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Is it really true? Composers' intentions are more important than the resulting performance!

I think not but then I've spent most of my life as a performer.

Does music survive as something in ones' head or is it external sound sources being received and processed by ear to brain that excites, entertains or simply fascinates us when listening?

I'm not posting this as a subject for argument but rather just to read how others answer such questions.

We are who we are and it is unlikely any internet forum discussion is going to dramatically change our view.

Ray

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Ha! I've a good mind to change the header............

" Is the path to bleak anonymity paved with composers' best intentions?"

magic Kristofer.

Kristofer Emerig said:

'Tis true indeed Ray. The path to bleak anonymity is paved with composers' best intentions.

Socrates,

I understand what you have been saying. So there are two aspects to this question. Is it morally ethical to chop up and mix compositions? And is it legally responsible to do so?

With caveats, no.

But unfortunately, we can't force our moral standards on others. What Bream has done doesn't really bother me. But that's me. How much good music has been lost over time. Music that was never written down, or was played once and then stored away, or blown up in Europe in WW2.    

Copyright is another matter. Laws in the US are more strict. You can't do anything to a piece without permission of the copyright holder.

My wife and I were hired to do a children's music show at a festival. We played at an couple hundred seat covered area. We wanted to do some new material, and contacted the bands that did the music we wanted to play to see if it was OK. Most were surprised we bothered to contact them. All agreed to let us play their songs. The day came and we put on our show. In the audience  there was one person. It was some old guy way in the back. He may have been dead cause he never moved. We had a blast playing through a nice sound system. That's one of my copyright stories.

The outrage over the Bream example overlooks one simple fact. This music is unknown to most classical listeners. No one would consider mashing up bits of Holst's The Planets with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This guitar music is known to only a small subset of the classical music audience. While I understand their outrage, my question is, Is the result musically satisfying? Ultimately, that's what will determine the success (or not) of such efforts.

The original premise of this thread regarded interpretation, but it seems to now shift to whether it's okay to bassomatic (forgive the old SNL reference) music from different pieces (and different composers) into a whole. In my mind the answer is twofold, if the music is well known people will probably object, if the music is not well known then it will depend on whether the result is a satisfying musical experience. For me the result for this guitar piece is that for guitar music it's on the successful side. My reasoning is there's a wide variety of textures and the music seems to move along quite well, nothing sounds out of place. So far the dramatic topology of the music is satisfying to me and I'm listening to the Rondo now.

I would assert that one major of composers intentions (dead or alive) would be/is : Leave my music as it is, unless invited to do otherwise. (Or as Stravinsky said to the publisher: All the wrong notes are right).

Your comment could be well understood with a 19th century anti-guitar mentality but it is a bit out of place in the 21st century. You would be surprized how many are those "few" guitar music listeners! As for comparing Holst's orchestral music to that of solo instrument Diabelli, it is perhaps out of context as an example, given the different functionality and/or social dynamics involved. On the other hand I would agree that the Bream rendering is a better musical result. So what? Are we to re-invent Diabelli? That to me is both musical and historical distortion and anyway who has time for doing such things? I would much prefer if Bream, given his well proven musicality, would also compose original guitar pieces, so that we can all appreciate him in that field too. (And leave Diabelli and more to the point Giuliani in their acclaimed achievements for better or for worse).

At last, some opinion from the body of the room.

But again I ask, where does one draw the line?

Ravel took Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and made it into splendid orchestral pieces well-known and loved today, whereas the original piano pieces were relatively obscure until Ravel brought them to light with his arrangements.  If we were to take your "leave my music as it is" line literally, I'd say arranging for orchestra would also be verboten, since in the course of orchestration one has no choice but to modify the original notes so that they work better in an orchestral setting. Pianisms like arpeggios and tremolos, at the very least, would definitely need to be rewritten, otherwise they would sound unconvincing in an orchestral setting. And of course, octave transpositions would be needed for doubling, instrument register issues, etc.. Not to mention key changes to make it better-suited for orchestral instruments.

There's also score reduction of orchestral pieces to make the music accessible to, e.g., a context where an orchestra is not available, and a pianist wants to get the gist of the music.  Or perhaps even reducing a piano score to a basic level of complexity for pedagogical reasons. More difficult sections would have to be cut, for example, and complex figures may need to be replaced with something more manageable.

Similar things have been done in youth orchestras -- a popular piece like Beethoven's 5th may have some sections so that it's of a more suitable length, or edited to be of more suitable difficulty level for the inexperienced players, e.g..

Taken literally, "leave my music as it is" would preclude all of this. Yet I'm sure you'll agree that at least some of these examples ought to be conscionable.

All of what you mentioned Teoh is to me legitimate, creative and agreeable, and I have already stated so, in a previous post.

