A. Copland 「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

コープランドの「What to Listen for in Music」(2011版)を、原文と日本語訳の両方を見てゆきます。

本編最終章(18)「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

18. From Composer to Interpreter to Listener 



Thus far, this book has been largely concerned with music in the abstract. But, practically considered, almost every musical situation implies three distinct factor: a composer, an interpreter, and a listener. They form a triumvirate, no part of which is complete without the other. Music begins with a composer; passes through the medium of an interpreter; and ends with you, the listener. Everything in music may be said, in the final analysis, to be directed at you ― the listener. Therefore, to listen intelligently, you must clearly understand not only your own role but also that of composer and interpreter and what each one contributes to the sum total of a musical experience.  



Let us begin with the composer, since music in our own civilization begins with him. What, after all, do we listen for when we listen to a composer? He need not tell us a story like the novelist; he need not “copy” nature like the sculptor; his work need have no immediate practical function like the architect's drawing. What is it that he gives us, then? Only one answer seems possible to me: He gives us himself. Every artist's work is, of course, an expression of himself, but none so direct as that of the creative musician. He gives us, without relation to exterior “events,” the quintessential part of himself ― that part which embodies the fullest and deepest expression of himself as a man and of his experience as a fellow being. 



Always remember that when you listen to a composer's creation you are listening to a man, to a particular individual, with his own special personality. For a composer, to be of any value, must have his own personality. It may be of greater or lesser importance, but, in the case of significant music, it will always mirror that personality. No composer can write into his music a value that he does not possess as a man. His character may be streaked with human fraitlties ― like Lully's or Wagner's, for example ― but whatever is fine in his music will come from whatever is fine in him as a man.  



If we examine this question of the composer's individual character more closely, we shall discover that it is really made up of two distinct elements; the personality with which he was born and the influences of the time in which he lives. For, obviously, every composer lives in a certain period, and each period has its character, too. Whatever personality a composer may have is expressed within the framework of his own period. It is the interreaction of personality and period that results in the formation of a composer's style. Two composers with exactly similar personalities living in two different epochs would inevitably produce music of two different styles. When we speak of a composer's style, therefore, we refer to the combined result of an individual character and a particular period. 



Perhaps this important question of musical style will be made clearer if applied to a specific case. Beethoven, for example. One of the most obvious characteristics of his style is its ruggedness. Beethoven, as a man, had the reputation of being a brusque and rugged individual. From the testimony of the music alone, however, we know him to be a composer with a bold, uncouth quality, the very antithesis of the suave and the mellifluous. Still, that rugged character of Beethoven's took on a different expression at different periods of his life. The ruggedness of the Fifth Symphony is different from that of the Ninth. The early Beethoven was rugged within the limits of an eighteenth-century classical manner, whereas the mature Beethoven underwent the influence of the liberating tendencies of the nineteenth century. That is why, in considering the style of a composer, we must take into account his personality as reflected by the period in which he lived. There are as many styles as there are composers, and each important composer has several different styles corresponding to the influences of his own time and the maturing of his own personality. 



If it is essential for the listener to understand the question of musical style as applied to a composer's work, it is even more so for the interpreter. For the interpreter is a kind of middleman in music. It is not so much the composer that the listener hears, as the interpreter's conception of the composer. The writer's contact with his reader is direct; the painter's picture need only be hung well to be seen. But music, like the theater, is an art that must be reinterpreted in order to live. The poor composer, having finished his composition, must turn it over to the tender mercies of an interpretive artist ― who, it must always be remembered, is a being with his own musical nature and his own personality. The lay listener, therefore, can judge an interpretation fairly only if he is able to distinguish between the composer's thought, ideally speaking, and the degree to which the interpreter is faithfully reproducing that thought. 



The role of the interpreter leaves no room for argument. All are agreed that he exists to serve the composer ― to assimilate and recreate the composer's “message.” The theory is plain enough ― it is its practical application that needs elucidation. 



Most first-rate interpretive artists today possess a technical equipment that is more than sufficient for any demands made upon them. So that in most cases we can take technical proficiency for granted. The first real interpretive problem is presented by the notes themselves. Musical notation, as it exists today, is not an exact transcription of a composer's thought. It cannot be, for it is too vague; it allows for too great a leeway in individual matters of taste and choice. Because of that, the interpreter is forever confronted with the problem of how literally he is expected to keep to the printed page. Composers are only human ― they have been known to put notes down inexactly, to overlook important omissions. They have also been known to change their opinions in regard to their own indications of tempo or dynamics. Interpreters, therefore, must use their musical intelligence before the printed page. There is, of course, the possibility of exaggeration in both direction ― keeping too strictly to the notes or straying too far away from them. The problem would probably be solved, up to a certain point, if a more exact way of noting down a composition were available. But, even so, music would still be open to a number of different interpretations. 



For a composition is, after all, an organism. It is a living, not a static, thing. That is why it is capable of being seen in a different light and from different angles by various interpreters or even by the same interpreter at different times. Interpretation is, to a large extent, a matter of emphasis. Every piece has an essential quality which the interpretation must not betray. It takes its quality from the nature of the music itself, which is derived from the personality of the composer himself and the period in which it was written. In other words, every composition has its own style which the interpreter must be faithful to. But every interpreter has his own personality, too, so that we hear the style of a piece as refracted by the personality of the interpreter. 



The relation of the performer to the composition that he is recreating is therefore a delicate one. When the interpreter injects his personality into a performance to an unwarranted degree, misunderstandings arise. In recent years, the mere word “interpretation” has fallen into dispute. Discouraged and disgruntled by the exaggerations and falsifications of “prima donna” interpreters, a certain number of composers, with Stravinsky as ringleader, have, in effect, said:We do not wish any so-called interpretations of our music; just play the notes; add nothing, and take nothing away.” Though the reason for this admonishment is clear enough, it seems to me to represent a nonrealistic attitude on the part of composers. For no finished interpreter can possibly play a piece of music or even a phrase, for that matter, without adding something of his or her own personality. To have it otherwise, interpreters would have to be automatons. Inevitably, when they perform music, they perform it in their own way. In doing so, they need not falsify the composer's intentions; they are merely “reading” it with the inflections of their own voice. 



But there are further, and more profound, reasons for differences in interpretation. There is no doubt that a Brahms symphony, interpreted by two first-rate conductors, may be different in effect without being unfaithful to Brahms's intentions. It is interesting to ruminate on why that should be true. 



Take, for example, two of the outstanding interpreters of our day ― Arturo Toscanini and Serge Koussevitzky (this comparison of personality traits was written during their years as active interpreters of symphonic literature). They are two entirely different personalities ― men who think differently, who emotionalize about things in a different way, whose philosophy of life is different. It is only expected that in handling the same notes their interpretations will vary considerably. 




The Italian conductor is a classicist by nature. A certain detachment is an essential part of the classicist's make-up. One's first impression is a curious one ― Toscanini seems to be doing nothing at all to the music. It is only after one has listened for a while that the sense of an art concealing art begins to take hold of one. He treats the music as if it were an object. It seems to exist at the back of the stage ― where we can contemplate it for our pleasure. There is a wonderful sense of detachment about it. Yet all the time, it is music, the most passionate of all the arts. The emphasis with Toscanini is always on the line, on the structure as a whole ― never on detail or on the separate measure. The music moves and lives for its own sake, and we are considered fortunate in being able to contemplate it living thus. 



