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Topic: Composer's Intent  (Read 7151 times)

Offline Mr._Johnson

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Composer's Intent
on: March 30, 2004, 03:01:42 AM
I am very curious as to how other teachers address the topic of understanding the composer's intent, and how they convey that to their students.  As a teacher with close ties to composers, I find that often the composer has very specific ideas that he/she wants to be brought across, often through a specific approach/attitude towards a piece.

I would be very interested to know how other teachers instill in their students a desire to know composers' wishes, apart from what's just printed in the score, and how important this is in their teaching.  This is especially interesting when one takes into account, for example, teachers who tell their students to "develop a personal style" or "just play what's written on the page," etc.  

The concept of understanding what the composer intended can be more difficult with a lot of the piano repertoire, since most of the "classic" composers have long since passed.  As a teacher, did you get a sense of understanding individual composer characteristics from your teachers, and do you seek to instill that in your students?  How important do you think it is?

Do you find that you are sufficiently taxed just trying to get the students to learn technique, the notes, and musicality, and that you don't have much time to allow for this aspect of interpretation in your teaching style?

I hope that this will become an open-ended forum to encourage teachers of different stripes to express their personal views on the whole issue of how to interpret what's on the printed page.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Composer's Intent
Reply #1 on: March 31, 2004, 02:24:17 AM
What would you say of this quote:

The work of music may be the expression of an individual sensibility, and we may say the same of a performance: but once published, once played, they have become public property. That is why we can maintain that a composer does not always knows how best to interpret his own work. His knowledge of the piece may be more intimate at first, but he cannot control future performances, and his opinion of how to play it may be interesting but is not absolutely privileged. We may say that the performer ought to realise the composer’s intentions, but we must also admit that very often the composer, the poet, or the visual artist does not fully understand his own intentions.”

(Charles Rosen – Piano Notes – Penguin)

Best wishes,
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline Lee

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Re: Composer's Intent
Reply #2 on: March 31, 2004, 01:48:33 PM
I'd say Charles Rosen is talking out of his backside.
It's one of the most ridiculous concepts I've ever heard.

"Once played, they become public property."  Don't have a problem with that.  The public can do what it likes with it and the author/ composer doesn't even have  choice in the matter.  You can sit down and watch a movie and think "that movie was about THIS".  The screen writer may not have wanted you to think that, nor did the director, but, you do.  Nothing they can do about it.  

"That is why we can maintain that a composer does not always knows how best to interpret his own work."

This statement reminds me of something that comes out of my next door neighbour's dogs rear end.  In fact I think the dog produces something more substantial.

Just because someone doesn't 'get' what the director/writer was aiming at, doesn't mean the director'writer didn't understand what he wanted.

If I give hints to my wife that I want a ferrari for Christmas and she goes out and buys me a motorised model, I'm not going to admit - oh yeah, THATS what I meant - boy luv, you sure know me better than I know myself!

"..he cannot control future performances"  Of course.  No problem with this statement.

"his opinion on how to play it ... not absolutely privelaged"  If it was, he shouldn't have published it in the first place.

"we must ...admit that very often the composer.. does not fully understand his own intentions."  Crap. Pretentious, arrogant, presumptuous and irrelevent.   "VERY OFTEN the composer..." please! Who is he talking about - if it's his wife, brother, someone else he knows, then fine.  If he's trying to make that assertion with Beethoven, Mozart; DEAD people, then he has no credibility to his statement unless he owns a ouija board.

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