Sunday, August 09, 2015

Paul Hindemith on the inadequacies of Western musical notation and interpretation--a prelude to Decomposition

Wenatchee The Hatchet has the old paperback edition from the 1960s so it seems useless to include page numbers from such an old edition of the book.

A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations
Paul Hindemith

ISBN-10: 3795700248
ISBN-13: 978-3795700249

 
Although our system of notation can give them no more than approximations of the composer’s intentions, they are supposed to understand his written symbolism and by means of their own interpretational liberties and changes add merely what is the minimum requirement for a realization of the composition in sound.
from chapter 3, Perceiving Music Emotionally
 
It is obvious that a composer, during the long period the notation of his work requires, is always in danger of losing the original vision of it.
 from chapter 4, Musical Inspiration

 
The invention — or at least what he thought was his invention, similar experiments having actually been made before — was our notation, and the writer is Guido of Arezzo, who lived around the year 1000. Even at that early time the discrepancy between the composer's demands and the singers' inefficiency was not a recent discovery. But if despair over the singers' incompetence led Guido to his invention, as he tells us, it was the first time in music history that dullness was the cause of something very useful and intelligent, and we might as well be grateful for the fact that among the singers of the tenth and eleventh centuries there were a number of stupid ones.
from chapter 7, Performers

Ignorance in architectural or sculptural technique cannot remain cloaked. Thus our applicant turns to the gratifying mysterious symbolism of musical notation, gets doped by writing down his uncontrolled inventions, and uses notation’s imperfection as the mask that deceives not only his amazed family, but first and permanently himself — and frequently the teacher and, later on, possible audiences.
from chapter 9, Education


 

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