Author Topic: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?  (Read 410 times)

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sandalwood

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How detailed and precise do you think a composer should be in instructions for tempo, dynamics etc...and on a related topic, how far does the licence of the conductor/performer go?

Watch Zander from 21:00 relate an anecdote and make a point

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk_k4oGxy34

tbmartin

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Re: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2019, 02:14:59 PM »
I think a composer can only go so far in dictating instructions before he/she starts to look like an egotistical, micromanaging jerk: "No, no, NO!!! It CLEARLY says 121 bpm, and you're OBVIOUSLY conducting it at 122!!!"

The reality is that once it's printed and handed to the conductor, there's often little the composer can do. If you can't deal with that, then you'll limit the performance of your pieces to only those situations where you can conduct them yourself. 

I imagine conductor/composer collaborations are awesome, (not ever having had the opportunity) and I would hope it would be an opportunity to learn from each other. In those cases, the composer might be able to say "That's not at all what I had in mind for that section. Maybe I/we should .... " That might lead all sorts of directions. Maybe the notation needs revision. If the conductor made unexpected changes, you can ask for it to be played as written and then as changed, and find a version works for everyone.

In my tiny sax quartet world, I often get feedback from my fellow players and the resulting performance is better than it would have been if I taken the "I'm the arranger and I'm ALWAYS right" approach.
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RJB54

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Re: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2019, 09:12:12 PM »
For me, on one hand I would hope that the performers would try to perform what the notation tells them, but on another hand I would want the performer's interpretation to come through (but if that interpretation is too far from the notation that could be a problem), but yet on another hand the performer could enhance the piece seeing something that the composer didn't.

I think I've told this before, but, to the last point, my oboe teacher in college was good friends with the first oboist for the NY Philharmonic so he got to attend a lot of the rehearsals, including closed ones. At one of them where Bernstein was rehearsing a Copland piece. Two guys came in and sat in the row in front of my teacher and one of them was Copland. At one point when Berstein was giving instructions to the orchestra, Copland's friend said to him something to the effect of "That's not the way you wrote it." Copland replied "Yes, but that's the way I should have written it."
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Michel.R.E

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Re: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2019, 11:14:38 AM »
This is where knowing HOW to notate, and WHAT to notate, becomes crucial.

If you indicate staccato, but then find the musicians playing the notes too short, then you erred in writing "staccato". Alter the score to "détaché" or "non legato".

If you wrote pp but then find that the musicians are disappearing, then change the score to p.
I'd avoid fussing with TOO much p - mp - ppp - mf - FFFF - pp - etc... I prefer to use only 3-4 dynamics where possible, then orchestrate the right dynamic in. If I want a heavier sound then I won't put a solo flute. If I want a very light and delicate sound, I won't use the trombone choir.

Write the tempo you want.... but be aware that in a "live" context this can change. Some halls are too live for really fast tempos, forcing musicians to make minor adjustments to their preferred tempo.

If you require the music to be absolutely, precisely, obligatorily at a VERY specific tempo, then don't write for live instruments. They are usually played by people, who aren't walking, talking metronomes. (unless you specify really really short subway-dwellers as performers)

Write as precisely as you can within the constraints of standard notation. Then "Let It Go", let it be its own music and live an independent life as the creation of the musicians.
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Jerry Engelbach

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Re: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2019, 11:57:58 AM »
I think I've told this before, but, to the last point, my oboe teacher in college was good friends with the first oboist for the NY Philharmonic so he got to attend a lot of the rehearsals, including closed ones. At one of them where Bernstein was rehearsing a Copland piece. Two guys came in and sat in the row in front of my teacher and one of them was Copland. At one point when Berstein was giving instructions to the orchestra, Copland's friend said to him something to the effect of "That's not the way you wrote it." Copland replied "Yes, but that's the way I should have written it."
I think I've told this before, but, to the last point, my oboe teacher in college was good friends with the first oboist for the NY Philharmonic so he got to attend a lot of the rehearsals, including closed ones. At one of them where Bernstein was rehearsing a Copland piece. Two guys came in and sat in the row in front of my teacher and one of them was Copland. At one point when Berstein was giving instructions to the orchestra, Copland's friend said to him something to the effect of "That's not the way you wrote it." Copland replied "Yes, but that's the way I should have written it."

Robert,

Great anecdote!

The lesson is that even if the composer knows exactly what he wants and notates it precisely, he may still be surprised at learning more about it in rehearsal.

Bernstein is known of course for (among other things) wider than average variations in tempo. (As is Glenn Gould.) I love his irrespressible energy.

I think of the collaboration of composer and conductor as of that between playwright and actors/directors. The writer has the performance only in his imagination, which almost by definition is going to be different from what it actually is on the stage.

Cheers,
Jer
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mjf1947

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Re: August, 2019: How much should be ceded :) to the performer/conductor?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2019, 04:11:11 PM »
The conductor also may play to the strengths of the orchestra ... a particular section or player.

I'm seen this happen numerous times.

Mark