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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

Ian Crisp <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 5 Mar 2000 12:09:00 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (159 lines)

Dave Lampson wrote:

>Let's try this for a third time.

OK

>That differences exist is a fact.

Yes.

>That we have virtually no knowledge of how these differences affect
>perception of a musical experience is also a fact.

Yes again.

>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 given situation.

Absolutely.  If I have suggested otherwise, I must have developed a case
of multiple personality and e-mailing during my sleep, or completely lost
any ability I may once have had to write what I mean, because I have no
recollection of so doing.

>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?

The argument so far is the justification for asking that question.
Answering it is another matter altogether.

>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.

We agree again.  Dave, I'm losing track of why we're arguing because we
seem to be in total agreement about almost everything.

>>>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.

I hope I may be forgiven some reluctance to wade through it all again.
Can anyone point me to an example, or will anyone admit to arguing that
the agreed fact that "we can't hear music as they once did" is *by itself*
sufficient justification for making a performance choice such as omitting
a repeat?

>>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?

Those who argue that the simple fact that a repeat sign exists in a
score over-rides any other consideration as to whether or not it should
be observed in any performance context.  Unless I have completely
misunderstood, there is at least one such amongst those here assembled.

>...  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.

Interesting use of loaded terms like "stupidly" and "mindlessly"!  Not
everything in a score is necessarily a clear and unambiguous indication,
for many good reasons, one of which is to do with the conventions of the
time.  Scores have to be interpreted.

>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.

Steve Schwartz has dealt with this point thoroughly, and I'm happy to line
up behind his standard on this one.

>Mind you, I'm not proposing a prison term for the offense, just don't ask
>me to respect the philosophy.

Relief!

>All possibilities for the performer are open (they always have been,
>actually).

Not according to the fundamentalist hard-line repeatists on this list.
They argue that if the repeat's there, you play it.  No choice, no
freedom, no option.  That choice is the composer's, not the performer's,
and once the composer has made it and recorded it on paper it's final,
once-and-for-all (twice, actually), non-negotiable, done, finished,
over-and-out, goodnight all, for all time, ever and ever, amen.  Jocelyn,
if you're there, am I wrong on this? Last time around you supported an even
stronger interpretation of your position than this in private mail to me,
so presumably you haven't shifted ground (last thing I would expect you to
do!)?

>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.:-)

I hope I have made it clear that I am a complete supporter of the HIP
movement and its historical researches.  I do not regard its conclusions
as irrelevant to modern performance practice.  My position is that I do not
accept that because we have good reason to believe that something was once
done one way, that is by itself sufficient reason for always doing it that
same way in the here-and-now.  There may be other factors that could and
should be taken into account in making decisions about modern performance.

>>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.

I'm mystified here.  I will readily admit to writing the paragraph in
question late at night at the end of both a longish reply and a bottle
of good Rioja, and I nearly deleted and re-wrote it two or three times
before deciding that I did really mean it and hitting the "Send" button.
Perhaps at another time I might have done it a different way.  But where
is "hostility towards composer and score"? I do not feel either.  All I
have done is to point out that once a composer is dead he can no longer
make his own choices.  Either everything he created becomes fossilised and
incapable of any change to retain relevance to new audiences, or others
have to assume that responsibility on his behalf.  To pick up Bernard
Chasan's analogy from another post, would Shakespeare be as popular today
as he still (thankfully) is, if he had only ever been performed exactly as
he was during his life? Or is his continuing popularity at least partly due
to those actors and producers etc., not to mention composers, who have
continually tried to re-cast his work in new ways? And have they not, in
the end, created even more interest in "HIP" Shakespeare?

>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.

Again, I don't understand how this meaning can be drawn from my text.  My
intention is to convey the exact opposite.  Obviously I must employ a new
editor to assist me in clarifying my posts.

>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.

I hope not.  Let me say it again:  the HIP movement is wonderful.  It
should have an input into questions of modern performance practice, but
not dictatorial powers over them.

Ian Crisp
[log in to unmask]

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