Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"More democratic, less hierarchical and more ambiguous"

One of the music theorists participating in a discussion about harmonics remarked that our era is "more democratic, less hierarchical and more ambiguous" than previous times in European history
This raises a critical point to which I replied:  
"The idea is to be alive in one's time.  The  era in which we live calls for flexibility in every department, not least in our ability to listen.  All the more reason to make clear that our visual responses are different from our auditory responses and to keep the auditory choices open to the fullest possible extent.
Most of the comments on this thread are posted by advanced scholars: But the skills to which such scholarship applies are open to all beginners in the study of music, and especially music theory, and would seem to call for cultivation of auditory diversity. 
I cannot resist an anecdote: Seated next to a prominent avant-garde pianist, I was subjected to the whacking to bits of a Haydn minuet by a dutifully trained youngster.  Incredulous, I asked my colleague: 'Can you believe that people are still teaching children to play like that?'  Reply: 'It's my student.' "

P.S. The real problem is that notation did not change to reflect the gradual changed in temperament.  Therefore, what you see ain't necessarily what you will hear.  Composers were to different extents aware of this and experimented with notation as best they could, beginning with Clementi, going on to Schumann, and, of course, Bartok.