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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

Dave Lampson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 4 Mar 2000 16:04:40 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (82 lines)

Steve Schwartz wrote:

>In spite of any resolution I could muster, I find myself drawn in yet
>again (groan!), under the sanctioning example of the list moderator, yet.

Oh, come on.  You know you love it.

>So here goes: I too believe that a score should carry great weight.
>However, it's arrogance of another kind to justify repeats or not repeats
>on the basis of knowing the composer's intention.  One should be able to
>justify one's decision on the musical implications of the score.

Of course, and this is by far your best (and perhaps only) rational
argument for not taking a repeat.  If something works musically, then no
further justification is required.  But who decides what "works"? This is,
as a matter of practicality, a completely personal reaction.  I say it
works, and you say it doesn't.  Or you say it works and I claim it fails.
Now what? What does this tell us about the role of the repeat in the
composition?

What torpedoes any further discussion is this idea of intentions.  I must
admit I've become quite confused over where you stand on this.  Forgive me
if I mis-characterize here, but at times you seem to admit that the score
captures at least part of the composer's intent, and at other times you
seem to claim we can know nothing about the composer's intent.

Let's take a hypothetical example (but one for which we could probably
find a close, real-life parallel).  We have the composer's notebooks, his
sketches, and the fair copy of a work in the composer's own hand.  Further
we have a letter from the composer to a long-time confidant that the work
is complete, and the composer is comfortable that the piece could not be
improved by changing a single note.  When published, the composer once
again writes to his friend that though several mistakes crept into his
score when typeset by the publisher, he has now corrected all of these
errors and is now content that the published scores represent his best
efforts as a composer.  Further, we can compare the manuscript we know
to be the composer's fair copy with the published version, and they match.
Finally, we have yet more correspondence from the composer describing
rehearsals and his reactions to the interpretations of the performers.  In
this example, I think we know a great deal about the composer's intentions
for the work.  We can't have perfect knowledge of anyone intentions, so
that's not an issue.  What is at issue is whether a score captures some of
the composer's intentions (within the limitations of the notation, etc.),
and what are the implications of following or not following instructions
in the score.

In general, I think the idea that a score captures musical intent -
at least some of it - is unassailable.  What might be in question is
providence of the score.  For example, I believe we have very few (if any)
of Vivaldi's works in his own hand, and we know almost nothing about the
providence of most of his works except that some played a didactic role
or were written for specific ensembles.  If it weren't for the fact that
about 10% of his works were published, we'd have almost no idea even when
any of them were written.  So, for the published scores and contemporaneous
manuscripts we do have, are the repeats the composer's, the copyist's, the
publisher's or were they put there by someone else? Is the work even by
Vivaldi? It is these unknowable circumstances that render the "all repeats,
all the time" approach impracticable.

>In spite of what may have been attributed to me, I don't hold an
>anything-goes approach.  Just because it's done doesn't mean it should be
>done.  On the other hand, I can't tell whether it should be done until I
>hear it.

We violently agree on this point.  Though the "ends justify the means"
aspect does make me a bit uneasy.

>All experiments do not succeed, but failure should not discourage experiment.

Actually, one of the main goals of good experimentation is to identify
failures and discourage further experimentation along fruitless lines.
If we are going to buy into the experimental model as a desirable model
for composition or performance, then we have to buy in all the way.
Unfortunately, neither the development of 20th century classical music, nor
the deluge of nonsensical cross-over releases, indicate to me that such an
adoption has occurred.  Therefore, I must say I turn a rather jaundiced eye
towards musical experimentation for it's own sake.  It seems that learning
from failures is not classical music's strong point.

Dave
[log in to unmask]
http://www.classical.net/

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