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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000384.txt from 2002/02

From: Tony@-----.uk (Tony Pay)
Subj: Re: [kl] Spontaneity and other ephemera!
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 15:36:30 -0500

On Wed, 20 Feb 2002 09:26:52 -0800, leeson0@-----.net said, in part:

> The performing musician is of the opinion that he is in a much better
> position to decide on certain performance aspects of music....[he/she]
> thinks of the musicologist as a person in an ivory tower (sometimes
> badly stated as "an ivory sewer"), far removed from reality, and
> probably not equipped musically or intellectually to make it in the
> performing world.
>
> The musicologist thinks of the performing musician as having a set of
> mechanical skills but no depth.
>
> To some degree, both have right on their side. But the most stressful
> of all performance/musicologic issues arise when the musicologist
> says, "Here is hard evidence on how to do it," while the performer
> says, "That's not convincing and I don't like it that way."

I don't think that this characterisation of the two positions captures
the difficulty, really.

My own view is that you're better off choosing another way of describing
the matter. It's a way that applies to both of your camps, above, and
shows that the problem is never really going to go away.

What we do, performers no less than musicologists, as musicians, is to
be responsive both to context and to content. It's this double
response, and its necessity, that causes the difficulty.

Faced with a source problem, both musicologist and performer have to
decide what to do.

Sometimes the content is determinative: we know he wrote that, and
there's no argument.

Sometimes the content is less sure: then we have to use our experience
of the context to determine the situation.

For the musicologist: compare the connoisseur of pictures, who often has
to make an attribution when the evidence is ambiguous. He/she cannot
guarantee to be right, but their best guess is informed by their
experience, not only of the painter to whom the attribution might be
made, but to the whole stylistic context, including other painters, in
which the painter worked.

For the performer: *also* compare the connoisseur of pictures!

There's no difference, really, except that in the case of music, the
musicologist has less subtlety of output available. He/she can choose
to put down one of a number of variant readings, plus some footnotes.
On the other hand, the performer has an infinite variety of choices.
He/she can 'go between' readings, or play one reading in some
performances, and another in others, adjusting the other aspects of the
corresponding performances to conform to the *workability* of each.

The other part of what I want to say is that our more or less expanded
notion of workability is what corresponds to the connoisseurship of the
picture-expert. And we may have to work hard to attain and refine that.

So when you said:

> But when the sun sets, Tony is first and foremost a performing musician
> (a very good thing to be, by the way), and he prefers instinct above
> most other approaches to musical problem solving.

,,,then, that isn't true. I am prepared to undermine my instincts of
workability to quite a large degree. It's a slow process, because those
instincts 'show up' as 'the natural way to do things', and there's a
learning curve involved.

Nevertheless, I am responding to content, or evidence, no less than I'm
looking to the consequences of that, contexutally.

> We were talking about the elimination of a measure in the Gran
> Partitta, and it is a very good practical case to use to illustrate
> these issues. (By the way, for those who object to my spelling of
> "Gran Partitta, get used to and don't make fun of it!)

That was me. But in fact I'm not justified, because I've found that
that spelling was an alternate at the time. (Chastisement accepted.)

> [Colin Lawson] needs to have at least one valid objective reason for
> rejecting the suggestion. It should be factual, not subjective, and
> it may not include any variations of the phrase, "Your arguments are
> not convincing" unless strong objective evidence is given in defense
> of that assertion.
>
> Alternatively, if he can give clear evidence that the rationale for my
> decision is flawed in a precise technical way, that is 1000 times
> better than the unconvincing "not convincing" argument.

I haven't seen the manuscript. But I have seen the photograph, and as
I've said previously, the mark over the bar in question doesn't look
very 'authoritative' to me. It's smudgy, looks as though it's in a
different ink, and so on.

Don't get me wrong -- on the whole I lean towards elision of the bar;
but I'd find it difficult to say to a doubter, "Look! There it is! In
black and white!"

And, it's quite difficult to make the elision 'work'. You might call
that, 'subjective'. But I think that I'd prefer to call it
'contextual'. And there are often quite general principles involved in
contextual judgements, not just ones of the type 'I don't like it'.

> For example, if I were to say that "Mozart never did that thing, so
> you shouldn't either," he could then demonstrate that there is a place
> where Mozart did that very thing. I would go down the tubes and
> that's cool. I should for being so stupid.

