The more I think about what can happen in a piece of music, and about how many different ways there are to formulate and rationalize and structure and challenge and critique and embrace and magnify and problematize and thematize and reify these things, the less sure I can be that anyone else is liable to apprehend music the same way I do—or, for that matter, that I’ll apprehend a piece the same way one day as I do the next.
Sometime during the long hours I spent working on my most recent piece, it occurred to me that if I were to keep the score to myself and provide the performers with detailed verbal instructions about what to play, I could probably get almost the very same result as the conventionally notated score might produce: In other words, the most meaningful dimensions of the piece aren’t contingent on notated musical particulars in the score that come from me.
As bloggers about and fans of contemporary music, we can do the most good by supporting the people and institutions that produce it, regardless of whatever internecine beefs we may harbor. As serious music people, however, we’re obliged to identify problems. On the face of it, this sounds like a destructive, negative mission statement, but au contraire.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice before on NewMusicBox, I’m getting ready to teach a month-long continuing education course on radical American music before World War II. To that end, I recently checked Carol Oja’s Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s out of my university library.
I’ve been working recently on a little diversion from my usual composing: a set of arrangements for a songwriter of my acquaintance. Although I’ve written dozens of songs (and a little music for string quartet), it’s novel for me to be entrusted with someone else’s material and explicitly given free rein to push or pull it in whatever direction the tune suggests.
Everything that anyone has ever done, someone is still doing. It’s already been pointed out in Frank’s thread that LPs, CDs, cassettes, and so on will continue to be produced and consumed into foreseeable perpetuity, if only for their fetish value: Buying an album in .mp3 form is a different act than buying it on CD, which in turn is different from buying it on vinyl, and these differences themselves hold meaning for many consumers.