The Dance of the Firing Synapse Paul Dolden

Western music is trapped in a mind-body dualism with classical music regarded primarily as a mental process while popular music is perceived more through the body. This manifests in the emphasis that classical music gives to pitch and the thoughtful contemplation over time of theme and variations. In contrast, popular music tends to emphasize rhythm and groove, with repetitive dancing suggesting enjoying the moment with no teleological goal.

To resolve this duality, whether listening to Bach or Congolese rhythms, I think of music as firing synapses through both mind and body. Ideally, this process forges new relationships, integrating physical and mental realms into a unified whole.

Inevitably, some of my works appeal more to the mind rather than the body, and vice versa.

“The Dance of the Firing Synapse” directly addresses the body as the soloist performs on drums, and the pre-recorded audio, which consists of non-octave tuning systems often heard on inharmonic sound sources like metal. The overall effect blurs pitch relationships and emphasizes rhythm as music moves from groove to groove. With slow tempo changes, there is no overriding teleological goal in mind.

Hopefully your brain and body are both fired by this work. So sit back in your chair and contemplate or get up and “dance dance dance,” the choice is yours.

Commissioned by Daniel Buess (Switzerland).

  • Year of composition: 2011
  • Format: Mixed work
  • Instrumentation: Drum kit and tape
  • Duration of the submitted work: 20:00


More works by Paul Dolden