference between half- and fully-diminished vii chords, I'm your boy: bring it.

I don't know about making an argument, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the difference.

Marc Geelhoed said...

"Minor-key discords" includes a hyphen because "minor-key" is a compound adjective modifying "discords."

Gustav said...

Dimished 7th chords

The differences: different notes, differnt interval content, and yes, they can function in exactly the same way, but also in different ways.

I guess I don't follow the question.

One of the main differences is that the half-dimished 7th chord is just a chord (diatonic to the major mode). However, the fully-dimished 7th is more than just a chord (diatonic to the minor mode), it's also a mode of limited transposition. There is a half-dimished chord unique to every key, while there are only 4 fully-diminished 7th chords total.

Gustav said...

Oops. Make that only 3 total fully-dimished 7th chords. But the point still stands.

Sator Arepo said...

Okay.

Scott, if you take "discord" in a more metaphoric sense, I agree. However, it seems clear that the music analogy is being extended from the previous paragraph. If I'm being overly critical, then I am wrong. So be it.

Marc, I fully understand your point. Sometimes, though, common constructions (ie "minor key") can stand alone without hyphens, no? Maybe it just looked weird to me.

Thanks for the discussion, everyone.