The Russian conductor, on the other hand, is a romanticist by nature. He is involved, body and soul, in the music that he interprets. There is little of the calculative about him. He possesses the true romanticist's fire, passion, dramatic imagination, and sesuosity. With Koussevitzky every masterpiece is a battleground on which he captains the great fight, and out of which, you may be sure, the human spirit will emerge triumphant. When he is “in the mood,” the effect is overwhelming. 



When these two opposite personalities apply their gifts to the same Brahms symphony, the result is bound to be different. This case of a profoundly German composer's being interpreted by a Russian and an Italian is typical. Neither one is likely to produce a quality of sound from his orchestra that a German would recognize as echt deutsch. In the Russian's hands, Brahms's orchestra will glow with an unsuspected luster, and every ounce of romantic drama that the symphony contains will be extracted by the time the end has been reached. With the Italian, on the other hand, the structural-classical side of Brahms will be stressed, and the melodic lines will be etched in the purest of lyrical styles. In both cases, as you see, it is simply a question of emphasis. It may be that neither of these men is your idea of the perfect interpreter of a Brahms symphony. But that is not the point. The point is that in order to hear an interpretation intelligently, you must be able to recognize what, exactly, the interpreter is doing to the composition at the moment that he recreates it.  



In other words, you must become more aware of the interpreter's part in the performance you are hearing. To do that, two things are necessary: You must have, as point of reference, a more or less ideal conception of the style that is proper to the composer in question; and you must be able to sense to what degree the interpreter is reproducing that style, within the sphere of his own personality. However short any of us may fall from attaining this ideal in listening, it is well that we keep it in mind as an objective. 



By now, the importance of the listener's role in this whole process must be self-evident. The combined efforts of composer and interpreter have meaning only in so far as they go out to an intelligent body of hearers. That bespeaks a responsibility on the part of the hearer. But before one can understand music, one must really love it. Above all things, composers and interpreters want listeners who lend themselves fully to the music that they are hearing. Virgil Thomson once describe the ideal listeners as “a person who applauds vigorously.” By that bon mot he meant to imply, no doubt, that only a listener who really involves himself is of importance to music or the maker of music. 



To lend oneself completely inevitably means, for one thing, the broadening of one's taste. It is insufficient to love music only in its more conventional aspects. Taste, like sensitivity, is, to a certain extent, an inborn quality, but both can be considerably developed by intelligent practice. That means listening to music of all schools and all periods, old and new, conservative and modern. It means unprejudiced listening in the best sense of the term. 



Take seriously your responsibility as listener. All of us, professionals and laymen alike, are forever striving to make our understanding of the art more profound. You need be no exception, no matter how modest your pretensions as listener may be. Since it is our combined reaction as listeners that most profoundly influences both the art of composition and interpretation, it may truthfully be said that the future of music is in our hands. 



Music can only be really alive when there are listeners who are really alive. To listen intently, to listen consciously, to listen with one's whole intelligence is the least we can do in the furtherance of an art that is one of the glories of mankind. 


第17章映画音楽(2/2)「What to Listen for In Music」を読む


We have merely skimmed the surface, without mentioning the innumerable examples of utilitarian music - offstage street bands, the barn dance, merry-go-rounds, circus music, cafe music, the neighbor's girl practicing her piano, and the like. All these, and many others, introduced with apparent naturalistic intent, serve to vary subtly the aural interest of the sound track. 



But now let us return to our hypothetical composer. Having determined where the separate musical sequences will begin and end, he turns the film over to the music cutter, who prepares a so-called cue sheet. The cue sheet provides the composer with a detailed description of the physical action in each sequence, plus the exact timings in thirds of seconds of that action, thereby making it possible for a practiced composer to write an entire score without ever again referring to the picture. 



The layman usually imagines that the most difficult part of the job in composing for the films has to do with the precise “fitting” of the music to the action. Doesn't that kind of timing strait-jacket the composer? The answer is no, for two reasons: First, having to compose music to accompany specific action is a help rather than a hindrance, since the action itself induces music in a composer of theatrical imagination, whereas he has no such visual stimulus in writing absolute music. Secondly, the timing is mostly a matter of minor adjustments, since the over-all musical fabric will have already been determined. 



For composer of concert music, changing to the medium of celluloid does bring certain special pitfalls. For example, melodic invention, highly prized in the concert hall, may at times be distracting in certain film situations. Even phrasing in the concert manner, which would normally emphasize the independence of separate contrapuntal lines, may be distracting when applied to screen accompaniments. In orchestration there are many subtleties of timbre - distinctions meant to be listened to for their own expressive quality in an auditorium - which are completely wasted on sound track. 



As compensation for these losses, the composer has other possibilities, some of them tricks, which are unobtainable in Carnegie Hall. In scoring one section of The Heiress, for example, I was able to superimpose two orchestras, one upon another. Both recorded the same music at different times, one orchestra consisting of strings alone, the other constituted normally. Later these were combined by simultaneously rerecording the original tracks, thereby producing a highly expressive orchestral texture. Bernard Herrmann, one of the most ingenious of screen composers, called for (and got) eight celestas - an unheard-of combination on 57th Street - to suggest a winter's sleigh ride. Miklos Rozsa's use of the “echo chamber” - a device to give normal tone a ghostlike aura - was widely remarked, and subsequently done to death. 



Unusual effects are obtainable through overlapping incoming and outgoing music tracks. Like two trains passing one another, it is possible to bring in and take out at the same time two different musics. The Red Pony gave me an opportunity to use this cinema speciality. When the daydreaming imagination of a little boy turns white chickens into white circus horses the visual image is mirrored in an aural image by having the chicken music transform itself into circus music, a device only obtainable by means of the overlap. 



Let us now assume that the musical score has been completed and is ready for recording. The scoring stage is a happy-making place for the composer. Hollywood has gathered to itself some of America's finest performers; the music will be beautifully played and recorded with a technical perfection not to be matched anywhere else.  



Most composers like to invite their friends to be present at the recording session of important sequences. The reason is that neither the composer nor his friends are never again likely to hear the music sound out in concert style. For when it is combined with the picture most of the dynamic levels will be changed. Otherwise the finished product might sound like a concert with picture. In lowering dynamic levels niceties of shading, some inner voices and bass parts may be lost. Erich Korngold put it well when he said: “A movie composer's immortality lasts from the recording stage to the dubbing room.”  



The dubbing room is where all the tracks involving sound of any kind, including dialogue, are put through the machines to obtain one master sound track. This is a delicate process as far as the music is concerned, for it is only a hairbreadth that separates the “too loud” from “too soft.” Sound engineers, working the dial that control volume, are not always as musically sensitive as composers would like them to be. What is called for is a new species,  a sound mixer who is half musician and half engineer; and even then, the mixing of dialogue, music, and realistic sounds of all kinds must always remain problematical. 



In view of these drawbacks to the full sounding out of his music, it is only natural that the composer often hopes to be able to extract a viable concert suite from his film score. There is a current tendency to believe that movie scores are not proper material for concert music. The argument is that, separated from its visual justification, the music falls flat. 



