Something I wanted to touch on earlier was an exchange at Kyle Gann's fine blog PostClassic on the matter of "over-notation". You find it here. There are merits to be both sides. One thing Gann says is this:
"I have found a tremendous difference in responses to notation between performers who specialize in 20th-century music and those who play mostly Classical/Romantic repertoire, and far prefer the latter."
But, alas, my own experience leads me to prefer it the other way around.
------------------------------ "The notation is more important than the sound. Not the exactitude and success with which a notation notates a sound; but the musicalness of the notation in its notating." - Cornelius Cardew -----------------------------
And Sarah Cahill makes a well observed point about Leo Ornstein:
"Leo Ornstein... was an excellent pianist himself, and wrote fabulously for the piano. But most of his piano scores have absolutely no dynamic markings whatsoever. He believed that it was the pianist's responsibility to come up with dynamics in the process of interpretation. It's so interesting, because there will be a passage which to one person is a climax, to be played forte, and to another person it will be an opportunity to back off and have it be more powerful as a pianissimo passage. So his scores can be played in a variety of ways, and it's fascinating to hear different performances." More here.
I am very fond of Ornstein's music, so my attention was also caught by a post on Richard Scheinin's blog on Ornstein and Coltrane found here.
"Early in the 20th century, he was a superstar concert pianist and champion of new music. Later, in the '40s, he seems to have crossed paths with John Coltrane, the great jazz saxophonist, who turned out to be one of the century's most influential musicians."
(BTW, Scheinin has a splendid write up on the West Coast premiere of Ornstein's dazzling quintet for piano and strings.).
(B) CARDEW - Indeterminate notation
"Notation is a way of making people move" - Cornelius Cardew
And coming back to the matter of notation, I thinking (really shadowed) by Cornelius Cardew's wild and gargantuan Treatise, a work that recently was heard in Vancouver. And well I image was Gann.
Pianist John Tilbury was rightly at the helm for the Vancouver performance. You can read about it here.
"The notation is more important than the sound. Not the exactitude and success with which a notation notates a sound; but the musicalness of the notation in its notating." - Cornelius Cardew
(and while you're web surfing don't miss Tilbury's wonderful essay "On Playing Feldman". Choice graf: "When David Tudor or Cardew played Feldman what you heard and experienced with great intensity was the limb as it performed, the fingerpad - that most erotic part of a pianist's body - and the resulting sound was raw and thrilling. In too many performances one is all too conscious of a culture intervening between body and instrument." -Seeing how Feldman exists somewhere along the same exalted axis of aesthetic achievement as Bach (in my books at least), how could I not love that description.
You can listen to a spot of Cardew's lovely music by clicking here.
And if you've any taste for it (or at least have fond memories of reading Althusser) you can read Cardew's own "Stockhausen Serves Imperialism" here.
Or skip all that and visit the Block Museum virutal exhibit "Pictures of Music" It's a phenomenal site with much to see, hear, and read. It repays many visits.