"An Interdisciplinary Approach to Music Performance?"
"The Ideology of Performer as Interpreter"
"The Transparent Violin"
Excerpt from "Performing Responsibility"
to a Study of Responsiveness
will study dramatic, musical, and lyric texts under the broad term, “musical
writing.” It will make connections
between techniques of performance and literary criticism through readings of
Samuel Beckett’s script, Not I, Alban
Berg’s scores, Wozzeck and Violin Concerto, and Rainer Maria
Rilke’s poem, Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.
I use the term, techne, in the classical Greek sense of art as technical craft. Technique guides accurate and repeatable
movements. However, it is the
repeatability of these bodily movements (such as the violinist’s shift), which makes
possible difference and innovation.
the repeatable movements of the performer in parallel with the technologies of
scripts and scores, which use certain functions, such as the capitalized form
of a character’s name (i.e. HAMLET:…) or the staff of a musical score, to
indicate the possibility that multiple performers can play the same role, or
the same notes. These technologies of
writing anticipate the presence of an actress or musician. The meeting of text and body thus becomes a physical
encounter in which the performer’s technique responds to various textures and nuances in the writing.
of the technologies of a script or score (like HAMLET or the staff of the
musical score) expose a template guiding the composer or playwright’s
inscription. The manifestations of this
template, understood by both performers and composers, open writing into the space
of performance. Technique—whether the
composer’s or the performer’s, playwright’s or actor’s—may be conceived of as
the invisible template guiding writing and the body. Such a template or technique is manifest as
innovative play around repeatability and difference.
It is my
hope that this study of art as techne,
of scripts as anticipating physical movements of performance, will shed new light
on practices of interpretation in both musical and literary criticism and
The musician’s performance is a physical
reading, a process of articulation. Musical
notation facilitates the visual representation of sound and the sonic
re-presentation of the visual. Graphic
and sonic articulation traces the immediacy of the tangible, in that it presents
the effects of a performing body’s sensation and anticipates the sensation of a
listening or reading body. I will
discuss the manner in which technique guides corporeal articulation through
receptivity and response to the touch.
the essay, the term musical writing will
refer to bodily movement guided by the techniques of writers and performers. One may conceive of musical performance as
sonic writing, as articulations upon the instrument that produce sound. A listener’s or reader’s awareness of the
subtle traces of the template at play in writing, be it a virtuosic performance
or notation, is guided by a similar technique.
The idea of
technique as awareness is related to the notion of responsibility, which comes into play as both the physical
responsiveness of performing bodies and as a broader ethical responsibility. Perhaps one’s responsibility is to be ably
responsive—to develop one’s capacity for feeling, to sharpen one’s awareness of
difference in performances of the repeatable template. Responsibility refers both to the performer’s
technique, as well as to the more general notion of one’s responsibility to the
future, to the unknown. “Musical
writing” motivated by such a technique of responsiveness becomes an extending,
conscientious movement towards the unknowable other.
Beckett’s Not I, Berg’s Violin Concerto, and Rilke’s Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes, there is a
recurring figure—she is named “girl,” Manon Gropius, or Eurydice, respectively. Each one of them, presented as an absent
subject, appears in some interval of writing.
In Beckett’s script, the metonymy of the Mouth creates an interval
between an articulate mouth and the absent body of “girl”; in Berg’s score,
Manon is encoded between musical intervals; in Rilke’s poem, the moment of
Eurydice’s turn vanishes in the interval between the perspectives of Orpheus
and Hermes. “girl” and Manon have no
physical presence in performance—they become Eurydicean figures, only ever
presented metonymically or metaphorically, as figures of speech.
This absent subject between intervals becomes
integral to a re-thinking of the “subject” or “voice” as echoes resonating
within the intervals of writing. I will
suggest that the subject is an after effect of intervallic shifts between
perspectives, that “one” becomes as polyphonic movements. I will attempt to demonstrate the manner in
which musical writing opens the infinitesimal gap of the future and novelty
with the shifting movement of technique.
In accordance with the musical and dynamic
nature of the subject, this essay is divided into “movements” rather than
chapters. The interweaving of these
“movements” reads counterpoint between drama, music, and lyric, between theory
and practice, between criticism and performance. It is my hope that I may come close to
demonstrating that in any discussion of music and language, one exists because
the other does, that meaning is neither musical nor verbal, but bodily: a play
of sensation that articulates and re-articulates the intervallic appearance of