Personally, I doubt very much that any hard and flat rule can be made that will cover all cases. Each score will have to be judged on its merits, and, no doubt, stories that require a more continuous type of musical development in a unified atmosphere will lend themselves better than others to reworking for concert purposes. Rarely is it conceivable that the music of a film might be extracted without much reworking. But I fail to see why, if successful suites like Grieg's Peer Gynt can be made from nineteenth-century incidental stage music, a twentieth-century composer can't be expected to do as well with a film score. 



As for the picture score, it is only in the motion-picture theater that the composer for the first time gets the full impact of what he has accomplished, tests the dramatic punch of his favorite spot, appreciates the curious importance and unimportance of detail, wishes that he had done certain things differently, and is surprised that others came off better than he had hoped. For when all is said and done, the art of combining moving pictures with musical tones is still a mysterious art. Not the least mysterious element is the theatergoers' reaction: Millions will be listening but one never knows how many will be really hearing. The next time you go to the movies, remember to be on the composer's side. 



Copland - Music for Films 

Leonard Slatkin, St. Louis Symphony (RCA) 


Herrmann - Music for Films 

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angles Philharmonic (Sony). 




レナード・スラットキン指揮 セントルイス交響楽団RCA) 



エサ・ペッカ・サロネン指揮 ロサンゼルス・フィルハーモニック(ソニー

第17章映画音楽(1/2)「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

17. Film Music  



Film music constitutes a new musical medium that exerts a fascination of its own. Actually, it is a new form of dramatic music - related to opera, ballet, incidental theater music - in contradistinction to concert music of the symphonic or chamber-music kind. As a new form it opens up unexplored possibilities for composers and poses some interesting questions for the musical film patron. 



Millions of moviegoers take the musical accompaniment to a dramatic film entirely too much for granted. Five minutes after the termination of a picture they couldn't tell you whether they heard music or not. To ask whether they thought the score exciting or merely adequate or downright awful would be to give thema musical inferiority complex. But, on second thought, and possibly in self-protection, comes the query: “Isn't it true that one isn't supposed to be listening to the music? Isn't is supposed to work on you unconsciously without being listened to directly as you would listen at a concert?” 



No discussion of movie music ever gets very far without having to face this problem: Should one hear a movie score? If you are a musician there is no problem because the chances are you can't help but listen. More than once a good picture has been ruined for me by an inferior score. Have you had the same experience? Yes? Then you may congratulate yourself: you are definitely musical. 



But it's the average spectator, so absorbed in the dramatic action that he fails to take in the background music, who wants to know whether he is missing anything. The answer is bound up with the degree of our general musical perception. It is the degree to which you are actually minded that will determine how much pleasure you may derive by absorbing the background musical accompaniment as an integral part of the combined impression made by the film. 



Knowing more of what goes into the scoring of a picture may help the movie listener to get more out of it. Fortunately, the process is not so complex that it cannot be briefly outlined. 



In preparation for composing the music, the first thing the composer must do, of course, is to see the picture. Almost all musical scores are written after the film itself is completed. The only exception to this is when the script calls for realistic music - that is, music which is visually sung or played or danced to on the screen. In that case the music must be composed before the scene is photographed. It will then be recorded and the scene in question shot to a playback of the recording. Thus when you see an actor singing or playing or dancing, he is only making believe as far as the sound goes, for the music had previously been put down in recorded form. 



The first run-through of the film for the composer is usually a solemn moment. After all, he must live with it for several weeks. The solemnity of the occasion is emphasized by the exclusive audience that views it with him: the producer, the director, the music head of the studio, the picture editor, the music cutter, the conductor, the orchestrater - in fact, anyone involved with the scoring of the picture. 



The purpose of the run-through is to decide how much music is needed and where it should be. (In technical jargon this is called “to spot” the picture.) Since no background score is continuous throughout the full length of a film (that would constitute a motion-picture opera, an almost unexploited cinema form), the score will normally consist of separate sequences, each lasting from a few seconds to several minutes in duration. A sequence as long as seven minutes would be exceptional. The entire score, made up of perhaps thirty or more such sequences, may add up to from forty to ninety minutes of music. 



Much discussion, much give-and-take may be necessary before final decisions are reached regarding the “spotting” of the picture. It is wise to make use of music's power sparingly, saving it for absolutely essential points. A composer knows how to play with silences - knows that to take music out can at times be more effective than any use of it on the sound track might be. 



The producer-director, on the other hand, is more prone to think of music in terms of its immediate functional usage. Sometimes he has ulterior motives: anything wrong with a scene - a poor bit of acting, a badly read line, an embarrassing pause - he secretly hopes will be covered up by a clever composer. But the composer is not a magician; he can hardly be expected to do more than to make potent through music the film's dramatic and emotional value 



When well-contrived, there is no question but that a musical score can be of enormous help to a picture. One can prove that point, laboratory-fashion, by showing an audience a climatic scene with the sound turned off and then once again with the sound track turned on. Here briefly are listed a number of ways in which music serves the screen: 



1. Creating a more convincing atmosphere of time and place. Not all Hollywood composers bother about this nicety. Too often, their scores are interchangeable: a thirteenth-century Gothic drama and a hard-boiled modern battle of the sexes get similar treatment. The lush symphonic texture of late nineteenth-century music remains the dominating influence. But there are exceptions. Recently, the higher-grade horse opera has begun to have its own musical flavor, mostly a folksong derivative. 



2.Underlining psychological refinements - the unspoken thoughts of a character or the unseen implications of a situation. Music can play upon the emotions of the spectator, sometimes counterpointing the thing seen with an aural image that implies the contrary of the thing seen. This is not as subtle as it sounds. A well-placed dissonant chord can stop an audience cold in the middle of a sentimental scene, or a calculated woodwind passage can turn what appears to be a solemn moment into a belly laugh. 



3.Serving as a kind of neutral background filler. This is really the music one isn't supposed to hear, the sort that helps to fill the empty spots, such as pauses in a conversation. It's the movie composer's most ungrateful task. But at times, though no one else may notice, he will get private satisfaction from the thought that music of little intrinsic value, through professional manipulation, has enlivened and made more human the deathly pallor of a screen shadow. This is hardest to do, as any film composer will attest, when the neutral filler type of music must weave its way underneath dialogue. 



4.Building a sense of continuity. The picture editor knows better than anyone how serviceable music can be in tying together a visual medium which is, by its very nature, continually in danger of falling apart. One sees this most obviously in montage scenes where the use of a unifying musical idea may save the quick flashes of disconnected scenes from seeming merely chaotic. 



5.Underpinning the theatrical build-up of a scene, and rounding it off with a sense of finality. The first instance that comes to mind is the music that blares out at the end of a film. Certain producers have boasted their picture's lack of a musical score, but I never saw or heard of a picture that ended in silence. 


第16章現代音楽「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

16. Contemporary Music 

16. 現代音楽 


Over and over again the question arises as to why it is that so many music lovers feel disoriented whey they listen to contemporary music. They seem to accept with equanimity the notion that the work of the present-day composer is not for them. Why? Because they “just don't understand it.” As a nonprofessional phrased it recently, “Far too may listeners still flinch when they are told that a piece of music is 'modern.'” Formerly - up to the middle twenties or thereabouts - all new music of progressive tendency was bunched together under the heading “ultramodern.” Even today there still persists the idea that “classic” and “modern” represent two irreconcilable musical styles, the one posing graspable problems and the other fairly bristling with insoluble ones. 



