Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: Sound and Score (de Assis/Brooks/Coessens, eds.)

Cross-posted at Rebecca's Reading Rants and Raves Sound & Score: Essays on Sound, Score and Notation

As with any anthology of essays, a particular reader will find some contributions more useful than others. Admittedly there were essays that I skimmed, as I was looking for specific writings that would interact with discussions for my graphic notation seminar. I appreciate the multitude of perspectives and styles, although I found the essays that were well-grounded in theory to be more useful. Both Virginia Anderson's "The Beginning of Happiness: Approaching Scores in Graphic and Text Notation" as well as Jeremy Cox's "What I Say and What I Do: The Role of Composers' own performances of their scores..." were particularly enlightening in their examination of score/performance relationships. Cox adapts Krenek's 1966 theory of process of musical thought to reveal a composer's performances as a "triangulation tool" (p. 21) between the score and Gestalt/musical thought. The only real quarrel I have with his investigation of Stravinsky's tempi in two different recordings (1946 and 1961) of the Symphony in Three Movements is that it is predicated on an assumption of "logic" when it comes to tempo choices--an assumption that isn't clearly delineated by the author.

Anne Douglas's "Drawing and the Score" is one of the strongest essays as she offers a succinct summary of the relationships that can be established when "an artist transposes concepts of drawing and notation across the borders of art forms" (p. 207). In just under ten pages, Douglas convincingly concludes that the tension between musical score and drawing is essential to all stages of the musical work, and in effect "loops" the components of a performed musical work "between author/audience." (p. 215).

The editing is good, for the most part, although there is a significant error in the captioning of Fig. 4 of Cox's essay (p. 24) and certain essays could have used a stronger editorial hand in order to keep expositional consistency. The book's division into four parts seemed somewhat unnecessary, particularly given the holistic interpretation that underscores the entire book. That said, the parts (I: Score and Idea; II: Mapping the Interface; III: Extending the Boundaries; IV: Choreographies of Sound) do provide interesting inroads to the larger discussion.

This is a very worthwhile collection and has readings that are provocative and useful for a whole host of different types of research and teaching, especially in contemporary music. Some essays are more accessible than others, but it is a valuable compendium for anyone who teaches composition, contemporary music performance, and/or music history.

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Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea