Are You a Slave to the Score?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:04 am

My guess is that musicians have been disappointing other musicians throughout the ages; it's nothing new. The reviewer always assumes that what they want to hear is correct and the musician who disappoints them is wrong; then they report this as fact. But who knows whether the reviewer has a privileged ear or not? For all we know the reviewer likes bombast and the player is subtle, refined and nuanced. The reviewer is disappointed. The rest of the audience is transported.
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soltirefa
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by soltirefa » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:15 am

Jeffrey,

I see you own a Takamine C132S. I have one, too. Bought it for $500 new back in the late 90s. I am constantly amazed how good it sounds and how easy it is to play.

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Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:58 am

soltirefa--is that Italian? (kidding!)--I recently had the action lowered on that guitar and now it plays really nice. I think I paid $600.00 for mine used from Guitar Center. I rarely play it because I like my other guitar better, but you've inspired me to go take it out and warm it up. It is a great guitar for the money; louder than my spruce and with a cedar rosiness that I like. I should really play it for a couple of days just to see if it wakes up! It usually sounds better after an hour of playing.

edit: I always forget that this guitar has no fret markers on the side. I only have one a the seventh fret of my spruce, but I'm surprised how it throws me for a bit not having that reference.
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soltirefa
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by soltirefa » Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:20 am

Soltirefa (admittedly kind of a dopey screen name) is Sol ti re fa, a V 7th chord spelled with solfege (do re mi, etc).

I put a small dot on the 7th fret using Liquid Paper (white out). It has been there for years. If I were to do it over again I'd probably put a nicer dot.

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:55 am

Yeah I have a piece of tape that I put there tonight. Geeze, it really does sound good! on romantic stuff anyway--Julia Florida and Tarrega preludes. Lowering the action really helped this guitar's playability. I don't know why I don't keep it out more.

Bach didn't sound as good as my spruce though.

No, I've always liked your on-line name; perfect for here!
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Fretful
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Fretful » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:31 am

soltirefa wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:20 am
Soltirefa is Sol ti re fa, a V 7th chord spelled with solfege (do re mi, etc).
Have we lost the thread a bit here (slave to the score) ?
Soltirefa is great. In the context of this topic, it could be seen as an angram for Solti fare (as in the great conductor taking liberties), or Solti fera ... ce qu'il fera , whether you like it or not.

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by PeteJ » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:55 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:33 pm
Pete,
Here's one of my favorite guitarists, Yamandu Costa, who in many ways defies categories. Look at some of his music on YT. He is a master of interpretation. Hope you enjoy. https://youtu.be/9nIJ7HSR7Cw Playing again . . . Rognvald.
Oh yes, very nice. I'll look out some more of him. I like his footstool - and is that a thermos of tea beside him? Must have been a long gig.

Here's me not being a slave to the score. viewtopic.php?f=90&t=116642

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by pogmoor » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:32 pm

There's quite a lot of early music played on lutes and related instruments available online via YouTube and similar sites. It's quite noticeable that many of the players may stray quite a long way from what is found in the tablature sources. Just as an example (there are plenty more) there is a freely available set of lute pieces beautifully played by Thomas Berghan (Google finds them easily), one of which is a chaconne from the Saizenay manuscript. Not only does Berghan subtly alter the rhythm at the beginning of this piece, he also adds a section at the end that is taken from another piece altogether. One of the justifications for this, I suppose, is that there are many pieces from the 16th and 17th centuries that can be found in widely variant forms in different sources. The modern idea that the composer created the definitive version of a piece had not emerged by that time and, indeed, I believe it has only developed gradually over time.
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Rognvald » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:42 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:55 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:33 pm
Pete,
Here's one of my favorite guitarists, Yamandu Costa, who in many ways defies categories. Look at some of his music on YT. He is a master of interpretation. Hope you enjoy. https://youtu.be/9nIJ7HSR7Cw Playing again . . . Rognvald.
Oh yes, very nice. I'll look out some more of him. I like his footstool - and is that a thermos of tea beside him? Must have been a long gig.