The first thing to remember is that creative artists, by and large, are a serious lot - their purpose is not to fool you. This, in turn, presupposes on your part an open mind, good will, and a certain a priori confidence in what they are up to. Composers vary greatly in range and scope, in temperament and in expression. Because of that, contemporary music imparts not one kind, but many different kinds of musical experience. That too is important to remember. Some present-day composers are very easy to understand, others may be very tough. Or different pieces by the same composer may fit into one or the other category. In between are a great many contemporary writers who range from being quite approachable to being fairly difficult. 



To label all this music under the one heading “modern” is patently unfair, and can lead only to confusion. It might be helpful, therefore, to bring some order into the apparent chaos of contemporary composition by dividing some of its leading exponents according to the relative degree of difficulty in the understandind of their respective idioms. 



Very easy: Shostakovitch and Khachaturian, Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie, early Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Virgil Thomson. 




Quite approachable: Prokofieff, Villa-Lobos, Ernest Bloch, Roy Harris, William Walton, Malipiero, Britten. 




Fairly difficult: Late Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Milhaud, Chavez, William Schuman, Honegger, Hindemith, Walter Piston.  




Very tough: Middle and late Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Varese, Dallapiccola, Krenek, Roger Sessions, sometimes Charles Ives.  




It is not at all essential that you agree with my comparative estimates. These are meant merely to indicate that not all new music ought to be thought of as equally inaccessible. The dodecaphonic school of Schoenberg is the hardest nut to crack, even for musicians. For the later Stravinsky you need a love of style, precision, personality; for Milhaud or Chavez a taste for sharply seasoned sonorities; Hindemith and Piston demand a contrapuntal ear; Poulenc and Thomson a witty intelligence; and Villa-Lobos a feeling for the lushly colorful. 



The first essential, then, is to differentiate composers, trying to hear each separately in terms of what he wishes to communicate. Composers are not interchangable! Each has his own objective and the wise listener would do well to keep that objective in the front of his mind. 



This clarification of objective should also be borne in mind when we distinguish between the musical pleasures to be derived from old and new music. The uninitiated music lover will continue to find contemporary music peculiar so long as he persists in trying to hear the same kinds of sounds or derive the same species of musical enjoyment that he gets from the great works of past masters. This point is crucial. My love of the music of Chopin and Mozart is as strong as that of the next fellow, but it does me little good when I sit down to write my own, because their world is not mine and their musical language not mine. The underlying principles of their music are just as cogent today as they were in their own period, but with these same principles one may and one does produce a quite different result. When approaching a present-day musical work of serious pretensions, one must first realize what the objective of the composer is and then expect to hear a different sort of treatment than was customary in the past. 



In dealing with the elements and forms of music, various instances were cited to show how recent composers have adapted and extended our technical resources for their own expressive purposes. These extensions of conventional procedures necessarily imply the ability, on the listener's part, to lend himself by instinct or training to the unfamiliar idiom. If, for example, you find yourself rejecting music because it is too dissonant, it probably indicates that your ear is insufficiently accustomed to our present-day musical vocabulary, and needs more practice ― that is, training in listening. (There is always the possibility that the composer himself may be at fault through the writing of uninspired or willful dissonances.) 



In following a new work, the melodic content ― or seeming lack of it ― may be a source of confusion. You may very well miss hearing the straightforward tune that can be hummed. Melodies nowadays can be “unsingable,” especially in instrumental writing, if only because they go far beyond the limitations of the human voice. Or it may be that they are too tortuous, or jagged, or fragmentary to have any immediacy of appeal. These are expressive attributes that may, temporarily, perplex the listener. But the composer, given the expanded scope of contemporary melodic invention, cannot return to the plain and sometimes obvious melody writing of an earlier day. Assuming a gifted composer, repeated hearings should make clear the long-range appeal of his more intricate line. 




Finally there is the reproach that is repeated more often than any other, namely, that today's music appears to avoid sentiment and feeling, that it is merely cerebral and clever rather than emotionally meaningful. A brief paragraph can hardly hope to deal adequately with this persistent misconception. If a contemporary composer's work strikes you as cold and intellectual, ask yourself if you are not using standards of comparison that really do not apply. Most music lovers do not appreciate to what an extent they are under the spell of the romantic approach to music. Our audiences have come to identify nineteenth-century musical romanticism as analogous to the art of music itself. Because romanticism was, and still remains, so powerful an expression, they tend to forget that great music was written for hundreds of years before the romantics flourished. 



If so happens that a considerable proportion of today's music has closer aesthetic ties with that earlier music than it has with the romantics. The way of the uninhibited and personalized warmth and surge of the best of the romanticists is not our way. Even that segment of contemporary composition that clearly has romantic overtones is careful to express itself more discreetly, without exaggeration. And so it must, for the self-evident truth is that the romantic movement had reached its apogee by the end of the last century and nothing fresh was to be extracted from it. 



The transition from romanticism to a more objective musical ideal was a gradual one. Since composers themselves found it difficult to make the break, it is not to be wondered at that the public at large has been slow to accept the full implication of what has been happening. The nineteenth century was the romantic century par excellence ― a romanticism that found its most characteristic expression in the art of music. Perhaps that explains the continued reluctance of the music-loving public to admit that with the new century a different kind of music had to come into being. And yet their counterparts in the literary world do not expect Andre Gide or Thomas Mann or T. S. Eliot to emote with the accents of Victor Hugo or Sir Walter Scott. Why then should Bela Bartok or Sessions be expected to sing with the voice of Brahms or Tchaikovsky? When a contemporary piece seems dry and cerebral to you, when it seems to be giving off little feeling or sentiment, there is a good chance that you are being insensitive to the characteristic musical speech of your own epoch. 



That musical speech ― if it is truly vital ― is certain to include an experimental and controversial side. And why not? Why is it that the typical music lover of our day is seemingly so reluctant to consider a musical composition as, possibly, a challenging experience? When I hear a new piece of music that I do not understand, I am intrigued ― I want to make contact with it again at the first opportunity. It's a challenge ― it keeps my interest in the art of music thoroughly alive. If, after repeated hearing, a work says nothing to me, I do not therefore conclude that modern composition is in a sorry condition. I simply conclude that that piece is not for me. 



I've sadly observed, however, that my own reaction is not typical. Most people seem to resent the controversial in music; they don't want their listening habits disturbed. They use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be used as a soporific. Contemporary music, especially, is created to wake you up, not put you to sleep. It is meant to stir and excite you, to move you ― it may even exhaust you. But isn't that the kind of stimulation you go to the theater for or read a book for? Why make an exception for music? 



It may be that new music sounds peculiar for the sole reason that, in the course of ordinary listening, one hears so little of it by comparison with the amount of conventional music that is performed year in and year out. Radio and concert programs, the advertisements of the record manufacturers and their dealers, the usual school curricula ― all emphasize the idea, unwittingly, perhaps, that “normal” music is music of the past, music that has proved its worth. A generous estimate indicates that only one-quarter of the music we hear can be called contemporary ― and that estimate applies mostly to music heard in the larger musical centers. Under such circumstances contemporary music is likely to remain “peculiar,” unless the listener is willing to make the extra effort to break the barrier of unfamiliarity. 



