Robert Peters wrote:
>Mimi Ezust wrote:
>>It's may be amusing to read biographies and histories, but when it comes
>>to understanding music, why try to layer it with outside noise, when
>>music can always explain itself so beautifully as MUSIC? Nothing beats
>>repeated listening in the process of understanding a piece of music.
>But then you only understand the notes, the sounds, the structure of the
>piece - but you dont understand the background which I find so
>interesting. I am deeply convinced that knowing about the political
>conditions under which Beethoven wrote his Ninth Symphony is essential
>to a real understanding of it. (But I am not a missionary.)
Probably to a lesser extent, I too value having a notion of context for
a piece of music...yet, on the other hand...I believe it is impossible
for us to ever have a sense of the impact a work like the 5th Symphony
of Beethoven had on those hearing the first performances. We can't hear
it that way since we have heard so much music that has explored other
ideas, gestures, harmonies, etc. in music. While it may retain the
element of freshness, it can never have exactly the same impact it had
when it was new...but then, it is a work in which each generation will
find its own meaning.
I remember one of the interviews with Bernstein where he described his
first meeting with Copland...to paraphrase..."I was expecting to find
him to be something like an austere bearded old Whitmanesque sort of
figure, because it is all there in the music. What I found instead was
this affable, toothy, giggly, delightful man." On the other hand, consider
Rodeo...it was all about America and it seems to have been a product of
the war...as Agnes de Mille pointed out. Yet Copland's Americana ballets
began before he war...yet, the polictical notions of socialism have been
pointed to as being, in part, his motivation for writing "Americiana."
Yet others have suggested that he wrote "Americana" to get a large
audience, (and yet another yet) others suggest that his Americana works
were part of his natural evolution as a composer, a composer who conciously
wanted to create an American music. For me, the ultimate irony of it
all is that to write American music, all he had to do was be himself...at
least he had a better chance of success at writing American music than
Dvorak. For me, Copland didn't need cowboy tunes to sound American...the
Variations are, for me, could not have been written by a European, even
if one does find some European influences in the work.
For me, a knowledge of the historical context of a work can enrich my
appreciation for it, but especially when the history is subject to
interpretation, I find that ultimately I am left with the music.