Defining Templates for Musical Reproduction: Case Studies on Musical Performance
This essay presents a philosophical account of musical performance within the tradition of European art music. Although the 19th and 20th century formulation of performance as reproduction has been critiqued in recent scholarly texts, I will argue the case that reproduction—when not exclusively conceived of as the reproduction of the musical work—still provides a useful and accurate characterization of the performance process.
The questions that logically follow are “who” and “what” is reproduced? Answering the question of “who,” I will refer to Naomi Cumming’s account of subjectivity as it is maintained in the synthesis of musical signs. Answering the question of “what,” I will diagram the work’s object ontology proposed by Theodor W. Adorno. Having followed these nuanced approaches to the development and maintenance of music’s subjects and objects, I will propose that it would be useful for scholars and musicians to think of templates for musical reproduction. The template concept on the one hand draws attention to the technical and technological nature of performance, the structures of which emerge historically. On the other hand, templates index the subject’s unique cultural position and voice.
To this end, the essay will look at three case studies of templates for performance: Fritz Kreisler’s distinctive lilt (deriving from Viennese Ländler and Waltz rhythms), elements of Jascha Heifetz’s bodily formalism (tracking these specifically from some of his teacher, Leopold Auer’s, pedagogical instructions), and Hilary Hahn’s conformity to a metric and sonic consistency as it appears represented in notation.