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The Musical Language of David Franzson

What is the nature of the language of music? This question, fundamental to composition from ancient Greek music theory to Serialism, lies at the heart of contemporary music's fractured discourse. Lines have been drawn between different camps-- natural/artificial, absolute/programmatic, grammatical/intuitive, intellectual/emotional-- divisions which often define composers' voices and indeed govern their lives. 

So what is a composer to do when faced with this musical landscape, one which cannot even agree on how a composer communicates with the world?

One answer is to start from scratch. David Brynjar Franzson attempts to do just this: not to privilege any musical act, sound, or compositional element over another, not to assume the universality of music's language, not to inherit the compositional forms of 20th-century Modernsim, but instead to explore the first principles of music's language, to make things in ignorance of what they are. 

"I'm like an alien sending you sequences from one to ten, so that you can hear how I sound-- one day in the future, I'll be able to send you a message." 

Franzson's music rips open the language of music in order to inhabit its most obscure depths, its most complex and unknowable features. To do this, he starts small: often with a small collection of sounds and an even smaller collections of operations to group those sounds together. Far from the abstracted, meta-world of theory, his compositions allow players to embody basic, instinctual elements of the game of musical language, which in Franzson's world progresses by intuitive heuristic, rather than strict rule. 

Listening to one of his compositions for small ensemble, such as longitudinal study #1, one experiences a process of discovery, with a small set of sonic possibilities organically, energetically charged from within the sound-world itself. Instruments are turned into linguistic actors in a miniaturized language-game unbound by systematic grammar, freed to explore and discover the meaning of each sound-action as it happens. 

Franzson's treatment of instruments is highly idiosyncratic, privileging no parameter over another, radically democratizing the sonic possibilities of each performer. In the Negotiation of Context, a series of pieces for piano and other instruments, the sonic elements which constitute his language-game are not necessarily bound to the instrument's physical capabilities, but are rather historically- and physically selected, a broad spectrum of sounds based on heuristics.

Though Franzson's works are couched in the world of analytic philosophy and linguistic theory, the ultimate effect of these works is intuitive, not systematic; they encourage a mode of deep listening, a temporary envelopment in the purely abstract theory of language made real by the purely concrete act of musical performance. Rather than demonstrating the limits of communication through music, Franzson's work heralds the new possibilities of music's intuitive power, interrogating each sonic action as it develops naturally.

Franzson's works can be heard on Carrier Records, a label which he co-founded with Jeff Snyder and Sam Pluta, as well as albums on Spektral and Innova. We're pleased to publish il Dolce far Niente, longitudinal study #1, the Negotiation of Context (A), the Negotiation of Context (C), and Sick Puppy, Sad Puppy (bad puppy, dead puppy) on PSNY. Be on the lookout for more of Franzson's work on PSNY in the near future.