A Musical Work and Its Performances

  • Jurij Snoj
Keywords: performance, historical authenticy, musical work, musical meaning, Platonistic concept of music, aesthetics of music


Proceeding from some discussions of the topic from the last two decades (T. C Mark, G. Tomlinson, P. Kivy, R. Scruton) the following three theses are developed and proposed: 1. The differences between music and non-interpretative arts (literature, painting etc.) are not as substantial as generally assumed. It is essential to art in general that it allows and even calls for interpretation. Thus, the disparity between literature (and other non-interpretative arts) on the one hand and music on the other appears to be limited to the fact that in the former the reader assumes the role of her or his own interpreter as well, whereas in the latter it is to professionals that performing and interpreting is entrusted. 2. The early music movement has discovered practices and set up standards without which it is nowadays inconceivable to perform musical works from the time before the middle of the 18th century. However, according to P. Kivy, searching for authentic meaning of a musical work cannot be confused with reconstructing its hypothetical, historically authentic performance. Taking into account the nature of a musical work, its intrinsic meaning necessarilly lies beyond its historical sound image. 3. Following T. C Mark, a performance should be considered as an intentional act. As such it is unpredictable as well as irrecoverable. However, because of the inspirational freedom necessary in interpreting the works of art, the history of performances of a given musical work cannot be necesarilly understood as approaching the alleged original, composer's meaning of the work; it may equally lead away from it, proceeding way into not yet experienced areas. Such a view cannot be reconciled with the Platonistic conception of performances as instances or tokens of a universal.


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How to Cite
SnojJ. (2002). A Musical Work and Its Performances. Musicological Annual, 38(1), 5-17. https://doi.org/10.4312/mz.38.1.5-17