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CLASSICAL  October 2006

CLASSICAL October 2006

Subject:

Re: Music as Language

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 26 Oct 2006 08:56:57 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Anne Ozorio wrote:

>Here, we've been discussing the ability of music to communicate beyond
>language.  That's a completely different stratosphere from the "recording"
>approach, thank goodness, but the "recording" mentality does exist and
>not necessarily conducive to indepth involvement with music on a deeper
>level.

While not necessarily leading to involvement, but, for me, it did...but
did so at a high price.  The involvement was increased due to the ability
to listen without the distractions of the concert hall, watching the
musicians, hearing those God awful candy wrappers, etc.  It also gave
me the opportunity to listen repeatedly.

I often wonder about the "meaning" of music when people could perhaps
hear a work maybe two or three times in their lives.  How would they get
to know the music.  Did the recording make it possible for us to consider
writing more complex music, since a composer can anticipate others might
have the opportunity to hear it, via a recording, repeatedly.  Yet, I
think of works like the Schoenberg 5 Pieces for Orchestra, complex music
written before the recording technology was capable of capturing it.  I
wonder if Schoenberg ever considered the difficulties the audience would
have at understanding his music with their only having potentially one
or two opportunities to hear the music.

>good thread and thanks to Karl!)

Thanks, and what makes it a good thread for me are all of the well
considered, informed responses which have resulted!

>There's so much more in live perfomance than just on recordings.
>Even recordings of live music aren't the same.  (Although a really good
>studio performance remains good recorded because it captures the
>communication between performers and is generally better than sloppy
>live performance)

I am rather surprised at your comment.  For me, a live performance,
even on record, if well done, can make for a more engaging listening
experience...but I guess it depends on how well done.  A few wrong notes
don't bother me that much when there is great expression in the playing.

A friend of mine recently wrote an essay which places edited recordings
in a moralistic context...namely, that recordings rarely represent honesty
in relationship to performance.  I would suppose that has to do with the
notions of whether or not a recording is a representation of performance
practice or it something unto itself.

>Of course recording has opened music to a larger audience, but as
>technology, it's still at an early stage.

Interesting you should write that.  On Saturday I am reading a paper
that will touch on that subject.  We are having a Congress devoted to
the music of Debussy and our Debussy roll transfers will be one presentation.
Part of my presentation is addressing the question of why some performers
chose to avoid making any disc recordings...the only way to make a
recording sound like a piano is for a piano to play the recording.
Perhaps we are still at an early stage with our technology and just can't
imagine how it would be better...not unlike those who thought so highly
of the Edison Diamond discs.

>Personally I can't at all relate to computer art.

Do you know why?

>Boulez's expresssion of how he was influenced by Klee is moving.  And
>Stravinsky being fascinated by Hogarth etchings.  Music and painting,
>sculpture, poetry etc have been connected again and again in history
>because, I think, all are forms of expression, and artistly sensitive
>people pick up on that.

Or as the Greeks thought, it was all one in the same?

>Is annotation connected to "absolute"?  That'steresting idea.  For me,
>annotation is merely a tool, like script is a way of pinning down language
>(which itself is always evolving) "Absolute" music, if it exists, will
>be "absolute" whatever the system used to pin it down.  With computer
>generated music I think it's more a case of us not having the script
>yet.

Yet, do we need to have a script? If so, why?  I would assume it is due
to our limited abilities to convey thought in thought?

It seems we need a script if we are to replicate the event, however, the
notation is not the event, and, I believe, it will always be a rough
approximation of the "thought."

>Improvisation is another story altogether, and for me, anyway, one
>of the more exciting aspects of new music.  The notation we use is a
>western concept: in other societies and other musics it isn't that
>important.  That's why I'm interested in ideas that aren't necessarily
>defined by notation.  I'd love to see Takemitsu's diagrams, for example.
>Which brings us back, full circle, to the idea that one form of art can
>inspire another, quite unconsciously.  So many composers have spoken of
>hearing musical ideas evolve from non musical material that it's pretty
>much a given that the barriers aren't great.

I sometimes wonder if the true barriers are that we have such limited
means of expressing thought and yet we strive so valiently to express
those thoughts with those limited means.  So much of what we do, even
with our facial movements, body language, perhaps even the auras we
project, seem to strive towards the expression of thought.  It just
seems to me that the means of communication are limiting our expression. 
How often we feel we are "misunderstood." On one hand that ambiguity of
interpretation keeps thoughts alive, as it allows each person to derive
their own subjective interpretation, yet we can often feel frustration
from that "misunderstanding."

As for music in this equation, I still wonder if it is lack of specificity
when it comes to the ways in which we will interpret it, that makes it
the ideal form for the expression of thought.  I doubt we will even know
what Beethoven meant in anything he ever wrote.  We can argue how one
musician "interprets" those thoughts as they bring them to us, and then
each one of us will find our own subjective meaning when we hear the
music.

A thought running along with all of this, at least in my mind, is trying
to understand the reasons for the limited appeal of classical music.
While there are many reasons why people avoid any highly personal
expression, might it be this lack of specificity which frustrates them,
or is it that they are perhaps overwhelmed by the thought of thinking
beyond the more common place.  Is it a fear of going beyond the surface
of thought that keeps many from valuing art?  Of course that makes the
assumption that "art" will go beyond the common place...whatever that
might be.

Karl

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