Re: The Bach Choral Dilemma (Piet Vos )

Subject: Re: The Bach Choral Dilemma
From:    Piet Vos  <vos(at)NICI.KUN.NL>
Date:    Thu, 30 Jan 2003 10:33:33 +0100

I higly like and agree with Eliot's elucidations of performance freedom regards Baroque music, especially the music by JSB. Allow me to point to an other, and certainly not subordinate factor which permits divergence of performance interpretations of that music -if not really good music in general: it is the highly ambiguous nature of musical structure in general and music by JSB especially. A nice and unfortunately rather underexposed form of the ambiguity in question concerns the so called overlap phenomenon. It refers to the fact that a certain tone (chord, or chord constituent) functions both as the END of a phrase / theme / motive, and simultaneously as the BEGINNING of the next phrase etc. Overlap is, to my opinion and research, not a kind of epiphenomenon in good music, but rather an ubiquitously present compositorial "construct". One important reason why this special form of ambiguity -and hence its contribution to expressive performance freedom among performers- is so abundantly present in music, at least so in Western tonal music, is the fact that some tones / chords are equally good to terminate a phrase as to open a phrase. (For details, see Vos & Pasveer, Perception & Psychophysics, 2002). The underexposition of ambiguity and its special manifestation in overlap has probably to do with the historical fact that 20th century attempted to develop (more or less) formal models of musical structure, borrowing from Chomskyan (psycho)linguistics, in which there is no "comfortable" place for structural ambiguities within conceptualization in terms of hierarchical tree representations of structure. Piet -- Piet G. Vos section Perception NICI, U. Nijmegen P.O.Box 9104 6500 HE Nijmegen NL tel: +31 24 36126 31/20; fax: +31 24 361 60 66; vos(at) home-page: et altissimus humilissimum facere debet

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