This sample essay on Performer Audience Relationship provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. In this essay, I would like to discuss notation and its influence on the relationship between composer and performer. In some ways composing can seem a slightly mystical process. How do we imagine musical ideas coming into the mind, what did the compositional process involve and how does the notation of a piece have a relationship to the way it is performed? Beethoven and Chopin, to take two conventional and well-known composers as an example, left a large body of work using conventional pitch-duration notation, involving the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, between them.
Yet the notation of their pieces gives few clues as to the compositional process. Rather than the finished works it is Beethoven’s sketches which give the clearest indication of his mode, generally slow and laborious, of composition.
On the other hand Chopin’s working modes were very different from those of Beethoven, involving a higher degree of improvisation at the keyboard. For Beethoven, the idea had to be down on paper. Yet the notation they used was the same. The most revolutionary developments in notation came in the twentieth century.
By the 1950s the relationship between composer and performer had become a coercive one, a sequence of commands constituting the composer’s control strategy. Notation became flexible, adaptable to and relevant to the playing situation.
Conventional notation does not necessarily equal lots of possible interpretations; the way to interpret pieces by Beethoven and Chopin (to take these composers as a further example) has been heartily disputed over the years in spite of the clear ” simple ” notation use by the composer.
In the same way, an elaborate or complicated notation such as those found in much contemporary music, can permit varied interpretation. A conventional notation, that is notation which covers duration-pitch relationship, is not flexible enough to relate extended compositional requirements. This led to the creation at new, flexible notations that have direct relevance to a playing situation. Even so, many composers are less concerned with the relationship of the score to the performer than to their own concerns with sounds.
The idea of a direct relationship between the composer and the performer without the intervention of a “middle man” became increasingly likely. The accepted norm of relying on the received traditions of the past as to what constitute a ” reliable ” or authentic performance was viewed as the ‘uncreative’ option. Composers like Boulez and Stockhausen pushed the boundaries of notation ever further. In Stockhausen’s Kontakte (‘Contacts’, 1959-60) for piano percussion and tape, the performers of the acoustic instruments are provided with a complex graphic score which permits them to co-ordinate with the taped electronic sounds.
An example from Kontakte by Stockhausen Whole techniques and even ideologies developed around rather straightforward musical notion such as polytonality, atonality, serial music and different modal harmonic process. The growing complexity of notations led to the alienation of the performer; even now only the most conscientious performers feel a responsibility to the composer, and to their own honesty, when dealing with complexity in notation.
Over-complexity in notation leads to problems with the realisation of the composer intentions when directives are inevitably contravened through necessity, for example in the music of Brian Ferneyhough which is so complicated and practically unplayable that it is inevitable that the performer will be unable to play every element of the notated piece. This takes the performer to the very edge of what is possible and creates in itself a new performance practice.
For example, Ferneyhough’s modernist masterpiece Etudes transcendentales for voice and four instruments (1984) is fearsomely complex, and again requires great dedication on the part of the performer if the composers wishes are to be carried out. However, a performer would really have to be familiar with a composer’s aesthetic to know that the otherwise unacceptable act of not playing the piece as written (mainly because you cannot! ) is part of the piece’s implicit meaning.
Therefore in a piece of huge complexity, notated or otherwise, a player who makes the act of commitment to study and attempt to solve it, is likely to have a rightful interest in actually performing the piece. This relates to the general view that the composer is the one who has something to say, reducing the status of the performer is that of a mere interpreter. However, this is not a view that has always existed; as has been stated, composers such as Chopin and Beethoven often improvised to an extent. But is it the case that, harmonically and stylistically, it simply was not as difficult to do this in Mozart time?
Here in this way, we have led to the prioritising of the composer, and the score. Traditionally we respect the written word, so one expects to perform music ” as it is written “, which in a way leads to the belief that whatever is not in the score must be wrong. The movement towards to a situation where interpretation is not required began to alienate the performer. Because interpretation has been overtaken by execution, the composer began to use compositional control over every element of a work, that is not only pitch-rhythm relationships but forms of attack, articulation, dynamic shading i. . those elements traditionally left to the musical intelligence of the player.
However, in every possible case which involves human input, ” something ” is left to the performer. They do not have to be aware of the elements of performance out of the possible control of the composer, for example a player’s personal style, method of playing their instrument, conception of dynamic level. When viewed in this way, such precision on the part of the composer becomes almost pointless, except in cases where the end result being an approximation is part of the composer’s aesthetic intention.
One of the first artists to react to the primacy of the written score was John Cage. Cage wrote about a larger shift in the relationship between performer and listener. He argued a rotation could no longer be seen as something separate and detached from its listeners and from it context. Rather, creating music was a process that was initiated by the composer or performer, but completed by the audience. The listeners’ experience of the work was essential to the music itself. He developed notations to reflect this ideology.
For example, one of Cage’s main concerns in producing indeterminate work was the need to free the performers from the authoritarian dictate of a composer, to prevent them being ‘dehumanised cogs in a music-making machine’. Ways of doing this included graphic scores, not including fixed time signatures, and definite instructions to improvise. Many other composers searched similar areas, like Stockhausen’s improvised works, and including Cornelius Cardew. Cardew focused much more on the need to give the performers a say, to make a cooperative social relationship in performance.
Cardew was a contemporary British composer who, by the end of the 60s, became disillusioned with the apparent academic role of the same times music and decided to restore the balance in favour of the performer. Cornelius Cardew wrote graphics scores in which performers look at the graphics and respond to and interpret them. In order to represent his intentions he used simple, pictorial ( graphic ) notation, with a sounding end result, which was very unpredictable and experimental.
Possibly the best example of this is Treatise, a graphic score which uses ciphers and symbols reminiscent of conventional notation to which performers must respond. The essence pf both Cage and Cardew’s intention was that everyone could be a composer, a musician- music taking on a social significance. The way a piece is notated allows us to come closer to understanding it, according to Cardew. “The musical culture within which notations operate, and of the ways in which our modes of thought function are influenced by the nature of the systems we use. “