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Foundations of Musical Grammar by Lawrence Zbikowski

Foundations of Musical Grammar by Lawrence Zbikowski Lawrence Zbikowski Foundations of Musical Grammar Oxford University Press, 2017: 272 pp. ($44.95 cloth) Janet Bourne Imagine that a composition teacher assigns the following homework: com- pose a piece that mimics the sound of a hummingbird in flight. Before the students turn in their compositions, she discovers a piece for guitar solo by Julio Salvador Sagreras called “El colibri, imitación al vuelo del picaflor” (“The Hummingbird, Imitation of the Flight of the Hummingbird”). This piece includes many of the musical features she assumed her students would include in their compositions. It capitalizes on rapid sixteenth notes and chromatic f lourishes—gestures that “sound” like a hummingbird. The quo- tation marks used for “sound” here are important since a guitar cannot truly imitate a bird’s avocal buzzing. If that is the case, however, then why do these musical gestures sound so intuitively like a hummingbird in f light? Lawrence Zbikowski’s book Foundations of Musical Grammar offers a cognitive explana- tion for how we perceive music representing actions, or dynamic processes, such as a f lying hummingbird. Zbikowski’s approach resonates with David Temperley’s (1999: 68) “descriptive” music theory, by which theorists describe “listeners’ unconscious mental representations of music” and explain why certain http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Music Theory Duke University Press

Foundations of Musical Grammar by Lawrence Zbikowski

Journal of Music Theory , Volume 63 (2) – Oct 1, 2019

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Copyright
© 2019 by Yale University
ISSN
0022-2909
eISSN
1941-7497
DOI
10.1215/00222909-7795212
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Lawrence Zbikowski Foundations of Musical Grammar Oxford University Press, 2017: 272 pp. ($44.95 cloth) Janet Bourne Imagine that a composition teacher assigns the following homework: com- pose a piece that mimics the sound of a hummingbird in flight. Before the students turn in their compositions, she discovers a piece for guitar solo by Julio Salvador Sagreras called “El colibri, imitación al vuelo del picaflor” (“The Hummingbird, Imitation of the Flight of the Hummingbird”). This piece includes many of the musical features she assumed her students would include in their compositions. It capitalizes on rapid sixteenth notes and chromatic f lourishes—gestures that “sound” like a hummingbird. The quo- tation marks used for “sound” here are important since a guitar cannot truly imitate a bird’s avocal buzzing. If that is the case, however, then why do these musical gestures sound so intuitively like a hummingbird in f light? Lawrence Zbikowski’s book Foundations of Musical Grammar offers a cognitive explana- tion for how we perceive music representing actions, or dynamic processes, such as a f lying hummingbird. Zbikowski’s approach resonates with David Temperley’s (1999: 68) “descriptive” music theory, by which theorists describe “listeners’ unconscious mental representations of music” and explain why certain

Journal

Journal of Music TheoryDuke University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2019

References