Here's me not being a slave to the score. viewtopic.php?f=90&t=116642
Nice playing, Pete! Playing again . . .Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Rognvald » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 pm

One thing that has I think not been expressed, and which I think you are missing, is that of the evolution of style. Horowitz was a great exponent of a particular style, one that belonged to its time - Segovia was another fine example in his way. If players and audiences really wanted that style to persist, I would assume it would return. But by and large they don't and it hasn't.
Stephen Kenyon



Stephen,
Thanks for the thoughtful response and it's helpful to remember that we don't have to agree on anything for a discussion to be successful but rather that we might be challenged to rethink ideas we hold sacrosanct or choose, once again, to strengthen our previously held beliefs. Perhaps there has been some confusion, although, in the idea that I am advocating rewriting a composer's score. This is not the case but perhaps where we might be splitting hairs. When I look at at a piece of music, I am not advocating changing the melody, harmonic progression, or even the conceptual mood of the piece, but rather to allow the music to morph naturally into MY style of playing(its strengths and weaknesses) to produce a piece I enjoy rather than fear/loathe playing. For example, let's say that a particular harmonic voicing is extremely difficult to execute and is the only place in the music that creates insecurity in a performance. Will I hit it? Will I muff it? Do I feel angst when approaching it within three measures? Or, do I rewrite the voicing to one which is more facile and only 1 out of a million people would know the difference when it is played? Have I insulted the composer? Have I denigrated the music? Will I be sentenced to the pit of Beelzebub for eternity? No, I played it cleanly and the piece worked. Perhaps this comes from years of playing in large ensembles where the end always justified the means. But why should classical music be any different? . . .why should ANY music be different . . . which brings us nicely to your above remark. The problem with your statement, for me, is that you assume that evolution is for the better . . . not for the worse and this is where we disagree completely. So, if we use as a premise that contemporary tastes are the determining factor to positive(implied in your remarks) musical evolution and where if "players and audiences really wanted that style to persist, I would assume it would return(Stephen Kenyon)" should we say that audiences who once flocked to Horowitz, Kempff, Rubenstein and their likes have evolved and now prefer Yanni and John Tesch? Should we relegate the Art of DaVinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Caravaggio as a former stage of evolution to the charlatan idiocy of the Herd's preference for Minimalist and Performance Art? Or should we look amiss at Shakespeare, Cervantes, Boccaccio, and Chaucer when compared to the Romance novels and Detective Fiction of the Y2K? Contemporary tastes have no bearing on Art . . . only on a performer's popularity. There have been periods throughout the History of Man that have been devoid of artistry . . . the Dark Ages in Europe, for example, and ,perhaps, the Dark Ages(for me) of the Y2K. There are perhaps more gifted Musicians today, however than writers or visual artists who, in my opinion, have hit the proverbial bottom of the barrel. In reality, all great musicians have taken liberties with a score and printed their own unique name across its pages. What I'm advocating is a musical personality that is your own where you can create through music the vision of the composer as it is filtered through YOUR Art. . . not your neighbors. You cannot get there with a slavish reading of the score . . . or so I think. Thanks again for your feedback. Playing again . . . Rognvald.
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Rognvald » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:58 pm

A picture is worth a thousand words. https://youtu.be/XZegaLI4M_w
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by JohnB » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:22 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 pm
So, if we use as a premise that contemporary tastes are the determining factor to positive(implied in your remarks) musical evolution and where if "players and audiences really wanted that style to persist, I would assume it would return(Stephen Kenyon)" should we say that audiences who once flocked to Horowitz, Kempff, Rubenstein and their likes have evolved and now prefer Yanni and John Tesch?....
I think you are setting up a straw man here and deliberately (?) misinterpreting what Stephen was saying. Firstly Horowitz, Kempff and Rubenstein were very, very different pianists (to say the very least). Kempff's Beethoven (and some of his Schubert) is still revered today and Rubenstein is much admired, especially, say, in Chopin etc. Horowitz is also very much admired but his some of his interpretations are of their time (which certainly isn't the case with Kempff).

As for Yanni and John Tesch a more appropriate comparison would be, say, Mitsuko Uchida, Martha Argerich, Stephen Osborne, Radu Lupu, etc, etc - all of whom are wonderful pianists by any standard (even if three of the four are getting on a bit now).

As for changing the dots - ideally I think we should aim to play the music as written because that is what the composer intended, at least in most classical music (transcriptions are a different matter). However, if a certain chord, etc presents a barrier to being able to perform a piece then it isn't unreasonable to do a discreet tweak. The pianist Alicia de Larrocha's performances of Albeniz, Granados, etc where regarded as definitive, but she had small hands. She was once asked what she was doing when someone saw her marking up a score. Her answer was something like "Making the damned thing playable".

