Voicing the musician’s choices

June 11-14, 2009
Paper: “Voicing the musician’s choices – the performer’s understanding of music and analysis”
Conference: The Future of Aesthetics, Annual Conference of the Nordic Society of Aesthetics.
Venue: University of Trondheim.
Scroll down to read or download: Abstract.

NB! The abstracts and papers are works-in-progress. Papers are meant to be read and may not always make sense without supporting sound/demonstration. Some papers/abstracts may contain my own personal notes for delivery. Also, the abstracts published here are the proposals sent to the conferences where the papers/presentations were later delivered. Abstracts and papers may therefore differ to the extent that they deal with different topics.

Voicing the musician’s choices – the performer’s understanding of music and analysis


Two performances of Messiaen’s prelude La Colombe will be under scrutiny in this presentation.[ref]Håkon Austbø, Messiaen. Piano Music, Vol. 3. Naxos: 8.554090; and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Hommage á Messiaen. Deutsche Grammophon: 477 7452 GH.[/ref] Analyzing Messiaen’s piece, we find that it opens with three distinct layers. One performer distinguishes these through dynamics solely and the other by shaping the parts differently. In most musicological performance theories[ref]Most prominent here is the circuit around Nicholas Cook, John Rink and CHARM.[/ref] interpretations are understood as signifiers of the score, and both performances can be read in that vein. But even if we find correspondences between interpretation and score, the questions answered are foreign from how the piece is experienced by musician and performer alike.
An experienced listener would first notice the fleeting/static character of the pieces. The presentation proposes that we disrupt the hegemony of the analyzed score as primary. Instead we primarily scrutinize the expressive character of the interpretations, and we voice and distinguish these through knowledge on pianistic musical conventions and idiomatics. Such approach will address very different aspects of the score than traditional structural analysis.
Finally, the experienced listener is proposed as a role-model for how the musician works. The performer first and foremost discovers the sounds and gestures of music, and questions about likeness or contrast in structure are secondarily posed as explicit or intuitive consequences of these choices.

Magnus Andersson is a research fellow at the Norwegian Academy of Music and a member of ORCiM (Orpheus Research Centre in Music) in Gent, Belgium. His dissertation on John Cage is written and will be defended in the fall of 2009. Andersson has also a background as a professional pianist, and as a musicologist he more and more works with questions from the musician’s point of view. He is currently lecturing at the Norwegian Academy of Music, and works as a music critic for the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet.

Magnus Andersson, The Norwegian Academy of Music
Pb. 5190 Majorstua
0302 Oslo