2. COMPOSITION & LIMITS
ACTUALLY, MUSICAL COMPOSITION IS A PROCESS THAT'S BOUNDED BY SOME PRETTY DISTINCT LIMITS; AND being ATTENTIVE to these can aid in being aware of what's going on in the music one's listening to.
A lot WRITTEN could mean almost nothing; while nothing,or almost nothing written might be entirely apropos, and comprehensive. It depends...
these limits are SOCIAL - --THAT people MAKE MUSIC --- AND THAT MOST OF WHAT MAKES MUSIC MUSIC IS INVISIBLE, INAUDIBLE and/or SILENCE ITSELF.
the notion of a musical COMPOSITION as an object is part of a social orientation wherein a COMPOSER makes creative decisions, and performing musicians at most, interpret these directions for an audience.
and SOME COMPOSERS working from this orientation have even bypassed the COMPLICATIONS of dealing with human performers in order to better realize their musical designs (OFTEN IDEAS THAT ALMOST NOBODY COULD ACTUALLY PLAY ANYWAY, AS IN CONLON NANCARROW'S PLAYER PIANO MUSIC, OR A LOT OF ELECTRONICALLY DERIVED MUSIC).
BUT, WHEN IT COMES TO DESIGNING MUSIC THIS WAY (ASSUMING THAT THE PERFORMING MUSICIANS PLAY THEIR ROLE AND COME THROUGH), IT'S PRETTY MUCH A FOREGONE CONCLUSION THAT THE MUSIC HEARD WILL BE WHAT ONE WRITES, AND WILL BE LIKE THAT EVERY TIME. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, A MUSICAL COMPOSITION OF THIS SORT IS A closed system. IT'S FINISHED. IT CAN BE CONCEIVED AS AT LEAST RESEMBLING THE CONDITIONS OF A RELATIVELY FIXED OBJECT. AND, WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE MUSICAL CONVENTIONS THAT MAKE THIS POSSIBLE, THERE'S A LOT OF ROOM HERE FOR ELABORATION OF MUSICAL DESIGN.
In contrast with this,an improviser is making music at THE CROSSROADS, which means the possibility of an UNANTICIPATED CHANGE OF DIRECTION characterizes each moment of music making; at each intersection there are multiple options as to what to do next. This is an open system wherein the music TENDS TO BE unstable, and performances are NOT ALL THE SAME, WHICH MEANS THE POSSIBILITIES FOR COMPOSITION ARE IN THIS ORIENTATION VERY DIFFERENTLY CIRCUMSCRIBED.
...which also means you can't "read" THE compositions exactly the same way one might the more fixed species of composition: COMPOSITIONS THAT INCLUDE IMPROVISATION ARE BY NATURE UNSTABLE, INCOMPLETE, & IMPERFECTABLE.
That isn't to say ineffective. The classical european idea of a COMPOSITION is oriented toward presenting something already finished, i.e. toward making a MONUMENT, whereas a composition designed for improvisers is oriented toward MAKING SOMETHING HAPPEN. So, the options FOR composers in this context are different.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE LIMITS. Improvising musicians are each composing music in the moment, composing music from the inside of the music as it is happening out...
Even in a collectively improvised musical situation where there is no "composition" as such being played, the conditions that make for coherent music are the capacities, awareness, knowledge, disposition and choices of each musician, the affinities and relationships among these musicians, and the resources occurring in the moment. This is, in actuality, the composition being played in these instances.
So, one of the most basic restrictions in composing for improvisers is the independence of the contributing musicians. Another species of cooperation happens here.
A PHRASE THAT I LEARNED FROM ROSCOE MITCHELL, SCORED IMPROVISATION, CAN SERVE AS A PRETTY GOOD DESCRIPTION OF WHAT composition for improvisers REALLY IS, BECAUSE whatever concepts a composer proposes HAVE TO BE SCALED TO WHAT IMPROVISERS CAN ABSORB AND MAKE THEIR OWN IN ORDER FOR THESE MUSICIANS TO REALLY IMPROVISE UPON THEM.
IDEALLY, as an improviser's attention is to the EAR, in contrast WITH to the eye, whatever's written on paper should be economical enough THAT, with enough work, the paper can be dispensed with.
This is to say that the level of detail, complexity and written legnth that a fixed or paper composer may be able to indulge in quantitative terms (as alternatively in fugues, symphonies and serialism, for example) is usually not practical in designing music for improvising musicians.
WHICH IS ALSO TO SAY THAT THERE IS MORE INVISIBILITY IN SCORED IMPROVISATION, BECAUSE LESS IS WRITTEN DOWN. IT'S`NOT FOR WANT OF DEPTH OR SUBTLETY THAT THIS IS SO, BUT THAT THE CREATIVE ACTIVITY IS DISTRIBUTED DIFFERENTLY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY OF PARTICIPATING MUSICIANS.
The successful realization of scored music for human performers exclusive of improvising relies on a strong conventionalizing of sOnic palette, instrumental techniquE and interpretation.
This works - and without such an arrangement, a composer's score would only delineate a conceptual, or potential, music.
But, the more unconventioNal the music (Harry Partch's, for eXample, which involves non-conventional tunings and invented instruments), the more complex and fragile the social path to getting the music played and HEARD (TRADEOFFS AT EVERY TURN!).
cOMPOSING for improvisers, by design, entrusts greater detail to the people "in the field" (to the improvisers, that is). There is a collaboration around areas DIFFICULT (or impossible, or impractical..) to notate, but essential to a clear & vivid presentation of the music: details of instrumental timbre and pitch, rhythm & phrasing, etc.... .
There is also an opportunity to incorporate eccentricity, non reading musicians, individuals with DIFFERENT IDEAS THAN THE COMPOSER, not to even begin to discuss the diverse external influence of the moment wherein the music is actually happening.
CONVENTION, ALONG WITH THE RESOURCES OF TRADITIONS, IS, as in the more fixified species, A CRUCIAL ELEMENT IN THE SUCCESSFUL COHERENCE OF MUCH IMPROVISED MUSIC. TOO COMPLEX, OR ECCENTRIC, COMPOSITIONAL SUGGESTIONS MIGHT ONLY SERVE TO KEEP THE TRAIN IMMURED AT THE STATION.
A SPECIALIZED POOL OF IMPROVISERS CAN COUNTERBALANCE THIS TO A DEGREE, BUT A COMPOSER THEN HAS TO BE ABLE TO COUNT ON THAT TOO, WHICH IS still ANOTHER RISK INVOLVED WITH CLIMBING OUT ON LIMBS OF THIS SORT (NOT THAT MUSICIANS SHOULD AVOID THESE PREDICAMENTS EITHER!).
About two aspects OF MUSIC (one of which I call AMBIANCE, and the other, DRAMA):
We use the word AMBIANCE c...
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