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'Performance, Reification, and Score: the Dialectics of Spatialization and Temporality in the Experience of Music'

Paddison, Max



The following text is taken from the Introduction to Part II written by Professor Paddison. "Like Peter Kivy, my article also deals in part with the experience of the continuities and discontinuities of musical temporality. At the same time there are also certain affinities between Lydia Goehr’s article and my own, in that I also draw on Adorno to illuminate aspects of music’s temporality, culminating in a focus on his concepts of “musical time” and “empirical time”. The perspectives, however, are, quite different, as is suggested by my title; “Performance, Reification, and Score: The Dialectics of Spatialization and Temporality in the Experience of Music”. My starting point is Enrico Fubini’s discussion of the relationship between performer and score, where he discusses the score as a “rationalized space-time scheme” and also identifies the defining character of the score in Western art music as its “margin of indeterminacy”, an aspect of the “immanent temporality” of music. My main aim is “to explore the relationship of performer to score in terms of music’s temporality and what I am calling its ‘spatialization’, viewing them in the context of reification [Verdinglichung]”. Putting it in perhaps simplistic terms, “the score can be seen as the spatialization of what happens in the music, while the performed music is the interpretation of the score as a temporal unfolding of the structure it contains”. I also argue that there is a particular type of experience characteristic of music, and seek to locate it in the distinction between two types identified by Adorno — “interpretative experience” [Erfahrung] and “lived experience” [Erlebnis]. A further point of departure is the issue of continuity versus discontinuity — particularly germane to the spectralists, and their use of Bergson to provide a philosophical underpinning for their musical procedures. I employ Adorno also to offer a critique of Bergson, and what I see as the inadequacy of the Bergsonian notion of intuition in relation to the experience of musical temporality. In the process I put forward a rudimentary theory of musical temporality and spatialization in relation to the experience of musical time. Examining first Adorno’s dialectical concept of experience in relation to the phenomenology of Husserl, I go on to consider Adorno’s concept of “interpretative understanding” [Verstehen], and to propose we take the notion of “mimetic understanding” [mimetisches Verstehen] which he derives from it as the key mediating factor between the work-as-score and the work-as-performance. It is this, I suggest, that defines for Adorno the dialectical relationship between score and performer, and thus between the opposed processes of spatialization and temporalization. The score undoubtedly remains central to the tradition of Western art music, and I argue that, even at the height of the notational and graphic experiments of the mid-twentieth century, and the “composing in” of indeterminacy and chance processes, metaphors of space continued to dominate thinking about music and “open form”, Umberto Eco’s “The Poetics of the Open Work” being a well-known attempt to expand this to other arts. And yet, while Fubini points to the inadequacy of notation and the score, I also argue that performance, as the temporalization of the score as Notenbild, is also always inadequate in relation to the potentialities of the work-as-score. I discuss a possible theory of musical temporality and spatialization in four main stages. First, I address the work-as-score as the “first reification” of music, and consider this as, so to speak, a “historically necessary” stage in Western music which made possible the emergence and development of an autonomous art music in the first place — that is, through the spatialization of music’s essential temporality. The work-as-score is thus historically reified subjectivity which, to put it in Adornian terms, has “forgotten itself”. At the same time, however, this subjectivity is not simply individual and personal, but historical and social. Second, I address the work-as-performance, and interpretation as temporalization of the spatialty of the score, and as a “dissolving” of reification. The performative relationship to the score is not, however, conceptual, but mimetic and gestural in character. In Proustian terms, it acts as a recovery of memory, of lost time, in the process of tracing the static connections articulated in the score and rendering them as dynamic gestures in movement. Third, I consider the performed work-as-commodity — regarded as a “second reification” of the work, and a second spatialization of its temporality, through its reproduction as recording, its distribution, and its mode of consumption. And fourth, I consider musical experience and interpretative understanding as critical reflexion. That is to say, through a dialectical and critical mode of listening experience the reification and manipulation of the work-as-commodity might be “dissolved” a second time However, such a mode of listening would not mean, I suggest, an immediate, or unmediated experience of the work untroubled by its mediation in a commodified world. It means also an awareness of that which is not the work. By way of conclusion, I argue that “a particular kind of time experience characterizes the aesthetic experience of music and is fundamental to it.” Furthermore, I suggest that the problem of discontinuity over continuity as an issue of compositional process needs also to be understood in the context of the experience of music as a time continuum, within which even music characterized by discontinuity and fragmentation is heard as an implied or underlying continuity. But while it is very likely that Adorno was influenced by Bergson’s notions of temps durée and temps espace in his concepts of “musical time” and “empirical time”, I suggest that Adorno’s use of his pairing is critical (i.e. dialectical) in character, but Bergson’s is not, given its overriding emphasis on continuity over discontinuity, and on duration over space. I argue that musical time functions for Adorno as a critique of empirical time, in the same way that for him the aesthetic experience functions as a critique of the empirical world. I suggest that the key mediating concept here is Adorno’s notion of Erfahrung, “interpretative experience”."


Paddison, M. (2004). 'Performance, Reification, and Score: the Dialectics of Spatialization and Temporality in the Experience of Music'. Musicae Scientiae, Discussion Forum 3, 157-179.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2004
Deposit Date Mar 27, 2008
Journal Musicae Scientiae
Print ISSN 1029-8649
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume Discussion Forum 3
Pages 157-179
Keywords Adorno, Enrico Fubini, Spatialization, Interpretation.
Publisher URL