Parallels and Paradoxes
Daniel Barenboim and Edward W. Said

DB: “… But the element of sound is very different. In other words, when you talk about music, you”re not talking about interpretation in the same way that you would talk about the text at all…. I don”t think there is a real interpretation of music as such. You have to start with the physical realization of the sound. You don”t talk about the physical realization of the word in a poem.” [I disagree.]

EWS: “No. You wouldn”t call it physical realization, but the word I would use would be actualization. If you look at a poem, like this, which has a text, these are words that are completely inert; they mean nothing until you actualize and read them. And then, when you read them, you”re realizing them. I would say that is a rough similarity.”

DB: “Yes, but you don”t have to deal with physical laws. With sound, you have to deal physical laws, where there”s the effect of sound in a room, the space and time, all these things. You don”t have that as a reader. In other words, the equivalent would be to read a poem or to read a score, but to actually perform it, or even play it at home, involves a physical act that requires a musician to have understanding and knowledge of the physical side of music, which has to do with acoustics, which has to do with overtone, which has to do with harmonic relationships…. But there is a physical aspect. And you cannot get to metaphysics without having gone through physics before. This is the singular phenomenon of musical performance. And this is why I believe that the word interpretation was misused and understood by many people, I think, in a false way: in other words, how do I interpret this? How do I make it my own? How do I make it not only Beethoven but I make it my own? But you can”t. It doesn”t really exist that way.” p. 117-118

EWS: “… Look at the desire for authenticity in the performance of eighteenth-century music in the last thirty years. It”s all about a reaction to the plush sound of great orchestras, and the purists want these new reedy things grinding away to say, This is the way Bach really sounded, not the way Furtwängler used to do Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic. So, it”s really about a contest in the present over a construction of the past…” p. 126

DB: “But the fact that there is such a gulf between the audience and the value of the music has to do with the fact that, for half a century now, music education has practically ceased to exist. And therefore, people really don”t know what a Beethoven symphony is. In other words, they, unfortunately, go to hear the Eroica because they know if it”s a famous symphony by a famous composer, maybe they can hum the tune. But I they that the actual human value and enormous of these works is because they were imbued with every intellectual and physical force that Beethoven had. And all the musicological research in the world does not basically alter the fact that these masterpieces are his blood, flesh and bones.” p. 141

DB: “Beethoven was really the first composer who used the effect of a very long crescendo and then a subito piano, [sudden softness?] a drop in the dynamic.” p. 143

DB: “… It wouldn”t be the same; it wouldn”t be the same sound; it would be the same river with different waters. And this is what gives music its particular sense of eternity.” p. 160

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