Music, Games, and Musts

I’ve been listening to this introductory class on music from Yale via iTunes U as a kind of venture into a world I barely understand (sad, since I did play the piano for a while as a kid). So obviously there are all these formal properties ascribed to (Western) music, minors and majors, tonic and dominant notes, and so on and so on.

Today the guy was talking about how the nature of tonic. Particularly the quality that the dominant note “wants to” go into the tonic. And more generally that any given piece of music “must” return to the tonic at the end, in order to be resolved. The degree to which this was all a certainty about music – not so much “good” music, but proper music, or something – interested and concerned me. The idea of fundamental properties or qualities always troubles me.

Obviously I ended up wondering about the parallels to games. Do we have minor and major games? Do we have the equivalent of a tonic note, the notion of a dominant that wants to flow into the tonic? The need to end on this metaphorical tonic note? What would all that mean? I kind of feel like we do have this built up sense of how game must to be, and I guess that leads me to two questions. First, is the whole idea of these “musts” in music’s formal qualities actually totally artificial and therefore not as much a matter of concern in terms of broadening the medium? Second, if those formal qualities are somehow fundamental to music, then are there similar qualities of games? How would we know?

That’s it. Bear in mind this is just from idly listening to an undergraduate music lecture!

25 January 2012
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