Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The case against over-notation

News item: a number European towns are removing traffic signage. Preliminary results suggest that an anarchic form of traffic control is as safe if not safer than an over-signed and over-controlled environment. The relevance to the long-standing music notation debate (too much/too little) seems clear.

I'm not a fanatic in the over/under-notation debate. In my own scores, I like to find the most efficient notation of those elements I consider essential and then leave interpretive possibilities open (and often ambiguous), which ought to put me in the minimally notated camp. But I've never been exactly comfortable in being a camp follower (especially, Groucho Marxist that I am, in those camps that would have me as a member) and some composers like to be more specific, and that's okay. And even if they push that specificity to the point of making a fetish out of a page that has more black marks than white space, I'm not about to deny this minor form of polymorphous perversity to anybody. On the other hand, if such a minor fetish is raised to an official standard in institutional admissions, concert programming or in competitions, then that's definitely entering the realm of non-consensual aesthetic power grabbing, and that's both uncivil and musically foul.


Patrick said...

Ha, Groucho Marxist.

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