Many people who watched Andrew Stanton’s TED talk
, Finding Nemo
etc.) were made aware of a hitherto obscure quote by the Victorian-era drama critic William Archer
, which succinctly describes drama as “anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”
It feels apt, though it has more to do with the experience of drama than the making of drama. For a composer, it probably holds more water than definitions dealing with character goals, conflicts of interest, triumph, defeat, dénouement, creative writing seminars
… As it pertains to music, the quote also reminds me of Robert Jourdain’s pop-science music perception book, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy
, in which Jourdain defines great listening experiences as a process of navigating anticipation—the composer sets up anticipations, violates them, rewards them later.
If the Archer quote is true, you can test for the absence of drama. It sort of works: if you’re certain about how the piece will unfold, you don’t feel the need to experience it; if you cannot anticipate anything, you get lost. Incidentally, getting lost is the sometimes goal for particular artists, but maybe that’s not drama.
Not a rule; useful, maybe.
Posted: March 19th, 2012
Comments: 1 Comment