My example of the Diabelli sonata (and mention of Giuliani Rossinianes) refer to something else, namely to Bream's cavalier attitude regarding these composers in their historical context. He did not re-compose the piece or come up with something new or exciting in a creative way. He just did not like certain passages and he changed them borrowing from other pieces, that's all.

"Leave my music alone" refers here specifically to these cavalier attitudes that some performers and publishers have, and I have not observe it in composers or arrangers doing these things that you've mentioned which are welcome to me and perfectly alright as music practices.

Socrates,

I don't know anything about Bream. If he is indeed as cavalier (a most gracious term, and probably kinder than you mean), as you say, then he reminds me of several soloists I have known. They can be full of themselves and jerks. And boastful. It's annoying that they can back up their boasts with great playing. Drat! Well, there's nothing to be done about them. 

All a composer can do is put their stuff out there. If it's a commission, at least it will get played once. Who knows beyond that. How many millions of compositions have never seen the light of day, forgotten without ever having a chance. Maybe those are the ones to champion. At least Diabelli had a hearing.

If one subscribes to the the mantra, "There is no 'Try', there is only 'Do' or 'Not do", then a composer's (or anyone's) intentions are meaningless if not brought to full and ripe fruition.

Nice as that is as a soundbite, I find it basically nonsense, so can't say I'm subscribed to it.



Boot Hamilton said:

If one subscribes to the the mantra, "There is no 'Try', there is only 'Do' or 'Not do", then a composer's (or anyone's) intentions are meaningless if not brought to full and ripe fruition.

I know, the type you mean Bob, I've met a few in my rounds. Fortunately Julian Bream is not one of them. He has been a real virtuoso on his instrument (and the Renaissance lute). I brought this particular example and I exposed it in this way because I thought it related well to Ray's thread question.

I am afraid I may have been misunderstood in general about Bream. Probably he offered more to music as a performer that Diabelli ever did as a composer. Apart from the two cases I mentioned, in no way I disregard all his other activities and I am fully aware of his contribution to music and influence to newer generations of guitarists, both as a brilliant performer and as an arranger for the instrument. His arranging work enriched the guitar repertoire in general very much and the works he inspired as a performer to composers such as B Britten, Malcom Arnold and Alan Rawsthorne are gems of the 20th century repertoire.

Bob Porter said:

Socrates,

I don't know anything about Bream. If he is indeed as cavalier (a most gracious term, and probably kinder than you mean), as you say, then he reminds me of several soloists I have known. They can be full of themselves and jerks. And boastful. It's annoying that they can back up their boasts with great playing. Drat! Well, there's nothing to be done about them. 

All a composer can do is put their stuff out there. If it's a commission, at least it will get played once. Who knows beyond that. How many millions of compositions have never seen the light of day, forgotten without ever having a chance. Maybe those are the ones to champion. At least Diabelli had a hearing.

I have come very late to this post and admit I haven't read all the responses. Like many of us here I am a composer who was for many years a performer (and a conductor) so I think I have a fairly rounded view based on broad experience....but not necessarily of course a definitive view, may the gods forbid.
Having said this I have noted a tendency to consider musical worth as being based on the emotional response of the listener; my view is that true musical appreciation is a balance between intellect and emotion...possibly a rather 'tired' and conventional viewpoint. But, when I attend live concerts (almost all of which are performed by full orchestra), if I find myself metaphorically sitting on the outside of a huge glass sphere looking down into the music then I am disappointed and feel I have been short-changed. If, alternatively, I find I have been dragged into the nucleus of that glass sphere then I know that emotionally and intellectually I have been completely engaged and consider myself to be a fully sated and satisfied human being.
When my own music is performed I react in various ways; first I just feel hugely privileged that someone somewhere has found my efforts worthy of performance, second I am deeply interested to see/hear how my efforts at translating my thoughts through the admittedly imperfect medium of musical notation have been interpreted, third - if the performance is not as expected (assuming it has been a technically good performance) then I have to consider 'is it better or worse than I had hoped?' and whichever way I consider it to be, is that through my own imperfections and lack of clarity in the score or because the conductor is a buffoon?.....in 99% of cases it's been my own fault....but that can only be good because I will learn from the experience.
So, to return to Ray's original statement, my opinion is that music both survives in one's head through short and/or long-term memory, and is due in the initial instance to external sources exciting one's senses....of course I should have written that the other way about....one cannot recall something without having first experienced it.
Finally, it has just occurred to me that when conducting my own music I sometimes interpret it in a way that is other than my first intention....and the cause of this is by listening to players themselves giving different interpretations of what I was expecting to hear. This is surely the dynamic that makes music music!

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