Per Caritatem

McCartney/LennonHere’s my quarterly non-academic post–an ipod recording of me playing a solo jazz guitar version of Lennon and McCartney’s tune, “Yesterday” (to listen to the recording, click the arrow below).

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There are, however, a few philosophical questions that I can’t resist asking:  how is the identity of the tune, “Yesterday,” retained when I have re-harmonized the melody and added notes to and subtracted notes from the melody?   Also, clearly I have interpreted/performed the tune in a way that exceeds the intention of the “original authors,” yet, the piece is still clearly recognizable as Lennon/McCartney’s tune, “Yesterday.”  What are the implications for “authorship”?  What view of interpretation best captures the phenomena that emerge–an interpretor as co-author with a productive role?  If so, what are the givens of the tune itself that function as limiting structures–structures that both allow for new re-interpretations and  allow the tune to emerge in an identifiable way (while simultaneously dis-allowing any and every interpretation to count as “legitimate”)?


2 Responses so far

Foremost, thanks for the mp3, Cynthia; it’s a keeper!

Your interpretation and the questions you posed evoked for me a couple of philosophical analogues to Jazz: Hartshorne’s nonstrict identity and Peirce’s semeiotic (as inspired by our mutual friend, Scotus). To wit, over against any epistemic essentialism or nominalism, or ontological substance or process approach, the obverse sides of the same coin of the dualistic realm, which has no purchase here in jazzy New Orleans, nonstrict identity suggests that a reality’s past, but not its future, is an essential aspect of its identity (due to Hartshorne’s notion of asymmetric temporal relations). In some sense, then, we can say that the Principle of Identity sometimes holds and sometimes folds. Similarly, in Peirce’s pragmatic logic, both Noncontradiction and Excluded Middle alternately hold or fold based on the modal categories of the possible (NC folds, EM holds), the actual (NC & EM hold) and the necessary, which due to ontological vagueness yields to the probable (NC holds, EM folds). Such is the nature of interpretation. The practical upshot of all of this philosophical wonkishness is that neither the static essentialistic, substantialistic nor the dynamic nominalistic, process approaches could account for novelty in our emergentistic reality, while the Peircean account can because it grapples with both epistemic indeterminacy and ontological vagueness. And novelty is central. But why?

In an aesthetic teleology, the appropriation of novelty and the shedding of monotony accounts for the emergence of beauty. In far from equilibrium thermodynamics, the greater the number of bifurcations and permutations in the formation of a dissipative structure, which runs an increasing risk of disintegration, the more fragile it is. The more fragile, however, the more beautiful. We employ, therefore, various risk-amplification and risk-attenuation strategies ordered toward the end of value-augmentation. Too many risks with the Lennon-McCartney score and the dissipative structure will disintegrate into the unrecognizable. Take no risks at all and we surrender to montony, ignoring our aesthetic sensibilities.

Your permutations were beautiful. Bravo! Encore!

Don’t take me too seriously here. My synthesis was more poetry than prose, open to interpretation … …


Thanks, “Johnboy”, I appreciate your poetic musings, particularly what you say about the emergence of beauty and what you say about a proper balance of “risk-taking”.