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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000696.txt from 1996/01

From: "Eric P. Mandat" <emandat@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: Is that it? Is it all over?
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 08:18:27 -0500

Well, I guess I'll jump into this fray. History is filled with alternating
periods of innovation and assimilation: for example, "classical" became
"romantic" because of the innovations of a number of central figures, then
the style was developed and brought to maturity by a number of others who
were able to assimilate the new concepts and fully explore their
possibilities. Innovation alone cannot create a new tradition, as we can
witness by all of the iconoclasts whose beautiful ideas were never
understood, analyzed, reworked, reapplied, and otherwise manipulated by
those who shared the aesthetic. These iconoclasts became simply aberrations
in the history books.

The assimilation process can go only as far as there is innovation to feed
it. The "assimilator" artist fills up his/her plate with hors d'ouvres from
the "innovative" artist and devours those which are compatible to his/her
palate, to use a rather grotesque analogy. The other ideas are left to
spoil, or to be thrown out after the party, or to be picked up by some other
"assimilator" artist whose palate craves these new flavors.

There have been numerous arguments regarding at what point does a piece of
music become a piece of music. Is it enough for some would-be composer to
have this collection of sounds and silences in her/his head? Must this
collection of sounds and silences be committed to a hard copy to receive the
coveted stamp of "work of art"? Must a composition receive a performance in
order for it to become a living, breathing entity? Does a
composition/performance need an audience to validate its purpose?

My opinion is that all of the above are correct, simultaneously,
sequentially, and nonsequentially. The would-be composer is simultaneously
performer and audience, imagining not only the mathematic and architectonic
structural relationships, but also their exposition through time; at the
same time this composer is constantly analyzing how these elements interact
with each other, just as any audience would do. The performer must also
play the part of composer and audience by attempting to extract the logical
and/or emotional essences inherant in this collection of frequency ratios
and then making choices as to which of these essences provide the optimum
aural view for the audience. The audience is at a disadvantage because
music generally requires temporal linearity for the interaction of elements
to occur (some people would say this is the fundamental requirement for a
proper definition of a music). The audience is therefore forced to follow
the dictatorial whim of the composer and/or performer, then relegated to ex
post facto reactions. Nevertheless, the audience becomes an active
participant in the same process which stimulated both the composer and
performer, albeit more constrained by temporal linearity than the other two.

Where is this all leading? There are so many variables which can act upon
the process of music - and music is always a process, never a product, if
the temporal linearity prerequisite is invoked - that to blankly state that
the performer's only duty is to communicate the precise intentions of the
composer is to deny the existence of reaction, analysis and interaction as
variables in the music-making process. What successful performer does not
attept to communicate with an audience? What successful performer does not
decide at some point whether that E-flat in measure 4 leads to the D in
measure 5 or to the E-natural in measure 7? What successful performer did
not first have some burning sensation of excitement at hearing some great
work for the first time, and want to be a part of that wonderful experience
over and over again?

I too would love to see more opinions on interpretation disseminated via
cyberspace. Considering the myriad micro/macro levels which can be
discussed, I also understand the reticence by many to take the interpretive
plunge. Maybe also because of the very personal nature of such discussion,
there is a certain amount of reluctance to share one's soul over the phone
lines. Can we truly communicate our feelings without face-to-face contact
with our fellow human beings? Does music encoded as a series of 0s and 1s
on a laser-read plastic disc feel as good as being in the audience? If we
accept the somewhat reduced emotional fidelity dictated by this impersonal
form of communication, then we should have a pretty decent discussion on
interpretation. Let's start with a fun piece: anybody want to talk about
Berg's Vier Stucke?????????????

Thank you for putting up with the rambling...


Eric P. Mandat
Professor of Clarinet
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62903
618/453-5828 studio

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