Music and Language: A Fragment – 4

4 abstract

This points to the question of interpretation.
Interpretation is essential to both music and language, but in different ways.
To interpret language means: to understand language.
To interpret music means: to make music.
Musical interpretation is performance, which, as synthesis, retains the similarity to language, while obliterating every specific resemblance.
This is why the idea of interpretation is not an accidental attribute of music, but an integral part of it.
To play music correctly means first and foremost to speak its language properly. This calls for imitation of itself, not a deciphering process.
Music only discloses itself in mimetic practice, which admittedly may take place silently in the imagination, on an analogy with silent reading; it never yields to a
scrutiny which would interpret it independently of fulfilment.
If we were to search for a comparable act in the languages of intention, it would have to be the act of transcribing a text, rather than decoding its meaning.

In contrast to philosophy and the sciences, which impart knowledge, the elements of art which come together for the purpose of knowledge never culminate in a decision.
But is music really a non-decisive language?
Of its various intentions one of the most urgent seems to be the assertion ‘This is how it is’, the decisive, even the magisterial confirmation of something that has
not been explicitly stated.
In the supreme moments of great music, and they are often the most violent moments – one instance is the beginning of the recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth Symphony – this intention becomes eloquently unambiguous by virtue of the sheer power of its context.

Its echo can be heard, in a parodied form, in trivial pieces of music.
Musical form, the totality in which a musical context acquires authenticity, cannot really be separated from the attempt to graft the gesture of decision on to the non-decisive medium.
On occasion this succeeds so well that the art stands on the brink of yielding to assault from the dominating impulse of logic.
This means that the distinction between music and language cannot be established simply by examining their particular features.
It only works by considering them as totalities.
Or rather, by looking at their direction, their ‘tendency’, in the sense of the ‘telos’ of music.
Intentional language wants to mediate the absolute, and the absolute escapes language for every specific intention, leaves each one behind because each is limited.
Music finds the absolute immediately, but at the moment of discovery it becomes obscured, just as too powerful a light dazzles the eyes, preventing them from seeing things which are perfectly visible.

( T W Adomo)
(painting – carmen guedez)

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