Subtractive Composition

Composing connotes additive synthesis as in a work of music, literature, or art. My Mac has a large number of definitions. Here are the first three: 

1) the nature of something’s ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up: the social composition of villages.

2) the action of putting things together; formation or construction: the composition of a new government was announced.

3) a thing composed of various elements: a theory is a composition of interrelated facts.

These imply a bottom-up path. Could a top-down approach also work?

In carving, the presumption is the final result is already present within the stone, wood, or any other medium and everything that is not the final result needs removal. Visually, this the case in optics, where white contains all of the colors in the spectrum, which when filtered cause one or more colors to remain. In electronic music, there are both additive and subtractive synthesis which produce results of very differing character. Joining smaller pieces of wood into a larger one is not the same as starting with a more substantial portion.

Carving subtraction can less forgiving than assembly, but is this always the case? Is there a Meta-Level in the arts in music, where a composer conceives of multiple themes and variations simultaneously, just as white light contains all of the colors?

Is the act of improvisation or composing in real time, one of addition or one of subtraction? Is there a larger musical structure which can be comprehended or imagined more instantly as a sculpture within a large chunk of marble? If so how would one characterize this structure? 

How about instead of beginning with a single melody, if one began with harmonic waypoints as sonic meta milestones each of which by definition contains more than a single note and often four, five or six. Moving from one harmonious construction or chord to another implies a set of potential melodies all coexisting much as the more massive block of wood has within it a collection of possible carvings. 

In music building blocks can be chords, not notes, providing both content and context simultaneously. Each chord can be expressed in many ways through inversions, voicings, and timbres, not to mention dynamic, expressions and articulations. As notes to be meaningful usually exist within the context of phrases, phrases can exist within larger rhythmic or harmonic contexts as well.

This embedding of components within meta level contexts is everywhere we look from wisdom embedded within stories to probiotic bacteria enabling us to digest food effectively.  

Perhaps it is time for us to consider or even invent, more meta-structures to solve large societal as well as artistic problems. We are all to varying degrees context managers. Presumably experienced adults know much more than children about managing context. The act of collaboration requires shared context without which projects stall.

We have to innovate our way out of problems as it is not possible to go back in time. Perhaps we are now being forced through our increasing interdependencies to collaborate to be effective? If so, shared context is the only path to collaboration, and this meta-level concept may not be able to be achieved through an additive process. We may have to sort with white light, large pieces of marble and coincident variations and themes. Also, then we may have to subtract elements to yield the results we need. 

It could be time for Subtractive Composition. A good stating meta structure could be the golden rule. Treat others in the way you would like to be treated. Then we can carve away the exceptions, but from my perspective right now society needs a restart. A new process informed by a new view. We had better begin to be top down instead of bottom up if we are to prevail over the current fractious state of affairs.