To feel no need of involvement in the musical expression of one's own day is to shut oneself off from one of the most exciting experiences the art of music can provide. Contemporary music speaks to us as no other music can. It is the older music ― the music of Buxtehude and Cherubini ― that should seem distant and foreign to us, not that of Milhaud and William Schuman. But isn't music universal? What, you may ask, does the living composer say that will not be found in somewhat analogous terms in an earlier music? All depends on the angle of vision: what we see produces wider extremes of tension and release, a more vivid optimism, a grayer pessimism, climaxes of abandonment and explosive hysteria, coloristic variety ― subtleties of light and dark, a relaxed sense of fun sometimes spilling over into the grotesque, crowded textures, open-spaced vistas, “painful” longing, dazzling brilliance. Various shades and gradations of these mood have their counterpart in older music, no doubt, but no sensitive listener would ever confuse two. We usually recognize the period a composition belongs in as an essential part of its physiognomy. It is the uniqueness of any authentic art expression that makes even approximate duplication in any other period inconceivable. That is why the music lover who neglects contemporary music deprives himself of the enjoyment of an otherwise unobtainable aesthetic experience. 



The key to the understanding of new music is repeated hearings. Fortunately for us, the prevalence of the long-play disk makes this entirely possible. Many listeners have attested to the fact that incomprehensibility gradually gives way before the familiarity that only repeated hearing can give. There is, in any event, no better way to test whether contemporary music is to have significance for you. 





Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony (RCA) 


StravinskyLe Sacre du Printemps (”The Rite of Spring”) 

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Philharmonia Orchestra (Sony) 


Britten ― Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings 

Britten conducting, with Peter Pears, Barry Tuckwell (London) 


Bartok ― Quartet 1- 6 

Emerson Quartet (Deutsche Grammophon) 


Schoenberg ― Quartet No. 4 

Arditti Quartet (Disques Montaigne) 


Ives ― Piano Sonata No. 2 (”Concord”) 

Gilbert Kalish (Nonesuch) 




ピエール・モントゥ指揮 ボストン交響楽団RCA) 



エサ・ペッカ・サロネン指揮 フィルハーモニア管弦楽団Sony) 



ベンジャミン・ブリテン指揮 ピーター・ピアーズ(テノール) バリー・タックウェル(ホルン) 










第15章オペラと音楽劇(3/3)「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

Only two or three contemporaries were able to compete with Wagner on his own ground. Verdi was the principal of these. Like Gluck, he wrote a large number of conventional Italian operas, which were wildly acclaimed by the public but found little favor with the nineteenth-century admirers of music drama. But there has been a tendency in recent years on the part of the cognoscenti to reestimate the contribution made by Verdi. Somewhat chastened, not to say bored, by the static and “philosophical” music-drama stage, they are now in a position better to appreciate the virtuoso theatrical gifts of a man like Verdi. His opera were no doubt too traditional, too facile, and at times even too vulgar; but they moved. Verdi was a born man of the theater - the sheer effectiveness of works like Aida, Rigoletto, Traviata assure them a permanent place in the operatic repertoire. 



Verdi himself was somewhat influenced by the example of Wagner in the composition of his last two works, Otello and Falstaff, both written when the composer was past seventy. He put aside the separate operatic aria, used the orchestra in a more sophisticated manner, concentrated more directly on the dramatic implications of the plot. But he did not relinquish his instinctive feeling for the stage. That is why these two works - amazing examples of the powers of an old man - are on the whole better models for the edification of the young opera composer than the more theoretical music drama of Wagner. 



Moussorgsky and Bizet were both able to create operas that are worthy of comparison with the best of Verdi or Wagner. Of the two, the Russian's operas have had the more fruitful progeny. His Boris Godounoff was the first of the nationalist operas, written outside Germany, which showed a way out of the Wagnerian impasses. Boris is operatic in the best sense of the word. Its main protagonist is the chorus rather than the individual; it derives its color from Russian locale; its musical background is freshened by the use of typically Russian folk-song material. The scene of the second tableau, which pictures the court of the Kremlin backed by the Czar's apartments, with the coronation procession crossing the stage, is one of the most spectacular ever conceived in the operatic medium.  



The influence of Boris was only slowly felt, for it was not performed in Western Europe until the present century. But Debussy must have known of its existence during the visits that he made to Russia in early manhood. In any case, the influence of Moussorgsky is patent in Debussy's only opera, Pelleas et Melisande, which is the next great landmark in operatic history. In Pelleas, Debussy returned to the Monteverdian ideal of opera, the words of Maeterlink's poetic drama were given their full rights. The music was intended only to serve as a frame about the words, so as to heighten their poetic meaning. 



In method and feeling, Debussy's opera was the antithesis of Wagnerian music drama. This is immediately seen if we compare the big scene in Tristan with the analogous one in Pelleas. In Wagner's opera, when the lovers declare themselves for the first time, there is a wonderful outpouring of the emotions in music; but when Pelleas and Melisande first declare their love for each other, there is complete silence. Everyone - singers, orchestra, and composer- is overcome with emotion. That scene is typical of the whole opera - it is a triumph of understatement. There are very few forte passages in Pelleas; the entire work is bathed in an atmosphere of mystery and poignancy. Debussy's music added a new dimension to Maeterlinck's little play. It is impossible any longer to imagine the play apart from the music. 



Perhaps it is just because of this complete identity of play and music that Pelleas et Melisande has remained something of a special case. It provided no new program for the production of further operas in the same tradition. (Few other plays are so well designed for musical setting.) Moreover, the appeal of Pelleas was largely confined to those who understand French, since so much of the quality of the work is dependent on an understanding of the words. Because Pelleas had almost no offspring, the leaders of musical opinion lost interest in the operatic form altogether and turned instead to the symphony or the ballet as the principal musical form. 



Reasons have already been given for the revival of interest in opera around 1924. All the operas written since then are in full reaction against Wagnerian ideals. Opera composers of today are agreed on at least one point: They are ready to accept frankly the conventions of the operatic stage. Since there is no possible hope of making opera “real”, they have willingly renounced all attempt at reform. They bravely start from the premise that opera is a nonrealistic form, and, instead of deploring that fact, they are determined to make use of it. They are convinced that opera is, first of all, theater and that, as such, it demands a composer who is capable of writing stage music. 



The most significant modern opera since Pelleas is, in the opinion of most critics, Alban Berg's Wozzeck. He, like Debussy, began with a stage play. Wozzeck was the work of a precious nineteenth-century playwright, George Buchner. He tells the story, in 26 short scenes, of a poor devil of a soldier, at the bottom of the social scale, who through no fault of his own lives in misery and leaves nothing but a trail of misery behind him. This is a realistic theme with social implications; but as Berg treated it, it became realism with a difference. The impression that we get is one of a heightened, what is sometimes called an expressionistic, realism. Everything in the opera is extremely condensed. One swift scene follows another, each relating some essential dramatic moment, and all connected and focused through Berg's intensely expressive music. 



One of the reasons for the slow acceptance in musical circles of this original work is the language of the music itself. Berg, as a devoted pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, made use of the atonal harmonic scheme of his teacher. Wozzeck was the first atonal opera to reach the stage. It is indicative of the dramatic power of the music that despite the fact of its being difficult to perform and almost as difficult to understand, it has made its way in both Europe and America. One other curious feature should be mentioned, which is found in Wozzeck and in the last work that Berg finished before his death, his second opera Lulu. Berg had the somewhat strange notion of introducing strict concert-hall forms, such as the passacaglia or rondo, into the body of his operas. This innovation in operatic form has no more than a technical interest, since the public hears the work with no idea of the presence of these underlying forms, this, according to the composer's own admission, being exactly his intention. Like every other opera, Berg's work holds the stage by virtue of its dramatic power. 



