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Pavilion Ballroom D • Thursday Evening, 8:00–11:00

Musical Performers, Musical Works

SMT

Patrick Boyle (University of Victoria)

The Jazz Process: Negotiating Error in Practice and Performance

John Lutterman (University of Alaska, Anchorage)

Werktreue vs. Praxistreue: On the Problems of Representing Historical Performing Practices in the Modern Concert Hall

Charles Neidich (The Juilliard School/Queens College, CUNY)

Knowledge and Imagination: On Performing Elliott Carter’s Gra for B-flat Clarinet

Eric Clarke (University of Oxford), Respondent

Knowing and Doing

Abstracts

Our special session brings three performers accomplished in diverse musical styles (jazz, Baroque, and new music) to speak on the theme of musical “workhood,” including elements of improvisation and freedom in composed and non-composed musics and issues of the distribution of creative agency between composers and performers. Patrick Boyle, jazz trumpeter, assisted by his jazz trio, will demonstrate improvisation strategies not bound by style or genre, using familiar tunes. His exploration highlights the interconnectedness of choice and error, style and spontaneity, and illustrates Boyle’s approach to the “politics of error.” John Lutterman, Baroque cellist, will discuss eighteenth-century improvisatory practices and perform a semi-improvised suite of pieces using eighteenth-c. compositions as frameworks. Charles Neidich, internationally-known clarinetist, will probe the relationship between hexachord structures and his approach to gestures, phrase shaping, and musical characters in Carter’s Gra, a piece that he premiered. Each of these presentations will feature live performance and demonstrations prominently.

Eric Clarke, British scholar well known for his work in empirical musicology, music psychology, and musical performance studies, will provide a formal response to our three performance presentations. As a leader in the UK performance-studies movement, Clarke is well-positioned to combine the perspectives of practice-based research with those of empirical and psychological studies. Clarke will also bring these views into dialogue with prevailing trends in North American music-theoretic approaches to the study of performance.

Concert pianist and theorist Victoria Tzotzkova, whose work concerns agency, improvisation, and performance, will moderate the session.

The Jazz Process: Negotiating Error in Practice and Performance

Patrick Boyle (University of Victoria)

If jazz improvisation exists at the intersection of intent and circumstance, between what one decides to do and what actually occurred, how then are errors perceived and negotiated in performance? As a jazz educator, I field questions from students that stem from preoccupations of sounding “right”—“What is the right way to swing eighth notes? Which scale will work over a particular chord? Can you write down what I am supposed to play?” These questions are in opposition to my observations as a jazz performer that show that musicians most often make original and creative musical statements by abandoning the need to sound correct. This presentation articulates the relationship between error and choice in jazz improvisation. A live jazz trio will demonstrate several original strategies for improvisation. These strategies are closed systems in which distinct musical relationships are created, acknowledged, and altered in performance. They are like “corners” a player can “paint” themselves into, in order to work their way out. These strategies are the basis of an alternative pedagogical rationale that reframes errors in performance as collisions of surprise and absences of no best next move that will make sense as events unfold. Freeing the mind from a pessimistic view of error is integral, for if one is concentrating on the right or wrong gesture, one is not concentrating on the musical moment. This is, in essence, the politics of error.

Werktreue vs. Praxistreue: On the Problems of Representing Historical Performing Practices in the Modern Concert Hall

John Lutterman (University of Alaska, Anchorage)

While those of us interested in historically-informed performing practices recognize that anachronistic nineteenth-century traditions have continued to influence the treatment of early music in today’s conservatory and concert life, it is easy to forget that modern practices of presenting public concerts and studying at conservatories are themselves nineteenth-century inventions. In light of this, it is perhaps less surprising that we rarely stop to consider the still more insidious ways in which another nineteenth-century idea about the nature of musical practices has come to govern the way that we understand the meaning of musical notation: the idea that written compositions should be understood as fixed musical works.

Recent scholarship has brought a broadening recognition of the important roles that improvisatory practices continued to play in concert life of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This recognition poses one of the most significant challenges to the adequacy of representing historical performing practices by means of programs that consist solely of written compositions. As an example of a possible solution to this dilemma, I propose to perform an unaccompanied, semi-improvised suite of pieces, using compositions by a number of seventeenth and eighteenth-century composers as a framework, and employing eighteenth-century techniques and styles of improvisatory elaboration. Rather than perform a fixed set of musical “works,” I seek to re-create eighteenth-century musical practices of unaccompanied solo cello playing.

Knowledge and Imagination: On Performing Elliott Carter’s Gra for B-flat Clarinet

Charles Neidich (The Juilliard School / Queens College, CUNY)

Performers are, foremost, interpreters. While composers strive to translate the sounds they imagine to paper in as careful a way as possible, their final product (excluding pre-recorded music) can only be a collection of symbols which performers must translate into sound.

This presentation demonstrates the principles of knowledge and imagination that performers use to arrive at a compelling performance. I will demonstrate the relationship between these principles in reference to Elliott Carter’s Gra (of which I gave the first performance and which I played for the composer on many occasions). Carter has constructed Gra from different transpositions of the all-trichord hexachord [012478]. It is impossible for a performer to create a truly compelling performance without this knowledge.

From knowledge, to imagination: In many ensemble pieces, Carter’s concern with the theatricality of characters leads him to imbue each instrument with a distinct personality. But in Gra, the clarinetist must portray interactions between a lamenting/sentimental character (indicated by slurred material) and a capricious (Ghiribizzoso) one (indicated by faster note values with more incisive articulation). Carter takes pains to encourage the performer to separate these characters. These contrasts of character or gesture interact with the hexachord statements in interesting ways, as I will show through live performance demonstrations.

Knowing and Doing

Eric Clarke (University of Oxford)

Grounded by its noun, music wrestles with process and product, thing and thinking, work and play. And different musics do so differently. Western Art Music is one tradition where these questions have loomed large; jazz, pop and folk music perhaps less so—though in these latter cases traditions and recordings arguably engage similar tensions as does notation in relation to performance. Musicology has become increasingly interested in and preoccupied by these questions, in part influenced by the performative turn in feminism, by increasing interest in analyzing musical manifestations beyond the score, and by the rise of what is variously referred to as practice-led or artistic research. The precursors for these changes in outlook can be seen in the philosophical interest in tacit knowing; in the psychological distinction between procedural and declarative knowledge; in a focus on embodiment; and in empirical work on the detailed characteristics of musical performance.

In this response I both engage with the specific concerns raised by Boyle’s, Lutterman’s and Neidich’s presentations, and discuss some perspectives on these issues arising from three European research initiatives over the last ten years that have focused respectively on the history and analysis of recordings, creativity in performance, and practice-led research. Finally, I return to knowing and doing: it is widely recognized that there is more to understanding music than can be conveyed in words and other notational systems—but less clear how to acknowledge and disseminate that understanding, and to grasp what it “tells us.”