Enchanted Neurons : The Brain and Music
137 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Découvre YouScribe en t'inscrivant gratuitement

Je m'inscris

Enchanted Neurons : The Brain and Music , livre ebook

Découvre YouScribe en t'inscrivant gratuitement

Je m'inscris
Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus
137 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus


What happens in the mind of the creator, the composer, when he creates, is still unknown. It is this “mystery” that this book aims to shed light on. Does artistic creation involve specific intellectual and biological processes? Can we get as close as possible to its mechanism to understand how a composer, a musician, a conductor, chooses to put together this and that note, to make this and that rhythm succeed one another, to bring out something new, to produce beauty, to arouse emotion? Is it possible to understand what happens in the composer’s brain when he writes Le Sacre du printemps or Le Marteau sans maître ? Trying to build a neuroscience of art is the challenge of this book, which is the result of a debate between Jean-Pierre Changeux, the neurobiologist, who made the brain the main focus of his research, and Pierre Boulez, the composer, for whom the theoretical questions related to his art, music, have always been essential. A deeply new book. An intellectual event. Conductor, composer, founder of Ircam, Pierre Boulez is one of the greatest creators of the 20th century. Also a music theorist, he held the “Invention, Technique and Language” chair at the Collège de France for nearly twenty years. Honorary professor at the Collège de France, member of the Academy of Sciences, Jean-Pierre Changeux is one of the greatest contemporary neurobiologists. Philippe Manoury is a composer and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. 



Publié par
Date de parution 21 janvier 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9782738152503
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0750€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Pierre Boulez, a thrilling conductor and avant-garde composer (The Hammer without a master), was the founder of France’s renowned Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics and Music (IRCAM). He is recognized as a leading twentieth-century creator and a foremost thinker in the musical domain. From 1976 to 1995, he held the chair of ‘Invention, Technique and Language’ at the Collège de France.
Jean-Pierre Changeux, a neurobiologist and a member of the French Academy of Sciences, is an honorary professor both at the Collège de France and at the Institut Pasteur. He is the author of such highly successful works as Du vrai, du beau, du bien, Matière à pensée, La Nature et la Règle and L’Homme de vérité , all published by Editions Odile Jacob.
Philippe Manoury, their interlocutor in the conversation, was named composer of the year, in 2012, for La Nuit de Gutenberg .
Originally published in French as Les Neurones enchantés, le cerveau et la musique by Pierre Boulez, Jean-Pierre Changeux, Philippe Manoury © Editions Odile Jacob, 2014.
The present English-language edition is published by Editions Odile Jacob.
© Odile Jacob, January 2020.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever without written permission of the publisher. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
www.odilejacob.com www.odilejacobpublishing.com
ISBN : 978-2-7381-5250-3
This digital document has been produced by Nord Compo .
Nobody knows what goes on in the head of the creator–the composer–as he is creating. It is a mystery, and one that this book seeks to elucidate.
What mechanisms come into play in creating a work, in generating something new, in producing something of beauty, in arousing emotion?
Is artistic creation a product of specific intellectual and biological processes? Is it possible to get closer to the underlying mechanisms to understand how a composer or musician or orchestra conductor chooses to combine this or that note, or to follow this rhythm with that one?
To what extent have recent and spectacular advances in our knowledge of the workings of the brain enhanced our understanding of something as complex as the process of creation?
Is it even possible to understand what is going on in the brain of the composer when he is writing The Rite of Spring or Le Marteau sans maître ?
What is the connection between beauty and the extraordinarily complex machine that is the human brain?
How are the elementary building blocks of the brain – molecules, neurons, and synapses – related to mental activities as complex as musical creation and the perception of beauty?
Some of the questions touched on in this book – What is music? What is a work of art? What mechanisms underpin the creation of a work of art? What is beauty? – represent a fresh approach to constructing a neuroscience of art.
Such is the nature of the conversations that follow between neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, whose research has been dedicated to the study of the brain, and composer Pierre Boulez, for whom theoretical questions linked to his art – which is music – were always essential, joined by the composer Philippe Manoury, who contributed his own personal insights.
Odile Jacob
What is music?

