As stated in the previous chapter, it is not the absolute duration of a note that makes it a pedal/drone. It refers to its interaction with the other musical elements in the piece. In one situation, a long note is just a note, in another situation, the same note will be perceived as a drone, yet in another as a harmonic pedal. The ‘situation’ itself is also formed by all the musical events, including the long note.
Social theorist Bruno Latour has introduced the concept of actor-network, a network of relations, associations, and interaction of several actors of diverse sorts. The details are out of the scope of the current discussion, I will only outline some of the ideas that have inspired my work. In an assemblage, as Latour writes, heterogeneous actors as well as their associations undergo a process of metamorphosis. Through interaction their identity changes which implies that their (new) identity is created through interaction. The idea important for a musical analogy is that a complex organization (such as a musical piece or a fragment) is not a set of fixed elements that are interacting with each other, but is defined by all the relations and associations between its heterogeneous parts. In music too, the interplay of various sorts of actors is at work. The actors are a heterogeneous group: all different properties of notes (pitch, timbre, etc.) and rests, the forces that will group them in listeners’ ears, the patterns that are already a result of such interaction, the listener’s prior musical experiences that will (in relation to sound) incite expectations, the listeners’ knowledge that will try to give meaning to both actors and their interactions. The musical actors thus define the context. This context can be of diverse sorts, such as musical style, harmonic progression, formal function, musical piece.
Related to the topic of the current research, the context will influence the perception of a long note as a pedal or as a drone. For example, without harmonic context there could be no harmonic pedal. On the other hand, the pedal itself is very active in creating the harmonic context. It is the interaction between all the musical parameters, that create both the context and the ‘too long’ notes. It is also interaction between a pedal/drone and the other musical events, that color both pedal/drone and those other events. In this way, a static long note in the score could become a dynamic and exciting element in the musical piece.
Meyer (1956: 34). writes: “[Things] become meaningful only in so far as they point to, indicate, or imply something beyond themselves.” But, the listener herself has a crucial role here, for the “perception of a relationship can only arise as the result of some individual’s mental behavior” According to Meyer, meaning arises out of the relation between 1) the stimulus, 2) that to which the stimulus points, and 3) the conscious observer. “A musical stimulus or a series of stimuli indicate and point to […] other musical events which are about to happen.” (p.35) Obviously, Meyer’s view to music is not far from the idea of network, actors and relations, although his theory tries to define the relations in the form of fixed actors, rather than seeing them as dynamic, open. One thing is certainly common: notes and patterns get meaning only through their relations among themselves or with other ‘things’.
The model of music perception defined by David Lewin (1986) shows the rich interdependency of event, context, expectations, and theoretical language in constituting musical perceptions. Musical stimuli (events) are always (musically) understood in a certain context. Any musical event could be seen in a variety of contexts. Applying this to the current research, a long note could be interpreted in the context of the harmonic progression, in the context of the musical piece, in the context of rhythmic movement defined by the other preceding events, or in any other context that can be formed in the listener’s musical mind. Hearing only a pedal-process, outside of the context created by the previous events, could result in a whole different experience than hearing the same notes in the context of the composition. But also, hearing the harmonic progression above a harmonic pedal in the context of the pedal tone could be a different experience than hearing the pedal tone in the context of the harmonic progression (change of focus).
Next parameter in Lewin’s model refers to the perceived relations between the event in focus and other events in a particular context. One of the events in the context is the expected event. The event in focus is thus also in relation to the event that is expected as the continuation. In the same way, the event in focus is related to the expectations created by the previous events: the event in focus can be the confirmation of the previous expectations, or be the denial of the expectations.
Evenly important is the last parameter, ‘the language’. ‘The language’ enables the listener to recognize events (and their relations) as being instances of some concept that she is familiar with. ‘The language’ helps in forming the context in which an event is perceived. For example, hearing the second inversion of C-major triad in the context of C major could be perceived as a variant of the tonic triad. Invoking the theoretical context of the cadence, this chord could become a cadential (dominant) 6/4 chord. A long note on the 5th degree in the bass could become a dominant pedal. How do we perceive a long note on the 2nd degree in the bass? Probably not as a ‘supertonic pedal’. It seems that our theoretical language is not able to form a convenient context in which this long note would get a status comparable to a dominant pedal.
