Music Performance Essay

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Prior to the eighteenth century, interest in music of the past was not a notable feature of European musical taste.

It was in England, towards the middle of the eighteenth century, that interest in "ancient music" led to the first large-scale modern "historical" editions: William Boyce's (1763-93), and Samuel Arnold's Handel edition (1787-97), to name the most important.

Often, they adapt the works they offer to meet particular conditions.

Centuries-old works written for instruments that have become obsolete may be adapted for ones currently in use.

Such concessions to contemporary expectations relieved performers of much of the responsibility for determining important aspects of how a work they were playing would sound.

(For a musicological edition prepared in this spirit, see Exhibit 3.) Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, however, developments in philology—Karl Lachmann's popularization of stemmatics is perhaps the best known—led editors of musicological editions to re-examine the premises upon which editions were being prepared.For music of the past, however, the composer is usually dead, and so his intentions may remain uncertain, while the text(s) he has left may not have all the performance indications necessary to make the work accessible to modern performers who are not specialists in the relevant repertoire.The editions favored by musicologists today represent a rigorous form of historicism that has grown up during the past two hundred years.With such an edition, the editorial "value added" lies not in having established an authoritative text but in making it possible for the user of the edition to produce an acceptable performance of the work that the edition represents.(The two sorts of editions may be compared by viewing Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2.) As distinct and identifiable sorts of editions, historicizing and enabling editions are relatively modern innovations: they date back to the latter part of the nineteenth century, and reflect the differing approaches to music of the past that had been developing for the preceding century and a half.They may be obliged to make some concessions to today's users—most scholarly editions of fifteenth-century music score up choirbooks and partbooks, use modern clefs, and carefully underlay lyrics—but on the whole they endeavor to keep modernization to the minimum.They are scrupulous in eschewing the introduction of editorial suggestions for performance.When Foucault penned his , he was thinking about literary works, but his insight is equally valid for any of the creative arts for which editions are prepared—literature, drama, or music.The implications of Foucault's observation—and its corollary—are especially intriguing for music, where two sorts of editions, intended for different musical communities, reflect two different concepts of the musical work and two different views of the functions of the musical text.It is with music of the past—sometimes the quite recent past, but viewed in historical perspective—that editing music is largely concerned.For music of the present, the two factors that most concern editors—the authority of the text and the need to make the work accessible to the edition's users—are not at issue.


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