Read Andrew Kania & Theodore Gracyk, 'Performances and recordings' in Gracyk & Kania, 80-90.
See their bibliography
PlusRoger Scruton, Roger Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music Chapter 14
and Paul Thom, For an Audience, Chapter 7
and Stephen Davies, Musical Works and Performances. HELD AS AN ELECTRONIC ITEM BY THELIBRARY
Performance is action for an audience. Often, performance involves collective action. Actions not done for an audience are not performances. These include music-making done in the course of composing music, and music-making done as part of the rehearsal process (if these are not also done for an audience). They also include solitary music-making such as humming or whistling, when it purely expressive behaviour. Arguably, they also include music-making done by groups of people solely for their own enjoyment. Some philosophers have been tempted to extend the notion of work to cover performances, under the impression that this is necessary in order to create the possibility that performers can as such be artists. In particular, some have thought that performances must be able to be works, since there are improvisatory artists, including jazz artists. However, this extension is not needed. Consistent with recognising the artistry of jazz musicians, we can maintain that performances are not works, since they do not endure. This doesn’t imply that performance cannot be art, since there are independent reasons for holding that art is not confined to works of art. There are different ways of being for an audience depending on what the aims are with regard to an audience. Kania & Gracyk take communication to be one such aim – and this is true of e.g. news-reading performances. A musical performance for a class in a Conservatorium might very well have the aim of communicating something about a work or a musical practice. Communication requires a certain styles of address. Address is a more general concept by which we can distinguish ways of being for an audience. Both in planning and in execution, a performance envisages a certain type of audience or even a certain individual audience. For example, the envisaged audience may be learned or unlearned; the address may demand new or difficult form of attention, or it may pander to what the audience is presumed to want. Relative to a given way of being for an audience, a performance can be judged a success or a failure. Performances can also be flawed in different ways. If the actual audience is not as envisaged, the performance is likely to fail in certain ways. If there is no audience the performance (but e.g. the performers believe there is one) the performance fails in a certain way.
Works for performance are works that specify, and are constituted by, directives for performance. The relation between a work for performance and its performances is in a way mirrored by the relation between a performance of a work and a transcription (for performance) of that performance. Works for performance exhibit the kind of completeness that characterises all works. But they may be incomplete in other ways: they require performance, and also they can be taken as raw material from which a further work is made.
Recordings, unlike performances, are works. Some recordings are created from works for performance. But recordings of music are not works for performance, but works for playback. In listening to a recording we speak of listening to a recorded performance. But this is misleading. In listening to a recording of music one may not be listening to the performers playing it (see Kania and Gracyk p.88). A recorded performance is a representation of a performance, where the performance need not exist. But, a recording of a performance, even where the performance actually existed, may depart significantly from the sound of an actual performance. A recording of music presents music to listeners, who access this presentation by replaying the recording. But behind this common nature, there are two important differences in the way these recordings come into existence. First, some recordings come into being because of a recording device’s initial exposure to live music-making; in other cases music is encoded without any such exposure e.g. music-boxes. Second, the encoded music may be subject to a process of editing, or it may not. The label ‘live recording’ is commonly seen; and some recordings boast about the lack of editing intevention that has occurred. For an alternative classification of recordings, see Kania and Gracyk. In order for a recording to be a work of art it would have to possess to a sufficient degree the attributes which make for art. It is not impossible that there are recording which are works of art. Because what constitutes a work a work of art is in part the way it is made, unedited recordings cannot be works by virtue of being unedited, although they can claim to be truer representation of any artistry that is to be found in the music they present. The greater the level of editing intervention, the more opportunity there is for the recording to become a work of art. With regard to the first distinction, it might be thought that a recording whose raw material is already artistic might stand a better chance of itself being a work of art; however, this would be to confuse the artistic status of the object of representation with that of the representation. And with regard to the second, much of the editing that in fact occurs these days in recordings of classical music does not take advantage of the opportunities for art-making, but instead indulges in blatant distortions of dynamics with a view to manipulating the listener’s response. However, Gracyk argues for the artistic merit of some rock recordings, pointing to the collective creativity of musicians and technicians in the recording process. Gracyk argues that recordings can be fakes. The question of to what extent can the qualities of instrumental mix, stereo placement, echo and a ragged or nasal voice contribute to the making of art. They can do so, not under these descriptions, by redescribed in terms of what they express or what they are about. Allan F. Moore cites several authors listing characteristic themes of rock music, e.g. alienation, theology, hedonism, individuality, idealism. Moore also cites another author who lists the features one would look for in evaluating rock recordings: innovation and originality, historical influence, mastery of composition, arranging, and technical aspects, inter-album cohesiveness, conceptual depth, production savvy. The presence of such features may contribute to a recording’s artistic standing.
Authenticity in performance may consist in carrying out all of a work’s determinative directives. Big Mama and Elvis: ‘Hound dog’ is a thin work. Not much is required for an authentic performance. Even so, Elvis’s performance is not authentic. He doesn’t follow the explicit directives. And he doesn’t follow the style-directives implicit in the song as a rhythm and blues number. But in addition to not being an authentic performance of the song, Elvis’s performances of the song created the widespread impression that the thing to do now was to take his inauthentic as the standard. Is this a case of a work changing, or losing authority? There is also authenticity of style or genre, e.g. in Staier’s recording of the Rindo all turca diuscussed by Dodd, European Jnl of Philosophy 2012. Authenticity is compatible with interpretation. Massenet’s ‘Elégie’ and Art Tatum’s ‘Elegy’. The Massenet is a thick work. Tatum’s performance is not a work, but there exists a transcription of it – which is a work for performance. Is parody a kind of interpretation, or does it merely belomg to the more general kind of responses?