Ian Crisp wrote:
>Dave Lampson wields a mighty sledgehammer to demolish what I regard as a
>fairly small and simple argument:
However small and simple, it seems to resist mightily the weight of logic.
>Perhaps I, and others who have argued for this kind of relativism, should
>have written about "the range of C20 ways of listening", rather than
>implying that there was some specific C20 way common to all listeners and
>distinct from that associated with any other time-period.
Let's try this for a third time. That differences exist is a fact.
That we have virtually no knowledge of how these differences affect
perception of a musical experience is also a fact. Therefore, while we
know that differences exist, we can not reasonably draw any conclusions
as to what performance practice may or may not be appropriate for any
>But Dave then appears to argue that as both centuries encompass a
>wide variety of response to music, there is no difference between them
>and any distinction the relativists propose must be fallacious.
See paragraph above. We can't hear music in exactly the same way that
someone in 1750 heard it, and they couldn't have possibly heard music in
the same way we here it. Now what? Do we take the repeat or not?
>>...though we might agree that there are differences in perception, we
>>do not have any idea how these differences (either across the centuries,
>>or across the miles, or across cultures) affect our reactions to music.
>>We simply don't know how the brain processes music, nor do we have
>>anything beyond anecdotal evidence for how past musical experience affect
>>the brain's interpretation of either familiar or unfamiliar musical
>Every word right on the mark, but I fail to see the relevance. I argue
>that a certain amount of historical distance means that there are an
>unknown number of undefined and possibly undefinable ways in which the
>generalised experience of later listeners and earlier listeners hearing the
>same music cannot be mapped onto each other, because the later listeners
>have experiences not available to the earlier ones (and, come to that, the
>earlier one's mind-sets were partially formed by ideas and experiences now
>gone and not shared by the later ones).
Actually, you do seem to see the relevance. As you state, our musical
experiences affect us in an "unknown number of undefined and possibly
undefinable ways". This is exactly my point. Because we can't
characterize these things, we can't draw any specific conclusions.
>>For these reasons ... I think the statement that we can't hear music
>>as they once did is simply meaningless when trying to come to grips
>>with specific performance choices.
>I agree that, by itself, it cannot guide specific choices - and I don't
>recall that either I or anyone else suggested that it did.
Check the archives. The fact that we don't listen as they once did was
brought into the discussion about performance practice, specifically
repeats. That's why we're here. Again.
>The grounds for making those choices will be many and various, and
>ultimately based on the aesthetic responses of modern and living
>audiences, not ancient and dead ones.
Who has ever argued otherwise?
>>Sort of a "we can't ever be really, really sure what any composer intended
>>in their heart, so what the heck, if it feels good just do it!" attitude.
>Personally I have no problem with that, as long as significant variations
>are clearly labelled as such and not passed off as something they are not.
>But it is a considerable distortion of the position I and a few others have
>been proposing. We can be sure of what a composer intended, to the extent
>that he left clear indications.
Once again I'll have to refer you to the archives. What has been proposed
here over and over again is that the score, even those indications explicit
in the score, are not necessarily what the composer intended. Perhaps the
composer made a mistake, or stupidly followed convention and mindlessly put
the repeat in there. I don't feel that I have distorted what appears to me
to be a profoundly lackadaisical approach to the music, one that seems at
odds with what some of us feel helps makes classical music special. Mind
you, I'm not proposing a prison term for the offense, just don't ask me to
respect the philosophy.
>>Once you buy into this, all counter-arguments are instantly negated.
>Not at all. All possibilities become open, which to my mind is a far more
>attractive notion than the alternative.
All possibilities for the performer are open (they always have been,
actually). What the relativistic argument does do is to make any further
historically-oriented discussion of performance practice irrelevant. It's
like an anti-HIP neutron bomb. :-)
>The only simple and convenient thing here is to shrug off all
>responsibility for understanding and decision-making by palming it off onto
>the crumbling shoulders of the long-decomposed composer who lived his life
>in a different world. Try to understand him by all means, but don't give
>the dead power to make choices for the living. Like it our not, that's
>ours (for a while) to do the best we can with, then to pass on to others.
I must admit that the extreme hostility towards composer and score
crystallized in Ian's statements above is baffling and even a little
frightening to me. There also seems to be an implied distrust of the
ability of performer and listener to make reasonable choices, especially
if those choices coincide with the composer's instructions. In this
paragraph Ian has demonstrated the connection between the argument for
audience relativism and anti-HIP sentiment far more clearly than I have
so far been able.
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