Deconstruction as a Creative Process.

November 28, 2013

I articulated at some segment of the past my interest in certain element in music which I called deconstructivism.

Always, the thought-development behind an articulation is as incomplete, if not more than, the articulation itself. Since the segment of time when I formulated my aesthetic ideas on deconstructivism I have seen the incoherence of my definition when I could not apply the term unconditionally to what I wanted to express. Moreover, the term “deconstructivism” is claimed by a genre of architecture dominated by the likes of Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid, a genre drawing influence from the literary movement called deconstructionism. I lifted the term from the architectural movement. But the literary movement which gave rise to it–and I am inclined therefore to think of the literary movement as its philosophical grounding–opposes the notion of a fixed, definite meaning of a text and posits that it has rather several dis-congruous meanings; and in this I have no direct affiliation with deconstructionist perspective. But here I see Derrida and whoever else developed the movement called deconstructionism using the word being used more precisely. This brings to me the importance of remaining faithful to one’s word choice: deconstruction is an action, one of disassembling a construct.

So I should not talk about characteristics in music headed under the adjective “deconstructivist”. Instead I will use the more technically applicable term “deconstruction”, and when I speak of deconstructing music I am instead talking about a process, a creative method of dissecting one’s intuitive inclinations. It is an analysis, as the literary movement is both a method and analysis, but an analysis by the artist himself of his own mind when formulating a piece of music. As I see it, deconstruction is a process by which an artist allows himself to be absorbed temporarily in rhythms and melodies as they come automatically to him; then, observing these rhythms and melodies that come so naturally to him, he alters them. 

On this definition what characterizes something as a deconstruction is subjectively known, for default creative intuitions vary from person to person. This is why I say I should not try to define deconstruction absolutely. Instead one can only say which musical patterns are a deconstruction of his own intuitions, while any given intuited pattern to the listener could be entirely natural and automatic to the artist.

Yet this assertion rests on the belief, which seems clear to me, that the creative streams-of-consciousness that come to one off the top of his head, one’s creative intuitions, are constructed from experience–experience of what one has heard before. Experience and the expectations it forms chisels grooves into the mind, so that the rhythms and melodies one hears the most become the most salient to the mind. Therefore: I do not think it too presumptuous for a listener who listens carefully to posit that a musical work is a deconstruction of the typical musical paths of a given stream of culture.

We are not the creators of music. We do not create the intuitions of rhythm and melody; these I believe are determined by experience and are thus in large part the reason that musicians inherit the sound of their culture. Nor are we, in the process of writing, free from the automatism that allows us at every moment of speaking to determine the next word so quickly. While the impulses of the soul feel through the mind for a means to articulate, I sometimes think of the mind as a search engine suggesting the most salient (due to experience and thought) words and phrases to fill in the next part of my sentence.

What then does it mean to create? Even now my sentences follow rule of construction. The mind carries my speech along, the horse of my chariot.

We are rather observers of the mental procedures of our own minds. We travel  the conduits of expectation and, if we choose, seek to upset that expectation and bring ourselves into contact with something new. I have always liked the idea of myself and of humans by extension as creators, but I think what we are actually capable of is not making something new but perceiving possibilities. When we realize this we can self-consciously deconstruct the patterns our minds present to us and discover new ones.

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2 Responses to “Deconstruction as a Creative Process.”

  1. 12kilroy Says:

    You explain this well – at least, the meaning I’m applying to the thing I believe you’re describing. (I don’t really have a word for it – so deconstruction works to a large degree.)

    A couple of random thoughts: If you’re talking about this in composed music (I mean classical music mostly), what is the role of the performer versus the composer? There are sometimes quite dramatic ‘deconstructive’ elements in the “canon” – things that break down key, rhythm, categories like major and minor – the elements themselves exist within the text because the text is itself a deconstruction on the part of the composer. The performer is not necessarily deconstructing the composer’s text – but the performer has to ‘get it’. The performer has to perceive what the composer has done – or else it falls flat.

    At the same time, the performer brings his own assumptions to the text. A performer can deconstruct the composition on his or her own. It’s sort of like a ‘cover’ of someone else’s work. Are you recreating the original author’s intent, are you deconstructing that intent, or are you doing something entirely different?

    Also what role does the hearer play in this process? I mean, if it isn’t apprehended, does it work?


    • I’ll answer those in reverse order.

      It’s not easy to say how far deconstruction can go. That’s akin to the question of the line between noise and music. There is what I call “dissociative jazz”, I don’t know what the genre’s common name is, which leaves the listener wandering in an haze–yet the performance retains enough unity to be received as music. It abandons a great deal of rhythmical structure, and other music abandons a great deal of clear melody, but ultimately structure cannot be abandoned altogether. It is the structures of melody and rhythm (speaking most broadly) that make deconstructions of them meaningful. The latter has no meaning without the former. Predictability makes unpredictability meaningful. Unity makes disunity meaningful. So for a listener, complete noise is no deconstruction of their musical intuitions. What makes the deconstruction mean anything is the way it is playing with an established structure.

      When the composer and performer are two different people, I imagine it would be much more difficult for the latter to ‘get it’, to feel what the piece is doing well enough that she can bring it to life with her timing, pressure, flow or detachment, and all those nuances which make such a difference. And yes, to do this the performer’s role is to understand and present the composer’s work, which is a deconstruction of

      I don’t usually think of deconstructing another composer’s piece, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done. But if a performer were to play a deconstruction of a deconstruction, would it reverse the process or would it become closer to noise? I don’t know but to me the significance of the deconstructive process lies in its freeing creative potential. Yet its freedom from the established structure occurs in its dialogue with the structure. A deconstruction of a deconstruction would be in dialogue with the deconstruction, and not the original structure (structure, again, being the musical intuitions). It might be analogous to philosophical thought. A philosopher may deviate from a dogma, but he must replace it with a comprehensive system before anyone else can deviate from his deviation. For a composer on the other hand, it would be a brilliant feat to devise a “sound” both original and comprehensive enough to create a new structure that can then be deconstructed.


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