Music Theory, Historically-Informed Performance, and The Significance of Cities

Adam Krims
2010 Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie [Journal of the German-Speaking Society of Music Theory]  
This article examines three recordings from the early heyday of HIP, made around the same time, all of Beethoven's First Symphony, Op. 21, focusing on its last movement. It isolates the feature of wind / string balance, widely touted at the time as an advantage of the HIP approach, and measures them at key points of the movement; the resulting similarities of two of the recordings, both from London-based performers, and their pronounced divergence from the third, featuring East-Coast American
more » ... st-Coast American performers, suggests the possibility that music workers (performers, but also engineers, producers, etc.) informed each others' aesthetic preference and priorities, whether implicitly or explicitly. Recent theories from urban geography are raised in order to explain the kind of location-based learning that may account for such similarities and divergences, showing that ideas nurtured in discussions of urban creativity can contribute quite substantially to the concerns of music theory. Dieser Artikel untersucht drei Aufnahmen des IV. Satzes aus Beethovens 1. Sinfonie, op. 21. Die Aufnahmen stammen alle aus der frühen Blütezeit der Historischen Aufführungspraxis. Untersucht und gemessen wird die Balance von Holzbläsern und Streichern, die immer als ein Vorteil des Ansatzes der Historischen Aufführungspraxis gesehen wurde. Die Aufnahmen, die von Londoner Interpreten stammen, ähneln einander und unterscheiden sich deutlich von der dritten Aufnahme, von Musikern von der amerikanischen Ostküste. Diese Ergebnisse lassen vermuten, dass die an der Aufnahme beteiligten Personen (Musiker, aber auch Tonmeister und Produzenten etc.) sich implizit oder explizit hinsichtlich ihrer ästhetischen Präferenzen und Prioritäten beeinflussen. Aktuelle Theorien aus dem Bereich der ›urban geography‹ werden für die Erläuterung solcher Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschiede herangezogen. Dies zeigt, dass Ideen, die im Kontext urbaner Kreativität diskutiert werden, sich mit musiktheoretischen Fragen substanziell berühren können. (2010) integrating questions of performance has always occupied a pride of place. 2 For music theorists, on the other hand, the musical work has always been central, and the workconcept 3 has long served to displace questions of how that work may be projected in real time; indeed, even many of the studies that do address musical performance do so by using the musical score (so: the work) as a prescriptive premise, taking the 'work itself' as having a nature that, properly analyzed, may dictate its best possible realization. 4 Such studies can certainly be of value, suggesting, at a minimum, that an interested performer may generate articulational, phrasing, dynamic, and other ideas from structures deemed to characterize a given piece. Other theoretical / analytical approaches to music performance deal largely with the recorded literature and offer often suggestive and enlightening pictures of changing performance traditions and trends; 5 largely empirical in nature, such studies nevertheless offer crucial links to concepts of changing aesthetic trends and notions of different repertories' aims and realization. In such studies, which necessarily deal mainly with the twentieth century, one may see a fascinating supplement to histories of twentieth-century music, a history previously focussed on compositional avant-gardes. | ZGMTH Sonderausgabe While both these theoretical traditions of examining musical performance have plenty to offer the interested music theorist and have generated some exceptionally fine work, very few of them tend to tie in the aesthetic results (or in the case of the first tradition, prescriptions) with larger historical forces. In fact, most of those concerning themselves with such larger social conjunctions have been musicologists, 6 themselves more interested in questions of overall style and broad articulation than in the questions of musical organization that tend to preoccupy music theorists. This essay will attempt to argue that close attention to performance, albeit on select moments and in selected parameters, can disclose aspects not only of individual performances, but also of geographically-determined performances, and perhaps of urban life, as well. Such a sweepingly ambitious argument cannot be demonstrated to the level of apodictic certainty in any context, much less the length of this essay; but I do hope to show that such connections can be helpful, and that musical detail can be talked about as having some geographic determinations, and not simply in terms of regionality. And most important, as such matters deal with how music actually sounds, and the relationship between the score and its realization as actual music in real time, it is very much the concern of music theorists. Classical-music players, critics, and scholars have been known, on occasion, to deploy notions of regionality in their discussions of musical performance style (such as the notion of a Russian school of piano playing presumably traceable to Chopin and Liszt (!) or that of a Hungarian violin school dating to early-nineteenth-century Vienna). And especially among professional performers, pedigree is often flaunted in terms of a lineage from individual pedagogues, all the better if the originating pedagogue is a wellknown composer or, at a minimum, a legendary teacher. One of the arguments that will
doi:10.31751/571 fatcat:h32bh52x2fcgrkz7wux2j5gyey