I am in two minds about playing a piece however one prefers - it depends. On the one hand it can be fun if one is doing it for one's own pleasure - but in general it depends on far far one takes it and on the player's musical sensitivity and knowledge of what is stylistically appropriate. (However, if one is playing purely for one's own pleasure ... it could be argued "what the heck".)

By the way, I found that video of the Bach Prelude ... err ... not to my taste at all.
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:24 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 pm
One thing that has I think not been expressed, and which I think you are missing, is that of the evolution of style. Horowitz was a great exponent of a particular style, one that belonged to its time - Segovia was another fine example in his way. If players and audiences really wanted that style to persist, I would assume it would return. But by and large they don't and it hasn't.

...
For example, let's say that a particular harmonic voicing is extremely difficult to execute and is the only place in the music that creates insecurity in a performance. Will I hit it? Will I muff it? Do I feel angst when approaching it within three measures? Or, do I rewrite the voicing to one which is more facile and only 1 out of a million people would know the difference when it is played? Have I insulted the composer? Have I denigrated the music? Will I be sentenced to the pit of Beelzebub for eternity? No, I played it cleanly and the piece worked. Perhaps this comes from years of playing in large ensembles where the end always justified the means. But why should classical music be any different? . . .why should ANY music be different . . . which brings us nicely to your above remark. The problem with your statement, for me, is that you assume that evolution is for the better . . . not for the worse and this is where we disagree completely. ...
Two thoughts in brief; if you find a passage tricky and you re write and nobody notices, or if they notice they don't mind, that of course is not a problem. Not least on the assumption that if a player needs to re-write in order to cope, they are probably that great and wonderful thing, an amateur, and so not relevant to critique. Actually, no, there are actually occasions when professional players re-write (Williams in the Aranjuez comes to mind, as do certain things in ensembles I have done) but if there is good reason, then no problem and I will defend you readily in that circumstance. The problem to me is that rather many people change things either inadvertently, negligently, or lazily, none of which I would wish to defend subject to the above caveats. And many people blur or ignore the distinction you are making, to the loss of the value of what they do.

Re evolution of style, well I did not actually say (or at least intend to imply) that change of style was necessarily an improvement, and would not support such an assertion. I used the word evolution because it is pretty much a gradual change that is incremental and on the small scale, imperceptible. I happen to think that the change of stylistic priorities which means less personal idiosyncrasy is imposed upon a score (either in changing it or wantonly distorting it or both or other such things) is an improvement. Personally, I would agree that too little interpretation, for want of a more complicated description, is a bad thing and yes it happens and probably always has; equally, too much (personalised) over-interpretation has me switching off. One observation here is that people often keep the stylistic preferences they formed in their youth, which they often later forget were in part in rejection of their parents' generation's preferences. So again, its a personal, largely subjective question, which changes over time and is all forgotten when we are gone and no longer able to state our preferences, though at least for the last century or so, recordings have been able to provide a record for the future to see how these stylistic evolutions happen over time.
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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Rognvald » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:25 am

The problem to me is that rather many people change things either inadvertently, negligently, or lazily, none of which I would wish to defend subject to the above caveats. And many people blur or ignore the distinction you are making, to the loss of the value of what they do.
Stephen Kenyon



We, perhaps, are not as far apart as might be perceived by our humble readers. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Re: Are You a Slave to the Score?

Post by Fretful » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:36 am

Rognvald wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 pm
Or, do I rewrite the voicing to one which is more facile and only 1 out of a million people would know the difference when it is played? Have I insulted the composer? Have I denigrated the music?
That would depend how you did it ; if you did it intelligently, almost certainly not. I once played a score by Geoffrey Burgon in what was supposed to be an Elisabethan ensemble for a BBC Shakespeare. He'd written a passage which needed to be played at VIII (with barre) for what seemed an eternity. I said This is a bit tough up here. Unhesitatingly, he said Where do you want to play it ? I said Down here, and I would transpose the top notes to the middle voice. He said Well, do that, then! He was more than happy. However, his knowledge of the guitar (which was supposed to be a lute) was not comprehensive. I'd hesitate to transpose anything in Rodrigo's Fandango, no matter how tough it is. He really knew what he was doing and relied on fully trained professionals to execute his intentions. Williams' changes in the Aranjuez are because he claims that it sounds better at V, not because he can't play it in the upper regions. But in most cases, if there are good logistic reasons, composers will be understanding and give their blessing to pragmatic solutions, whether they are alive or not.

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