Author: Lelia Loban ★2017
Date: 2005-07-16 12:19
Tony, I think I do understand what you mean (as I notice in passing that I wrote "dominant" above when I meant "tonic"...duh...), and sorry about muddying the waters, but -- oh, wait a minute, I'm not sorry! Really not doing this just to annoy you, but, more mud: I think that some phrases *are* ending-oriented in the sense that you define the term and that many composers deliberately play ending-oriented games to focus the listener's attention. In such music, whether we're passively listening or actively playing, I think we listen for the place where the slur stops, or for the dramatic punctuation point that often follows a series of slurred phrases (a staccato note or series of staccatos, a sforzando, a dramatic diminuendo with a soft "bump" at the end, etc.), in order to orient ourselves. We're invited to stop and look around (listen around) to find out where we are.
Aside from the "Harry Potter" example, where the ending of the slurred arpeggio is also the ending of the music (probably not the best example, for that reason), I'm thinking of operas and musicals in which a group of people sing at cross-purposes. How is it that we can sort out who's saying what? We're listening for the declarations and we can recognize them because those phrases have the quality of ending.
Charles Ives took that type of phrasing even farther in all-instrumental scores, when he sent different groups of instruments meandering off into completely different but simultaneous melodies. I'm pretty well convinced that a listener can't make sense of that thickly-layered, heavily dissonant music except by hearing it as ending-oriented. Otherwise, it's just too frustrating. We're beginning five things at once -- five horses tied to our arms, legs and head, and galloping off in five directions. Somehow we've got to shuck off the tethers, scramble onto one of those horses, ride that one and just watch the other ones go, instead of getting pulled apart. (Okay, that's an atrocious metaphor, I admit it, but I can't think of a better one right now.)
Even the Baroque composers sometimes played with the listener's strong attraction to endings: Bach, especially in his organ music, winds out some of his harmonic progressions to the point where they're nearly unbearable and then reels them back in, sometimes so suddenly and cleverly that the first time I played or tried to play them, I started laughing just from the surprise (several places in Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, for instance--too difficult for me, and I butcher it, but who can resist it?).
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.