Here I have to play a dirty trick on you.

You wrote previously, in another thread:

> For me to have said that Mozart NEVER used a tone higher than D in any
> clarinet composition, involved looking at the manuscript of every work
> in which he used a clarinet (and for which the original manuscript still
> exists), not in published editions.

But this very piece, K361, involves a high E on several occasions, as I
know full well, in the variation movement. So perhaps this was the very
first time that Mozart used it.

> That is your argument! If Mozart never did something, or if no
> evidence can be put forward to suggest that he did that thing, then
> any violation of that argument in unMozartean. If he did a thing
> once, then one can never argue that another case of that thing is
> unMozartean.

It's a principle that is too strong to apply across the board, as you
see. Suppose we didn't have the manuscript of K361, only an edition.
On that principle, you'd be able to conclude that the Gran Partitta --
or that bit of it -- *wasn't by Mozart*.

Bob Levin came to that conclusion, on admittedly stronger evidence, with
regard to the accompaniment to the Sinfonia Concertante. But then he
replaced that accompaniment with something that *his computer program*
didn't spit out as 'not by Mozart'.

But, I suggest *I* can tell that what Bob Levin wrote there instead,
isn't by Mozart. It's by Bob Levin, who although a very good musician,
isn't Mozart. (I know I *know* it wasn't by Mozart, and I know that it
took Bob to make me think that what was there before might not be by
Mozart. But that doesn't alter my opinion, even though I also know that
there are other cases in which evidence has made pieces 'disappear' when
it turns out that they aren't by the famous composers to whom they'd
been previously attributed.) After considering the argument that I'm
biased, I maintain that I'm not.

I know you can't *stand* that. But I'll put it forward all the same.

Why are you willing to surrender such judgement to some silly computer
program? It's *hard*, surely, to write a program to distinguish between
'by Mozart' and 'not by Mozart'.

It doesn't convince me, likewise, that the fact that Mozart had only
previously written up to a high D (no, sorry, E :-) means that he
couldn't have written up to a high G in his first concerto for clarinet,
in the hands of an acknowledged master of the instrument.

That's a contextual judgement too, going against the 'never previously
wrote it' principle.

> After almost 10 years of work, I came up with a series of technical
> reasons why measure 111 of the Gran Partitta's 5th movement should
> not be played despite 200 years of playing the work with that measure
> included. I published a paper on the subject entitled "The Gran
> Partitta's Mystery Measure" in the 1991 Mozart Jahrbuch. Colin read
> the paper. I know he did because he made a contribution to a
> published book in which made reference to the matter and it appeared
> to me, reading between the lines, that he found the arguments solid.
> But I must have been wrong because, in performance, he rejects the
> approach. And the reasons? I'm stepping off the cliff because I'm
> trying to figure out what they are from Tony's comments but I think
> that he simply is in disagreement with what I insist is a technically
> irrefutable position.
>
> That's OK. I wouldn't accept such a suggestion casually either. But
> what are his specific technical objections. (Remember, no "not
> convincings." Only objective assessments.)

The whole point about this sort of thing is that you have to balance
contextual judgements and objective assessments. I'm on your side
almost all the time.

But it doesn't work to say that one type of person responds to
'evidence' and another type of person responds to 'judgements'. We all
respond to both, always.

> Tony in discussing the matter offered the view that the inclusion of
> the measure doesn't ruin a performance of it, to which I agree. It
> was played that way (incorrectly) for two centuries, so no one can
> argue that its continued inclusion would ruin a performance. But what
> kind of a bankrupt argument is that? That something is technically
> incorrect but does not destroy a performance is no reason to keep it.
> For that remark alone, the next time he is a guest at my house, I
> won't feed him, or else I'll serve him an American version of bangers
> and mash, which will kill or maim any serious English stomach!
>
> And so the clash of the performing musician (which is very much what I
> think I am, or was) and the musicologist (which is very much what I
> think I was, and am) continues, without resolution, without substantive
> discussion, without conclusion.

You put it very well, apart from your change of tenses, which seems to
me to indicate that you want to be in one camp that you weren't in
before.

Be in both:-)

Tony
--
_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd Tony@-----.uk
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE http://classicalplus.gmn.com/artists
tel/fax 01865 553339

..... A little nookie never hurt anyone!

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