Philosophy of the Arts


Performers of classical music

Performers of classical music seem better off than pop or jazz musicians, in that in classical music the relevance of the score for the performance is uncontested. You don’t (always) have to invent your means to bring a score to life; in large measure, you must make sure to perform it correctly. Maybe, however, this is only the beginning of succesful performance of classical music?

In much popular music, especially in jazz maybe, ‘anything goes’. This seems due to the ultimate style in jazz, free jazz, the absolutization of improvisation, collective improvisation. In Europe we speak of ‘improvized music’ to express the idea that there are no rules.
Presently, and we see this in all the arts, not only in contemporary music: we face the paradigm of creativity head-on. We refuse to take for granted any of the rules we developed in the past.
I don’t really believe that performers of classical music are really better off. The challenge for a musician to transform the notes in the score into music by ‘playing’ (what is that) the instrument of choice, can be as difficult.

There is something in this development for us: a deep recognition of the value of making, of turning inert material into something valuable. Turning it into something people can connect to.

2 Responses to “Performers of classical music”

  1. rob

    I am puzzled that you would think I am harsh on pop-music. I have made it my habit to always defend pop against the onslaught of aestheticians who prefer (for logical arguments) scored music over music with a clear societal relevance such as pop and jazz.
    I know that at all levels someone can mess up a song, exactly!
    What interests me is: What happens in such a case?

    To say something more interesting about that, we must assume that we can actually hear the musician making music.

    — van Gerwen, Rob. 2011. “Hearing Musicians Making Music. A Critique of Roger Scruton’s notion of “Acousmatic Experience”.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. (In Press).

  2. Frederick

    Dear Rob,
    Musical notation leaves a lot to interprete between the notes.
    And even the songwriter himself can mess up his own song one day
    not being able to get in the right vibe and give a perfect redition the next day. It is a form of art, no exact science.
    So don’t make a myth of those jazz players, it is difficult enough to perform a song as it was meant to be. Improvisation disconnects it from the original, so in a way that makes it easier.
    I’ve read your music blogs, some are harsh on pop-music.
    That Jazz connects to you, not to me, I’m sorry.
    I think music connects to us… not the other way around.
    Was it Wollheim? I say Wollheim was wrong, it’s a two way communication.
    Cheers, Fred

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