2nd International Congress of Musicology

Athens Concert Hall, 4-6 November 2003

Paper Abstracts

Nikos Tsouchlos

Tempo, Sonority and the Analysis of Music

One could consider that the performer, whose function is to complete the vision of the composer by transforming it into a live sound organism, follows a direction opposite to that of the musicologist-analyst, whose mission consists in defining, describing and studying the different structural elements of the musical work deposited in the score. The question is if and to what extent these opposite paths cross each other, if and to what extent the results of whatever analytical procedures can contribute in shaping the particular choices of the performer in the fields of tempo and sonority, traditionally considered as the loci of his interpretative freedom.

 In reality, the tempo is not an autonomous factor of expression, but merely a condition for the appearance of the structural elements of the work. The same applies for the parameter of sonority. Moreover, practical experience teaches that these conditions are in close connection with each other: the definition of tempo giusto depends absolutely on sonority, while sonority is considerably influenced in its development by the choice of tempo.

In reality, tempo and sonority seem to be nothing else than two different aspects of the same deeper interpretative problem, a problem that concerns both the nature of the structural elements of a work and the possible ways of their realization in sound. If such is the case, the results of an analytical approach should find themselves present, even if only implicitly, in the core of the activity of performance. Such results should provide the performer with criteria of crucial importance for the shaping of his practical choices of tempo and sonority in the framework of a continuous dialectical relation between sound and musical idea, which establishes itself afresh in each new performance of the same work and is developed each time in new ways from the first attacca to the dying away of the last chord.