Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Fear the Definition has Changed

A fellow member of the Music Theory Society is circulating a questionnaire trying to figure out what music theorists listen to.  His questions are interesting and seem to comprise music broadly defined - music of non-Western cultures, for example.

But the category he leaves out is recorded vs. live.  I have come to the point where I don't believe recorded music is really music.  Facing the prospect of recording the Schumann Waldszenen cycle, perhaps the most fragile piece of music I have ever encountered, I find it difficult to imagine preparing for this most challenging task.  The whole point of that piece is that it is securely perched on the brink of the unknowable.

Many years ago I decided that when asked whether I liked a certain piece of music I would reply only if it was something I had myself played.  No recording would do; not even a live performance would do -- neither category being risk-free in terms of doing justice to a composition.

To me music is music only when live.