Of Terms I Use Perhaps Differently Than Others Do

by Christopher Fulkerson

Unusual Aerial Phenomenon Over San Francisco Bay
Photograph by Christopher Fulkerson
Copyright 1999 by Christopher Fulkerson
All Rights Reserved

I have begun this Glossary as an aid to those who would like some clarification about how I use certain terms. I would be most grateful to learn whether these explanations are helpful or not; whether there are points that still need clarification; or whether there are other words I could add here.

For me, "Form" has a lot to do with dramatic shape, and a shape as it is intuitively perceived, regardless of how this shape is achieved. So my use of the word "form" is both more and less sophisticated than it is usually understood in music.

Usually, "form" in music means the succession of events, and repetitions if there are any; these are usually spoken of entirely in terms of the most important parameter in music, which is pitch; and this is how I use this word when talking about music of the past. So if I am speaking about Sonata Form in tonal music you shouldn't be confused by what I say (unless Sonata Form is new to you). However, with regard to my own music, "form" is ANY shape that is perceived in a piece. The metrical plans that I often make are the "forms" of the piece the way a vase is the "form" of the fluid poured into it. Certain aspects of my music are more rigorously planned than many other composers plan. Different fluids may be poured, that is, different musical ideas may be applied in the plans, and these will change the compositional process, and hence other aspects of the "form." In my music, "timing," in the dramatic sense of the word, is very important, and is one of the more important ways I create and control the form. But since this attempted "dramatic timing" is created through planning that is rhythmic in nature, my usage of the word, when discussing my own, or ideal aspects of form, has a greater rhthmic component than it seems to have for most other composers.

I use the term "simultaneity" to mean "simultaneous occurrences of different musical ideas that are each part of their own strata of behavior and occurrence." There is A, and there is B; each has its own idea and schedule. A+B is a "simultaneity." For example, at the beginning of MOYS ICOS, there are actually two things going on, which seem related the first time you hear them, but turn out to be part of different cycles of occurrence. The brass/percussion idea is one, and the strings are the other. Look at the graphic representation of MOYS ICOS and you can see them. You can see that the cycle of occurrences appears three times, and that in each there are two lines at the beginning. The bottom one is the pattern according to which the strings appear; the second from bottom one is the pattern according to which the brass appears. The patterns provide a single overall shape, which describes a change from brass/strings to woodwinds/percussion.


Begun and First Posted November 25, 2009