----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
> I agree...for me, it fascinating to compare what small portion of
> performance history we do have via recordings. I still don't understand
> how one can justify an "historically informed performance" of the romantic
> literature which sounds so sterile after one listens to a Nikisch
> recording!
> I am reminded of a seminar I had in the aesthetics of music...our teacher
> offered the scenario...not unlike a similar discussion, on this list,
> about "the future." It is the year 4,000 and you uncover a pile of jazz
> recordings survive. Musicologists worldwide examine the scores
> and try to determine the appropriate way to perform "ad lib." There are
> musicological forums and congresses held, papers are written,
> are awarded, careers are made and others destroyed, books are published
> over a period of years of intense debate a "performance standard" is
> based upon the research, diaries, newspaper articles, reviews, etc. Kinda
> makes you wonder what that "performance standard" would sound like.
> Karl (still bothered by having spent the better part of a semester in
> graduate school working on the assignment of how to interpret the "Haydn
> ornament.")
Well, noting you said "jazz scores" (insofar as jazz WAS scored)...

First question would be whether the same system of notation was still in
If it weren't, the scores would mean nothing! Second question...were the
or similar, instruments still in use? If not...and if someone still could
read two-millennium-old music...all that could be played is something more
or less approximating the sound that was heard back in the XXth century.
However, these are, in theory, JAZZ scores...and a substantial part of
jazz is improvisation (and improvisation as it exists now, not in the 41st

I recall a member of Toronto's Duke Ellington Society telling a story
on himself. It seems he was a reasonably competent sax player, and as
a result wound up playing fourth sax in an Ellington gig in Toronto
(a lifelong ambition of his). When he laid out his charts, one page
for one selection was simply noted, "Fourth sax takes 12 bars here."

Actually, the essential question would be whether any 20th-century
sound recordings had survived, along with the hardware (and software,
in many cases) to obtain their content. This is where the shellac 78
becomes inportant; looking closely at the undualating groove will
suggest it contains sound data, and running a fingernail (or talon,
or whatever we have in 2K years) along the groove will cause sound
to be audible. From there. it's a simple step to assume that
rotating the disc under a stylus will cause the vibrations to
reproduce sound, even acoustically. Establishing a speed of 78 rpm
(or around there) can be done by trial and error.

Now, look at a CD! All you see is a disc which shimmers with the
full need substantial magnification to detect the
fact that this is caused by indentations, and even if you can
establish the fact that these indentations contain digital
data, you need the original algorithm to know how to obtain that
data in a useful form!

Our 40th century anthropologist is much more likely to conclude,
"These shimmering ornamental disks were worn as jewelry by our
ancestors of the 20er Jahrhundert, prized because of the way they
vividly reflected the spectrum of whatever light was used to
view them..."

Steven C. Barr