Zsolt Bátori: Historical Authenticity: How Philosophical Assumptions Influence the Construction of Musical Performance Norms

The Construction of Musical Performance Norms: Study Day, King’s College, London, UK, May 24, 2014.

ABSTRACT. In my talk I briefly present two influential conceptions about the ontological status of musical works. On the one hand, one might argue that musical works are sound events; therefore the actual and full tonal characteristics of the sound sequences are an intrinsic part of the works. On the other hand, we may also consider musical works as abstract entities, characterized entirely by the formal (mathematical) properties and relations of the sounds. In the former case our ontological views about the nature of musical works commit us to value historical authenticity, since performing compositions written for historical instruments is easily understood as reproducing the tonal characteristics of the original instruments as well as possible. If, however, we think that musical works are abstract (mathematical) entities, then the actual tonal characteristics of the sound structure specified by a score will have the status of artistic interpretation of the performer. In my talk I explicate how these philosophical views (either explicitly endorsed or merely implicitly assumed) shape and influence the construction of performance norms. I suggest that music education often lacks the systematic study of the philosophical aspects of musical works; therefore the level of reflection on the nature (for instance, ontological status) of musical works is often ad hoc. Explicit formulations of the philosophical assumptions and arguments may greatly enhance the processes of construction, maintenance, informed criticism, and change of performance norms.




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