Classical composers do not make music they
write scores which specify the scenarios followed by performing
artists who create actual sonic structures. Composers could thus
choose an extremely modest interpretation of their role. Since they
trust the creativity of their performers, they could be content
to view themselves as mere providers of material, without necessarily
anticipating how the performer would use it, or entertaining expectations
about the eventually resulting sounds. Since the early 1960's, this
manner of composing has been been practiced in several different
ways. Examples are:
- Graphic scores whose interpretation
is partially or completely unspecified. The most radical proponent
of this genre is Anastesis Logothetis. The anthology Notations,
edited by John Cage, provides examples from many composers.
an infinite variety of structurally different realisations, from
which the performer may choose at his own discretion. A very complex
example is Plus-Minus by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
"Word pieces": generic
verbal descriptions of musical events. This genre was practiced
by George Brecht, La Monte Young, Henry Flynt, Dick Higgins, George
Maciunas, and other composers associated with the International
Some of these pieces do not specify any constraints. And some
are impossible to perform; that is when music becomes concept
Sometimes, the transfer of the composer's authority
to the performer's autonomy symbolizes a political stance. John Cage,
one of the most enthusiastic advocates of indeterminacy, was
a card-carrying anarchist.
Umberto Eco: "The Poetics of the Open Work."
Konrad Boehmer re John Cage.
Investigate the technique and meaning of indeterminacy
in Karlheinz Stockhausen's work. Discuss Plus-Minus, the "concept-pieces",
his belief in magic, his reaction to the destruction of the World Trade
Center. Note that in some of his early serial works, indeterminacy was
It is obvious that to appreciate the
many facets of open forms is beyond the means of any ordinary listener
and possibly only of real significance to the composer himself.
R. Smith Brindle: The New Music, p. 72.