You Tube controversy

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RE: You Tube controversy

dubrob wrote:

I don’t know Tagalie if such a score would
ever be possible. I mean take dynamics for example how soft is pianissimo?
Fortissimo might mean one thing to one musician, but quite another to Elvin
Jones for example. Most scores have metronome markings, but what about the
pretty vague generalisations adagio, non troppo, vivace, that´s only the more
pedestrian ones, Scriabin has some really fruity ones. Of course composers
could remove these, and make their scores more scientific as you say, but most
scores tend to be filled with these emotional instructions which comes back to
the whole problem of trying to codify in a scientific way something so
amorphous and intangible as music, and more particularly musical feeling.

Exactly, Dubrob. Musical annotation is hardly scientific in any way. A minim here isn't the same as a minim there even if the score has metronome markings and even if the composer's metronome was accurate. Terms like adagio mean different things to different composers and conductors and within the contexts of different works. And then there are all the emotive directions used by, for instance, Mahler to describe what he wants. Some are specific - 'ohne dampfer' for instance. Or are they? Why, towards the end of one section does he write 'immer mit dampfer' and two measures later, 'ohne dampfer'. Which is it Gustav, always with or without?

Directions would have been written in relation to the performing traditions of the time and the instruments available. What would composers say if they had a chance to listen to modern orchestras playing in today's style? Hate it or want to adopt it? We have no idea.

I love it when people cite 'composer's intentions'. Says who? The composer or somebody interpreting? The closest I've ever come to talking to a live composer was William Walton, sitting ten feet away after a performance of Belshazzar's Feast. Even at that distance I was unable to divine his intentions,yet my proximity to him was about as close as 90% of us ever get to such a man. Usually we're getting our view of 'intentions' second, third or umpteenth hand, often after they've been interpreted by somebody with an axe to grind. Composer intentions and performing traditions can get so intertwined it's difficult to tell which is which. Decisions have to be made and usually it's the conductor that makes them, based on the score we would hope but with acres of room to manoeuvre.

Chris, any time you want to get going on Poppea, I'm all ears. A fascinating work.

RE: You Tube controversy

Music is the conscious and more or less
controlled production of vibrations in the air that change constantly over a
certain passage of time. Anything that owes its existence to the medium of air
is by definition intangible and invisible, and anything that is in a state of
constant flux and evolution is by definition amorphous. Music may have
structure and architecture, but it is the material from which it is made,
vibrations in the atmosphere, not steel or fortified concrete that mean it is
anything but solid. If music is solid, where is it before and after a
performance? The score is simply an instruction manual for the production of
these amorphous and intangible vibrations that only exist in the medium of
time, something else amorphous and intangible.

FluteFan gives an excellent elucidation of
the many contingencies that mean that musical production is always rife with
imprecision. Here are a few more: the material of which musical instruments are
made and their susceptibility to changes in temperature and humidity. Stringed
instruments consistently go out of tune during performance. Also the slightest
change in pressure changes the frequency of vibration being produced. How many
people can tell the difference between 440 Hz and 439Hz? The variability of
human imput into music production. The varying strength and tone of voice,
differing levels of pressure from the fingers and arms when striking
instruments, or feet when pedalling a piano or organ. Scores themselves are
choc-a-bloc with imprecise instructions.
How precise can these be? : Patetico, con stravaganza, vagamente, bellicoso,
elevato, scherzoso, maestoso, fiero, irato, impetuoso, languido, poético con
delizio, capricciosamente affamato, festivamente, lúgubre, douloureux.
Were surgeons, engineers, architects, town planners, quality control
chemists or air traffic contollers asked to do their jobs based on such imprecise
instructions I don´t think society would last too long.

If music can be properly represented in
written form why are some performances of the same identical score so wildly

RE: You Tube controversy

Speaking of composer instructions, I like the ones Schumann wrote for his second piano sonata. It begins "As quickly as possible." Then, towards the end of the movement, he writes, "Faster" and, a little further one, "Faster still."

dubrob & tagalie, Excellent

dubrob & tagalie,

Excellent posts.

Dubrob, as you say my reference to instruments covered a multitude of factors, as you say temperature is a factor for most instruments, and humidity for many, and so the list goes on.

As a flute player, if you take a sequence of two notes, and just consider the way those two notes can be played within the notes and relative to each other, there is almost an infinite degree of variation in relative dynamic, articulation, vibrato, timbre etc. These techniques are not applied in a binary/digital fashion, but more like an analogue control with as much flexibility as that musician has at their disposal given their level of skill and the capabilities of the instrument.

And this is just two notes on one instrument played by one player at a point in time when all other factors remain constant.

Multiply that up by the number of notes in a piece, and the number of players in an orchestra, and it is easy to see the potential scope for interpretation within the general instructions which can be found in a score.

Jane, Yes, have to love that


Yes, have to love that -certainly helps give a feeling of what was wanted with a little composer humour

You can take that literally, ie if you are playing as fast as possible (under control), then faster still will start to give a sense of that order breaking down, which perhaps is what was intended...

...or more likely it assumes that people may have flagged a little, and it is a reminder to give the ending a sense of urgency.

Chris, the Mahler example is also lovely

RE: You Tube controversy

Another example of imprecision in music I remember is someone once asked a famous pianist, how, when he played a trill on the piano, could he be sure he always played exactly the same number of notes? I can´t he answered it´s impossible to know that.  

RE: You Tube controversy

"Imprecision" and further limitations of the performer and the performance does not alter the solid and concrete character of the score and the music it represents.

Classical Music, as Bernstein used to say, should be called "precise music", because what is given by the composers should be performed as close as possible (given the limitations of the live performance) observing and following with utmost precision the score's features and details.

Music is not "any vibrations in the air". It is based on specific notes, in specific tonalities (sequence of these notes), in specific chords and harmony, instrumentation and so on. Any structure and architecture of music could not work (and make sense), if it was based on something that cannot be defined (intangible and amorphous).

On the question "if music is solid, where is it before and after a performance?", the reply is: "where it has been or could be always: in the score, on a CD (or other audio playback product), on a DVD (or any other visual reproduction) and in the memory of the audience (which can remember and cherish this memory of something both tangible and concrete). In the same vein, what happens before and after a performance of a theatrical play? Is "Hamlet" a solid and precise work of literature? And does any performance affect the artistic/literature value and the identity of the written play?

On the other hand, if I can never manage to attend a performance of Schubert's "Little C major" Symphony, that means that the work does not exist before or after a or any performance, if I can read and study the score, I can listen to it through various recordings and watch it in various audio-visual products?





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