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Musical discourse-

freedom of musical speech

The Hues formed as a band during an exercise for improvisation on a residency of Applied Music, UHI. In the making and formation of this recording, I tried to explain my desire to 'talk' to each other musically, with the freedom of musical speech. Each one of us came from a different genre of music.  I suggested to try a polyphonic improvisation on the blues scale, or to engage in dynamic schemes, such as 'question and answer'. However, my suggestions caused confusion and were not accepted. Eventually we decided that each one of us should take a lead in turns, following chord progressions again... On the recording you hear Charlie's lead first, then Eilidh's. 

In my opinion musical discourse is often missing. I mean the spontaneous discourse between two or more musicians. Most of them hold on to some formal structure such as chord progressions, notation or melody. Compare it to speech. Imagine, you wanted to talk to somebody, and the person can only read from a book, or always follows the same pattern of thought and doesn't answer your questions. I have musical opinions and questions, I would like to talk. I don't even know If would be able to speak fluently in music, because I haven't spoken for so long, and if, then to myself on the piano. Every Sunday, I meet with other musicians and together we read classical works. I love doing it, but I don't learn speaking free. On Thursdays, I sometimes join the traditional speakers of music in the pub, but I still struggle with the language, which comes in so many songs and tunes.

In my expressionless despair, I wrote a constitution. 

Constitution for a Democratic Orchestra

An ensemble has three role-positions: the audience, the conductor and the composer



§1 The Right to Silence

 Only the conductor has the right to silence. The conductor may request silence from any member at any time. Counting is a rhythmic perpetuation of the right to silence.


§2 Freedom of Speech

a) In the democratic orchestra all members are composers.

b) The composer has the freedom of musical speech (unless being silenced by the conductor).


§3 The Right to Listen

Every listener has the right to play as every player has the right to listen.

a)    Every member may assume any of the three role-positions (conductor, composer and           audience).

  • The role of the conductor is arrived by vote or nomination.

  • The positions of composer and audience are assumed by individual choice at any given time.

b)  All listeners are immediate members of the orchestra.

Democracy in music

If music is a language, all members of a conversation should be included. An audience however, is excluded from participation. Who decides what is being played by whom, and who has to be silent? A conductor, perhaps?.

I would like to investigate forms of musical performance in regard of democratic inclusion. If nobody listens and all are speaking, chaos may occur. If all are listening to one person, a clear phrase will be heard. When the listener is not excluded from participation, then between listener and performer lies a very democratic process of finding agreements of harmony. Who will listen to whom and why?

I believe that harmonic agreements in musical discourses lie at the heart of democracy. The twelve semitones within an octave relate to each other in a way that each is different from the other, but some harmonise in intervals, while others are perceived as dissonant. Harmony is derived by tension and movement, not through a majority vote.

The rule of law

In fact, the legal basis of cultural democracy already exists. It is underpinned by the UK’s treaty obligations. Article 27 of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural

life of the community, and to enjoy the arts’(Holden, 2008).

Holden, J. (2008). Culture opening up the arts for everyone. London: Demos.

The Hues (2018). Collaboration of Charlie Houston, Eilidh Grant, Felix Saunders, Uta Korner for Applied Music, UHI

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