A few modern operas have taken hold of the public imagination because of their treatment of some contemporary subject. The first of these was Krenek's Jonny spielt auf, which enjoyed an enormous vogue for a time. It seemed quite piquant to the provincial public of Germany that the hero of an opera should be a Negro jazz band leader and that the composer should dare to introduce a few jazz tunes into his score. 



Kurt Weill developed that popularizing tendency in a series that made opera history in pre-Hitler Germany. His most characteristic work of that period was the Three Penny Opera, with a telling libretto by Bert Brecht. Weill openly substituted “songs” for arias and a pseudo-jazz band for the usual opera orchestra and wrote a music so ordinary and trite that before long every German newsboy was whistling it. But what gives his work a distinction that Jonny spielt auf did not have was the fact that he wrote music of real character. It is a searing expression in musical terms of the German spirit of the 1920's, the hopelessly disintegrated and degenerated postwar Germany that George Grosz painted with brutal frankness. Do not be fooled by Weill's banality. It is a purposeful and meaningful banality if one can read between the lines, as it were, and sense the deep tragedy hidden in its seemingly carefree quality. 



Opera as a comment on the social scene was once more  

demonstrated by the Italian-American composer Gian-Carlo Menotti in The Consul. How long this tendency will continue is difficult to prophesy. But unless composers are able to universalize their comment and present it in terms of effective stage drama, no good will have come from bringing opera closer to everyday life. 



This discussion of modern opera would be incomplete without some mention of one of the most prolific of contemporary opera composers, the Frenchman Darius Milhaud. Milhaud's most ambitious effort in this field has been his opera Christopher Columbus, a grandiose and spectacular affair which has had several productions abroad but none in this country. Milhaud can be violent and lyrical by turns, and he used both qualities to good effect in The Poor Sailor, Esther of Carpentras, Juarez and Maximilian, and other stage works. A good idea of his dramatic power may be had from listening to an excerpt available on records, from his Les Choephores, called Invocation. Singer and chorus rhythmically declaim to the accompaniment of a whole battery of percussion instruments. The effect is quite overwhelming and points to new, unplumbed possibilities for the opera of the future. 



If any of my readers still doubt the viability of modern opera or, for that matter, theatrical music in general, I ask them to consider this final fact. Three of the works that proved to be milestones in the development of new music were works designed for the stage. Mossorgsky's Boris, Debussy's Pelleas, and Stravinsky 's Rite of Spring have all contributed to the advance of music. It may very well be that the next step forward will be made in the theater rather than the concert hall.  



There still remains the question of opera in America or, to be more exact, American opera. Some of our writers have advanced the theory, with a good deal of reason, that the movies legitimately take the place of opera in the American scene. To them, opera is a typically European manifestation of art, not to be transplanted to American soil. But from the composer's standpoint, the opera is still a fascinating form, no matter how one looks at it. If it is to be transplanted with any chance of real success, two things must happen: Composers must be able to set English to a melodic line that does not falsify the natural rhythm of the language; and opera performances will have to be more numerous than they are at present in our country. As a matter of fact, some of the healthiest of native operatic ventures, such as the Thomson - Stein Four Saints in Three Acts or Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock, found their way on to the stage without benefit of an established opera organization. Perhaps the future of American opera lies outside the opera house. But in any event, I feel sure we have not heard the last of the form, either here or abroad. 




Note: all of these operas are available on videotape and laser disc 


Monteverdi - L'Orfeo 

Nicolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec) 


Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro 

Erich Kleiber (London) 


Mozart - The Magic Flute 

Sir Thomas Beecham, Berlin Ensemble (Angel-EMI) 


Verdi - La Traviata 

Tullio Serafin, with Maria Callas (Angel-EMI) 


Verdi - Otello 

James Levine, with Placido Domingo (RCA) 


Wagner - Die Walkure 

Levine, Metropolitan Opera (Deutsche Grammophon) 


Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov 

Valery Gergiev, Kirov Opera (London) 


DebussyPelleas et Melisande 

Pierre Boulez, Welsh National Opera (Deutsche Grammophon) 


Berg - Wozzeck 

Claudio Abbado, Vienna State Opera (Deutsche Grammophon) 






ニコラウス・アーノンクール指揮 (テルデック) 



エーリッヒ・クライバー指揮 (ロンドン 



サー・トーマス・ビーチャム指揮 ベルリンアンサンブル (エンゼルEMI) 



トゥリオ・セラフィンマリア・カラス (エンゼルEMI) 



ジェームス・レヴァイン指揮 プラシド・ドミンゴ (RCA) 



ジェームス・レヴァイン指揮 メトロポリタン歌劇場 (ドイツ・グラモフォン 



ヴァレリーゲルギエフ指揮 キーロフ劇場(ロンドン) 



ピエール・ブーレーズ指揮 ウェールズナショナルオペラ(ドイツ・グラモフォン 



クラウディオ・アバド指揮 ウイーン国立歌劇場(ドイツ・グラモフォン 

第15章オペラと音楽劇(2/3)「What to Listen for In Music」を読む

The year 1600 provides a convenient starting point, for it was thereabouts that operatic history began. It was the result ― or so the historian tells us ― of the meetings of certain composers and poets at the palace of one Count Bardi in Florence. Remember that serious art music up to that time had been almost entirely choral and of a highly contrapuntal and involved nature. In fact, music had become so contrapuntal, so complex, that it was well-nigh impossible to understand a word of what the singers were saying. The “new music” was going to change all that. Note immediately two fundamental qualities of opera at its very inception. First, the emphasis on stressing the words, making the music tell a story. Second, the “high-society” aspect of opera from the very start. (It was forty years before the first public opera house was opened in Venice.) 



The ostensible purpose of the men who met at Count Bardi's was the revival of Greek drama. They wished to attempt the recreation of what they thought went on in the Greek theater. Of course, what they accomplished was a completely different thing ― the creation of a new form, which was destined to fire the imagination of artists and audiences for generations to come. 



The first of the great opera composers was the Italian, Claudio Monteverdi. Unfortunately, his works are rarely given nowadays and would strike our present-day opera lovers as little more than museum pieces if they were performed. From our vantage point, Monteverdi's style is limited in resource ― it consists for the most part of what we should call recitative. Nowadays we think of the recitative as of very minor interest in an opera, and we wait always for the aria which follows it to arouse us. In a sense, Monteverdi's operas are innocent of arias, so that they seem to be nothing but one long recitative, with an occasional orchestral interlude. But what is so very extraordinary about the recitative in Monteverdi is its quality. It rings absolutely true; it is amazingly felt. Despite the fact that he comes at almost the very beginning of the new form, no one after Monteverdi was able to put words to music so simply, so movingly, so convincingly. In listening to Monteverdi, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the words, since he puts so much emphasis upon them. That is also true to much later in operatic history when certain composers returned to the Monteverdian ideal of opera. 



