Chapter 3: Expressive Musical Ideas


Denis Smalley describes the reflexive relationship as one of the three main modes of listening that contributes to the formation of general musical discourse. He states,


‘It is subject-centred and is concerned with basic emotional responses to the object of perception. The object has no real identity separate from the subject's emotion. This type of relationship can be active or passive but has a strong tendency towards passivity since there is little or no exploration of the object of perception, only response to it’. (Smalley 1996)

At the heart of this discussion is the proposal that ‘musical ideas’ (as well as completed musical materials) might be more fully understood through scrutinization of their reflexive qualities. It is also submitted that musical ideas might be improved as a result of this kind of analysis and that such dissection might be naturally carried out within reflective phases of the creative process (this topic and process is discussed more fully in Chapter 5: Bringing Ideas to Life). In this chapter our focus is firmly fixed on the nature of the reflexive relationship - a mode of listening and creative engagement concerned with expression, emotion, feeling, passion, intensity, poignancy; intonation, tone, nuance, artistry, spirit, free imagination, vividness, energy and force. The title ‘expressive musical ideas’ has been chosen to represent the mode in common language. It is characterised by a listen/act cycle that is carried out quickly and without deep reflection - distinct from those that emerge as a consequence of sustained auditory attention and/or contemplation.