‘The language’ puts the listener in a particular perspective. For example, if the listener invokes the theoretical context of western functional harmony while listening to a folk song of a non-western tradition, she could happen to be surprised by a ‘non-logical’ chord progression. A participant in singing could have a different ‘language’ to perceive the same musical events, resulting in different perceptions.
Musical actors, as already said, are a heterogeneous collection. Many actors are simultaneously present, but some interactions are more prominent and with more effect than the others. ‘The language’ involved in perception (I refer here to Lewin’s model), puts particular musical parameters more in focus than the others, and so their interactions could be perceived as more important than the others. The word ‘interaction’ implies mutual influence of two or more actors. Perhaps the simplest example of interaction in unfolding of a musical piece is the interaction between its different ‘lines’, such as melodic lines in polyphonic music. Each line sounds differently when sung or played together with other lines. Similar sort of interaction is that of melody and harmony (although this relation is not equal, as the identity of melody is very dependent on harmony, while the same harmonic pattern can bare many different melodies). Another sort of interaction is that between the melody and the instrument that plays it. Yet another is between the heard pattern and the structure (structural position influences the musical meaning that we assign to a pattern, e.g. when a cadential pattern opens the phrase the listener would understand that it is not a cadence). Interaction of our musical experience with any new music that we hear will result in specific patterning, and style-related understanding of the relations of these patterns. Experience of any musical piece is based on all the relations between actual sounds and also relations with the extra-musical factors, that are formed in the mind of the listener. When these relations are not seen as fixed elements, but rather as dynamic forces that act while a person is listening to music, a musical piece becomes a kind of actor-network.
Long notes, as actors, are interacting with other notes, together creating the harmony, the texture, the meter, the rhythm, the tone collection, the modal center, the melody. At the same time, the long notes are interacting with all these created contexts. Sometimes all the individual dynamics contribute to the same goal, as, for example, in the final cadence (rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, dynamic events all suggest ending). At other times, their working could be in conflict, as, for example, in a deceptive cadence (the melody is felt to be in conflict with harmony). The conflict, of course, takes place in the listener’s perception. In case of a deceptive cadence, the strongest felt conflict is that of the listener’s expectation and the actual sounding events, the denial of the resolution.
Sociology textbooks define five types of social interaction: exchange, competition, conflict, cooperation, and accommodation. I propose observing forming of a pedal/drone from the perspective of the five categories of social interaction. Aside from the first one, exchange, which is typical of humans, the other four categories could be applied rather directly. Let us examine them in turn.
“Cooperation occurs when two or more persons or groups work together to achieve a goal that will benefit many people”. In music, the cooperation can lead to both tension and relaxation. For example, melodic culmination is often paired with rhythmic and dynamic activity that emphasize it; the harmonic resolution in the cadence is often paired with melodic resolution, etc. Sustained tones could be harmonically cooperating with the (implied) harmony created by the other voices. The goal does not necessarily have to be the result of the composer’s tendencies; it could simply be the resulting effect on the listener. When various interactions lead to forming of a particular context or interpretation, these interactions are felt as cooperative toward that projected goal.
“Competition occurs when two or more persons or groups oppose each other to achieve a goal that only one can attain.” This is directly applicable to all the musical parameters concerning organization on a higher level where only one result is possible. For example, when two simultaneous melodies are originally in different keys, the result of their interaction could be that we perceive one of the two keys, and that the other key is neutralized through the dominance of the first one. Other results of such interaction are also possible: for example, if the tones of the two melodies become so interwoven that we do not really hear either of them, and the resulting tone collection does not promote any particular modus above the rest.
In harmony, too, when simultaneous appearance of two different chords occur, their interaction could lead to: 1) perception of a new, defined sonority, 2) perception of one of the chords as dominating, and the other defined in relation to the first one, and 3) an undefined sonority. In tonal music, harmony means harmonic function. Because of great importance of harmony in perceiving melody and form in tonal music, the ear strives at defining, understanding the harmonic function at each moment. Because of the urge to assign harmonic meaning to any sonority, the ear will choose any of the possibilities above the ambiguousness. In the case two concurring harmonic functions are suggested, the ear will choose one.
 All the information in this sentence is mediated by the language of tonal harmony.
 Bartok is often mentioned in the context of bi-tonality. He himself writes the following: “[…] when one deals with so-called polytonal music. Here, polytonality exists only for the eye when one looks at such music. But our mental hearing again will select one key as a fundamental key, and will project the tones of the other keys in relation to the one selected.” (Bartok (Suchoff, ed.) 1992: 365-366)