The new art form, which had begun so auspiciously, spread gradually to other countries outside Italy. It went first from Venice to Vienna and from Vienna to Paris, London, and Hamburg. Those were the big operatic centers in the 1700's. By that time, the opera had veered away from the Monteverdi prototype. The words became less and less important, while all emphasis was placed upon the musical side of the opera. The newer form condensed the emotion aroused by the action into what we now think of as arias; and these arias were connected by recitative passages. But these sections are not to be confused with the Monteverdi species of recitative; they were ordinary, workaday recitatives designed merely for the purpose of telling the story as quickly as possible so that the next aria might be reached. The result was a form of opera that consisted of a collection of arias interspersed with recitative. There was no attempt at picturizing in the music events that happened on the stage. That was to come later. 



The great opera composer of the seventeenth century was Alessandro Scarlatti, the father of the clavecin composer Domenico, whose works were commented upon in the discussion of two-part form. The model of opera that the elder Scarlatti developed we now connect with the later operas of Handel. In this type of opera, the story is of little import; the drama is static, and the action negligible. All interest is centered on the singer and the vocal part, and opera justifies itself only in terms of its musical appeal. It proved to be a dangerous development, for it wasn't long before the natural desire of singers to hold the center of the stage led to serious abuses which are still by no means entirely eradicated. The rivalry of singers led to the addition of all kinds of roulades and extra furbishings to the melodic line for the sole purpose of demonstrating the prowess of the particular interpreter in question. 



What followed was inevitable. Since opera had become so highly formalized and unnatural an art form, someone was bound to come forward as a reformer. The history of opera is sprinkled with reformers. Someone is always trying to make opera more real than it was in the period just before him. The champion of reform who wished to correct the abuses of the Handelian opera was, of course, Christoph Willibald von Gluck. 



Gluck himself had written a great many operas in the conventional Italian style of his day before he assumed the role of reformer, so that he knew whereof he spoke when he said that opera was in need of purification. Gluck tried above all to rationalize opera ― to have it make more sense. In the older opera, the singer was supreme, and the music served the singers; Gluck made the dramatic idea supreme and wrote music that served the purposes of the text. Each act was to be an entity in itself, not a nondescript collection of more or less effective arias. It was to be balanced and contrasted, with a flow and continuity that would give it coherence as an art form. The ballet, for example, was not to be a mere divertissement introduced for its own sake but an integral part of the dramatic idea of the work. 



Gluck's ideas as to operatic reform were sound. Moreover, he was able to incorporate them into actual works. Orpheus and Eurydice, Armide, Alceste are the names of some of his most successful achievements. In these operas, he created a massive, stolid kind of music which fitted very well the grandiose subject matter of many of his works. And concomitant with the monumental impression is one of extraordinary calm, a species of calm beauty which is unique in music and utterly removed from the frivolities of the operatic medium of his day. Gluck's works are not to be classed as museum pieces; they are the first operas of which it may be said that time has not impaired their effectiveness. 



That is to say that Gluck was entirely successful in his reform. His operas are undoubtedly more rational than those which preceded him, but much was left to be accomplished by later men. His reform was only a relative one; in many instances, he merely substituted his own conventions for those that were current before him. But he was, nevertheless, a genius of the first rank, and he did succeed in setting up an ideal of opera that showed the way to future reformers. 



Mozart, the next great name in operatic history, was not by nature a reformer. What we expect to find in Mozart is perfection in whatever medium he chose to work. Mozart's operas are no exception, for they embody more resourcefulness than can be found in any other opera up to his time. The Magic Flute is sometimes spoken of as the most perfect opera ever written. Its subject matter lends itself very well to operatic treatment because of its nonrealistic nature. It is both serious and comic, combining a wealth of musical imagination with a popular style accessible to all. 



One contribution that Mozart did make to the form was the operatic finale. This is an effect possible only in opera ― that final scene of an act when all the principals sing at the same time, each one singing about something else, only to conclude with a resounding fortissimo to the delight of everyone concerned. Mozart accomplished this typically musical trick in so definitive and perfect a way that all who used it after him ― as who has not? ― were indebted to him. It appears to be a fundamental effect in operatic writing, since it is just as much alive today as it was in Mozart's time.  



Mozart was also in advance of his time in one other respect. He was the first great composer to write a comedy set in the German language. The Abduction from the Seraglio, produced in 1782, is the first milestone in the path that leads directly to the future German opera. It set the style for a long list of followers, among whom may be counted the Wagner of the Meistersinger. 



Richard Wagner was the next great reformer in opera. It was his purpose, as it had been Gluck's , to rationalize operatic form. He visualized the form as a union of all the arts ― to include poetry, the drama, music, and the arts of the stage ― everything connected with the spectacular opera outlined in the beginning of this chapter. He wished to give a new dignity to the operatic form by naming it music drama. Music drama was to be different from opera in two important respects: In the first place, the set musical number was to be done away with in favor of a continuous musical flow which followed an uninterrupted course from the beginning of an act to its conclusion. The opera of the separate aria connected by recitative was abandoned for the sake of greater realism in the dramatic form. Secondly, the famous conception of the leitmotif was introduced. Through associating a particular musical phrase, or motif, with each character or idea in the music drama, a greater cohesion of musical elements was to be assured. 



But most significant in the Wagnerian music drama is the role assigned the orchestra. I had a most pronounced impression of that fact at the Metropolitan one winter on hearing Massenet's Manon one night and Wagner's Die Walkure the next. With the Frenchman's work one never gave the orchestra any special attention. It played a part not unlike that of a group of theater musicians in a pit; but as soon as Wagner's orchestra sounded, one had the impression that the entire Philharmonic Symphony had moved into the Metropolitan. Wagner brought the symphony orchestra to the opera house, so that the principal interest is often not on the stage but in the orchestra pit. The singers often must be listened to only in a secondary way, while the primary attention is placed on what the orchestra is “saying.” Wagner was by nature a symphonist who applied his symphonic gifts to the form of the opera. 



The question remains: “Did Wagner achieve reality in the opera house?” The answer must be “No.” He achieved it no more than Gluck had. Once again, different conventions were substituted for those current in Wagner's time. Also, we may ask with justice: “Did he achieve the equality of all the arts which he never tired of proclaiming?” There, again, the answer is “No.” The honest listener who witnesses a Wagnerian performance is bound to come away with an impression that is primarily a musical, not a dramatic, one. Imagine a Wagner libretto set to different music ― none would evince the slightest interest in it. It is only because the music is so extraordinary that Wagner maintains his hold on the public. It is the music that is supreme; by comparison with it, all the other elements of the music drama are weak. Professor Edward Dent of Cambridge has exactly expressed my sentiments in relation to the extramusical considerations of Wagnerian drama. He said “A great deal of nonsense has been written, some indeed by Wagner himself, about the philosophical and moral significance of his operas.” The final test of music drama, as of opera, must be the opera house itself. It is only the overpowering command of musical resources represented by Wagner's work that makes it bearable in the opera house. 


第15章オペラと音楽劇(1/3)「What to Listen for In Music」を読む

15. Opera and Music Drama 



Up to now, the question of listening more intelligently has been considered solely in relation to music that comes under the heading of concert music. Strange as it may seem, music that is end in itself, having no connection with any extramusical idea, is not the natural phenomenon that it seems to be. Music did not begin as concert music, certainly. It was only after century-long historical developments that music, listened to for its own sake, was able to seem self-sufficient. 



Theatrical music, on the other hand, is, by comparison, a perfectly natural thing. Its origins go as far back as the primitive ritual music of a savage tribe or the religious chant of a sacred play in the Middle Ages. Even today, music written to accompany a play, film, or ballet seems self-explanatory. The only form of theatrical music that is at all controversial, and therefore in need of some explaining, is the operatic form. 



