Saturday, September 04, 2021

The Beholder's Share and Music?

I just learned about Alois Rigel's idea about the importance of the viewer when considering the "life" of a piece of art. He calls this the "beholder's share." Here is an excellent video that explains the idea in visual terms.

Here is an article by Anne Sherwood Pundyk that discusses the work of Erik Kandel, the person from whom I learned, via Alan Alda's "Clear and Vivid" podcast, about the whole idea.

The question of how music, a thing that happens in time, relates to this stuff is complicated, and it is really difficult to delve into it without encountering a great deal of the kind of philosophy I have trouble understanding. But I did find this paper by Robert Williams that I would share, simply because I brought up the question.

Can we each bring our individual life experiences into listening to a piece of music the way we can when looking at a piece of visual art? Do we only bring our musical experiences into the experience of music, or does the music itself bring experiences to mind that we hadn't been conscious of?

Some of us do not feel the need to interpret what we hear (allowing it to function as background sound), while others are incapable of listening without paying full attention. And then a whole barnyard of interpretive tools come into play from each of our lives as musicians and as listeners for each listening experience.

Then there is the difference among performing musicians between what one person sees on the page (which itself contains lots of visual-art-related information, along with language information) and what another person sees on the page, and how that person chooses to apply her or his own sense of phrasing, grouping, gradations of tonal color, gradiations of dynamics, gradiations of articulation, and a whole slew of other factors to play a given piece to any number of "beholders," both seen and unseen. If the beholder happens to be a recording device, does it render the player and the beholder one, or does it split the player and beholder into two distinct parts. So many questions.

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