The Hermeneutic Circle

I have become very interested in the nature of the hermeneutic circle recently, in particularly how it enables us to learn about music. There has been a great deal of literature from both philosophy  (For example Georg Gadamer) and musicicology (For example Lenard Mayer) that discusses how we understand texts through relating individual parts to an emerging whole. Basically, as we take on and understand more parts, our perception of the whole changes. So, as opposed to writing about music retrospectively, I thought I would document some thoughts when listening to some music for the first time. I chose the recent album from Australian film composer Lisa Gerard, who I have never heard before, but seen her name yesterday when watching the film Whalerider. Anyway, I am going to play the album and try to document something while it is playing. I am giving myself 15 mins, so after that I will stop. I  will probably skip across to some of her other work in order to contextualise it further, and this is something that Spotify is ideally suited to.

The first thing I would like to consider  is my conception of what a ‘part’ is. I know she is a film composer and writes atmospheric music (she co wrote the score for Gladiator, and has lots of other films to her name). So – I am thinking schooled musician, orchestral training, artistic (I have no proof for this). The album commences with an orchestrated piece with accompanying classical style voice, so I am presuming the ‘Whole’ ranges from the entire track and album being orchestral and atmospheric in nature. Beyond this, the ‘whole’ probably involves her using a score to document music, a copyist, and also technology to both formulate demos and finished products (Being born in 1961, I am presuming she is within the generation to make the most of technologies such as this). A 2nd piece uses a lot of reverb and close mic techniques (very breathy) and it ties in with the previous track in terms of atmosphere, although uses more technology and less ‘real instruments’. All of these descriptions thus far are very formalistic (ie they concern the music itself), so in terms of the emotional impact on me – words such as disturbing, esoteric, indigenous and ‘brilliant’ come to mind, and this is the result of factors such the choice of musical textures, the lack of harmonic rhythm, vocal sounds etc.  It is possible to predict what is happening in ‘Tel It From The Mountain’ as it has predictable bar lengths and melody structures, but the other tracks on the album are more difficult to 2nd guess. Taking the ‘whole’ outside of this album, I would be interested in knowing what her influences are. I have a limited knowledge of this type of music, but elements of it remind me of Karl Jenkins and even my old Phd supervisor Gavin Bryars. Spotify cross references her to James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Enya and a few more film composers, inc  John Williams. Dipping into tracks on other albums reveal the general atmosphere is similar, so the whole looks to be fairly consistant in terms of style. She is however very prolific – so I would need to spend much more research on finding out about her other projects.

Ok – that’s my 15 minutes. Will now spend some time listening to this really talented composer without writing anything. Makes me realise I have so much more to learn about music. Here is a You Tube video where she discusses some of her influences.

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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