Opera in our own day is an art form with a somewhat tarnished reputation. I speak, naturally, of the opinion of the musical “elite.” That wasn't always true. There was a time when opera was thought of as a more advanced form than any other. But until quite recently, it was customary among the elite to speak of the operatic form with a certain amount of condescension. 



There were several reasons for the disrepute into which opera fell. Among the first of these was the fact that opera bore the “taint” of Wagner about it. For at least thirty years after his death, the entire musical world made heroic efforts to throw off the terrific impact of Wagner. That is no reflection on his music. It simply means that each new generation must create its own music; and it was a very difficult thing to do, particularly in the opera house, immediately after Wagner had lived.  



Moreover, quite aside from Wagnerian music drama, it might truthfully be said that the public that flocked to hear opera did the form little credit. On the one hand, it became associated with what was sometimes called a “barber public” ― musical groundlings for whom the real art of music was assumed to be a closed book. On the other hand, there was the “society public,” turning the opera into a fashionable playground, with an eye only for its circus aspect. 



Moreover, the repertoire currently performed was made up for the most part of old “chestnuts,” out-moded show pieces that were fit only to strike awe in the mind of a movie magnate. How could one possibly think of injecting into this situation a new opera written in the more up-to-date manner of the 1920's, despite the fact that this new, revolutionary music was already invading the concert halls? To the musical elite, all music of serious pretensions seemed to be automatically ruled out of the opera house. If by lucky chance a new work did reach the operatic stage, it was more than likely to be found too esoteric for the audience, if it hadn't previously been annihilated by the artificialities of the conventional opera production. 



Those are some of the reasons for the low estimate of the opera as a form in the opinion of the people who look upon music seriously. But around 1924 a renewal of interest in opera began, which had its origin in Germany. Every small town in Germany has an opera house. There were said to be, around that time, at least ten first-class and twenty second-class operatic stages that functioned most of the year round. We must not forget that in Germany the opera takes the place of our musical comedy, movie, and theater combined. Every good citizen owns his weekly subscription to the opera, so that there was almost a social obligation for opera to renew itself as a form. Moreover, publishers of music did much to encourage the writing of new operatic works. There was then plenty of incentive for composers to write operas and publishers to print them, plus the added advantage of a postwar audience interested in experiencing new operatic ventures off the conventional path. Before long, interest spread to other countries, and even our own Metropolitan half-hearted paid its respects to new opera by an occasional performance of a representative modern work. 



If the reader is to be convinced that the life newly imbued in opera has some justification, he must have some understanding of opera as a form. I feel sure that many of my readers are convinced that opera is a dull form and do not ever want to go to an operatic performance if they can possibly avoid it. Let us see what can be said to break down that prejudice. 



The first point to be made, and one that cannot be too strongly emphasized, is that opera is bound from head to foot by convention. Of course, opera is not the only form of art that is so bound. The theater, for example, pretends that the fourth wall of a room is there and that we, in some miraculous way, look on while real life is being enacted. Children who visit the theater for the first time imagine that everything that occurs there is really happening; but we grownups have no trouble in accepting the convention of the stage as real, though we very well know that the actors are only making believe. The point is that opera has its conventions, too ― and still greater ones than the theater. It is important for you to realize to what an extent you accept convention in the theater if you are to be less reluctant to accept the still greater one of the opera house. 



In a sense, an opera is simply a drama sung instead of a drama spoken. That is the first of the conventions and completely at variance with reality. Even so, the drama is not sung continuously (until Wagner's time, at any rate) but, instead, is broken up into regularly contrasted, set musical pieces ― which removes it one step farther from any connection with the reality that it is supposedly depicting. Moreover, the story that is being told is often of a fatuity that can hardly be exaggerated. Nothing sensible ever seems to take place on an operatic stage. Nor does the acting of opera singers conspire to aid in making the libretto ― as the book of an opera is called ― any the less fatuous. 

ある意味オペラは、セリフを喋る代わりに歌う、それだけのことだ。これが「お約束事 その1」であり、現実の生活とは全く異なる点である。そうは言っても、オペラは、四六時中歌い続けるようなことはしない(多かれ少なかれワーグナーの時代までは、ずっとそうだった)。その代わりに、セリフのやり取りは決まって中断され、それと対比をつけるように、予め用意された楽曲が流れる。これにより、舞台上で描かれていることが、また一歩、現実との結びつきからかけ離れてゆく。更に、語られるストーリーは、誇張を極めたバカバカしさがよく見受けられる。理性を感じさせるものは、何一つオペラの舞台上にはでてこない。それでもなお、オペラ歌手達の演技が、リブレット(オペラ用語で台本のこと)の内容をバカバカしくすることも、あり得ない。 


Finally, there is the matter of the recitative ― that part of an opera which is neither spoken nor sung but rather is half sung ― telling the story part (especially in old operas), without any attempt at stimulating musical interest. When an opera is sung in a language unfamiliar to the listener, as most operas are in English-speaking countries, these recitative sections can be of surpassing boredom. These facts go to prove that the opera is not a realistic form of art; and one must not demand that it be realistic. As a matter of fact, no one is more tiresome than the person who can understand only realism in art. It shows a rather low artistic mentality never to believe anything you see unless it appears to be real. One must be willing to allow that symbolic things also mirror realities and sometimes provide greater esthetic pleasure than the merely realistic. The opera house is a good place in which to find these more symbolic pleasures. In short, what I have been trying to convey is that in order to enjoy what goes on in the opera house you must begin by accepting its conventions. 



It is surprising that some people still consider opera a dead form. What makes it so different from any of the other forms of music is its all-inclusiveness. It contains within itself almost every musical medium: the symphony orchestra, the solo voice, the vocal ensemble, the chorus. The character of the music may be either serious or light ― and both in the same work. Opera may contain music of a symphonic, or “absolute,” nature, or it may be purely descriptive and programmatic. An opera also contains ballet, pantomime, and drama. It passes easily from one to the other. In other words, it is almost impossible to imagine any type of musical or theatrical art that would not be at home in an opera house. 



But added to that is the spectacular display which only the opera can give in its own way. It is theater on a grand scale ― crowds of people on the stage; magnificence of lights, costumes, and scenery. A composer who isn't attracted by such a medium has very little theatricalism in his soul. Most creators apparently have their share, for opera has fascinated some of the world's finest composers. 



The problem of writing an opera is the combination of all these disparate elements to form an artistic whole. It is anything but an easy problem. As a matter of fact, it is practically impossible to choose any one opera and say: “That's the perfect opera! There is the solution of the form that everyone must follow.” In a sense, the problem is insoluble, for it is almost impossible to equalize and balance the different elements in a opera in such a way as to achieve a completely satisfying whole. The result has been, practically speaking, that composers have tended to emphasize one element at the expense of another. 



That particularly applies to the words of an opera, as the first of the elements with which the composer works. Operatic composers have in practice done one of two things: Either they have given the words a preponderant role, using the music only to serve the drama; or they have frankly sacrificed the words, using them merely as a peg on which to hang their music. So that the entire problem of opera may be reduced to the diametrical pull of words on the one hand and music on the other. It is instructive to look at the history of opera from this standpoint and note the way in which composers solved this problem, each one for himself.