Music and pleasure
Jean-Pierre Changeux: I’ll start with a classic definition of music from the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert : “Music is the science of sounds, as they are capable of pleasantly affecting the ear, or the art of arranging and managing sounds in such a way that from their consonance, from their order, and from their relative durations, pleasant sensations are produced.” 1 How does that definition strike you? The author, by the way, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Pierre Boulez: It’s the standard eighteenth-century French definition, and I don’t like it at all. It reeks of sentimental hedonism. If you put it to Jean-Sebastian Bach, he’d probably have a good laugh despite the overlap in time. You could say more simply that music is the art of selecting sounds and relating them to each other. Except that by saying that, you haven’t defined music; you’ve described a particular type of artisanal activity. Still, it does allow you to create contrasting points of view: “this sound is musical,” “that sound is noise,” “this combination of sounds is chaotic,” “that combination of sounds is melodic.” The culture in which we are immersed plays a key role in our aesthetic judgments and our artistic sensibilities. Moreover, the same question pops up in other artistic endeavors. Is an installation art, or is it just a more or less sophisticated decoration of a space, like a department store window?
J.-P.C. : I think I see what you’re getting at, but could you elaborate?
P.B. : Think a bit about Rousseau’s definition of music. In Bach’s writing, there really is something other than the pleasure of the sonorities. Of course, this pleasure is certainly sometimes present in diatonic chorales, without tension or distortion, and where the continuous flow dominates. But Bach composed much more dramatic chorales where you find distortions due to chromatisms. And what was it he wanted to do in the Art of Fugue ? Hard to say. No doubt he wanted to prove his virtuosity before he died. But here I mean rather virtuosic writing or thinking as opposed to merely virtuosic description or characterization. It’s still hard to say, “Yes, the Art of Fugue pleasantly affects the ear.” If it didn’t pleasantly affect the ear, it wouldn’t be considered a masterpiece among masterpieces!
Philippe Manoury: It’s not even certain that the Art of Fugue does affect the ear pleasantly. At the end of the day, the succession of canons and fugues isn’t all that pleasant. Moreover, perhaps the work wasn’t even composed to be heard uninterrupted, in its entirety.
P.B. : The work was created to be “read” chapter by chapter, but separately (that’s an assumption on my part, as Bach himself wrote nothing about it). Those who have tried to finish his last great fugue have piled up subjects and counter-subjects without managing to add any real value to it. That increases the virtuosity, but not the meaning. The question is just as complex with the Musical Offering, although there we are closer to reality since Bach wrote this set of pieces for three instruments. They are real pieces, so to speak, whereas the Art of Fugue is…unreal! It’s a work written not to be played but to be read. Is the pleasure in the listening, or is it purely intellectual? I’m not so sure. What drove Bach to conceive it? Certainly not Frederick II. Incidentally, Frederick never even reacted to Bach’s Musical Offering, which suggests that he didn’t find it very interesting.
As you see, the Art of Fugue is a work I find problematic, even more so than Beethoven’s late quartets, where you sense that he’s fighting with the material, with the theme, with the instruments. Indeed, there Beethoven is fighting with everything. But it’s a real fight. Whereas the Art of Fugue is perfectly controlled. But to what end?
J.-P.C. : Does any other work in the history of music pose issues similar to ones you mention with respect to the Art of Fugue ?
P.B. : No. I cannot think of anything that is even remotely similar.
P.M. : Not even in the twentieth century? I’m thinking about works that are comparably abstract.
P.B. : Webern’s Variations for Piano seems to me to come closest, in the way that Mondrian approaches pure geometry. But even with Webern there are twists and turns. And of course the form, despite everything, remains classical.
P.M. : The border is often blurred between what is judged to be music and what is considered not to be music. Berlioz’s comments on what he had heard of Chinese music at the London World’s Fair in 1851, for example, leave one wondering. He found their songs atrocious, compared them to the yawning of dogs and the screeching of skinned cats, while describing their musical instruments as veritable instruments of torture. Debussy, on the other hand, was quick to note – quite provocatively – that “Javanese music obeys laws of counterpoint which make Palestrina seem like child’s play. And if one listens to it without being prejudiced by one’s European ears, one will find a percussive charm that forces one to admit that our own music is not much more than a barbarous noise more fit for a traveling circus.” 2 On that point at least he was absolutely right. Pierre Boulez, surely you remember that the vocalization of Japanese Nō was perceived by Europeans as a series of ugly, disagreeable, and above all nonmusical screeching s .
P.B. : I heard French actors in Jean-Louis Barrault’s theater company make these kinds of remarks. When they imitated Japanese actors, it was only to caricature them. They did not understand the dramatic meaning of Nō for the simple reason that they did not know the codes. In the same vein, it is conceivable that Arabic singers might find the vocal virtuosity of Nō actors totally inept.
J.-P.C. : So you’re saying that the Encyclopedia ’s definition of music refers more to musical entertainment.
P.B. : Not quite. Even in Rameau there is a lot of light music that isn’t all that pleasant. That’s what is not so good about him. His recitatives are much more dramatic and far more interesting, as are his pieces for harpsichord. I once spent a little time going through the music of the era because I was interested in knowing how it worked. But I must say that I got bored very quickly. There’s a whole side of seventeenth-century French instrumental music that is exasperating. You find exceptions, of course, but in general they are small descriptive piece

  • Univers Univers
  • Ebooks Ebooks
  • Livres audio Livres audio
  • Presse Presse
  • Podcasts Podcasts
  • BD BD
  • Documents Documents