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1925 __ Grammophonmusik
Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt (1901-1988)
Comment : [...] [A] new and passionate advocate of "Grammophonmusik" pursued the matter even further in a series of articles. The first essay by the young musicologist H.H. Stuckenschmidt, written in 1925, was especially bold. The twenty-three-year-old claimed that "the diversity of the sounds [possible with "Grammophonmusik"] will leave the traditional orchestra looking quite primitive", and insisted that "the role of the interpreter belongs to the past" (“Die Mannigfaltigkeit der Klänge wird das alte Orchester ganz primitiv erscheinen lassen ... Die Rolle des Interpreten gehört der Vergangenheit an”). Stuckenschmidt's dismissal of the musical interpreter was sure to upset his readers, for his article was published in, of all places, a journal for conductors. The editor prefaced the essay by noting dryly, "The essay at hand will cause general head-shaking. Particularly among conductors" (“Der vorliegende Aufsatz wird allgemeines Kopfschütteln hervorrufen, Namentlich bei den Dirigenten”). Stuckenschmidt further explored the posssibilities of phonographic composition in a 1927 essay for the American journal "Modern Music", in which he expanded on two ideas first proposed by Moholy-Nagy: the use of "Grammophonmusik" as a way to bypass traditional performance and the idea of a "groove-script" system of notation. For Stuckenschmidt, circumventing the interpreter meant that composers could avoid depending on possibly unreliable second parties. More important, it gave the composer the freedom to create music that would be impossible by ordinary means. "The artist is no longer content merely to express what is instrumentally feasible", he proclaimed. Instead "the composer can make use of any tone-color he chooses, even those non-existent in our modern orchestras. He can call for fantastic tempi and dynamics as well as the most complicated combinations of rhythm and not fear a poor performance. The composer becomes his own interpreter". To achieve this goal, a phonographically conceived system of notation was needed. Whereas Moholy-Nagy had offered a purely theoretical sketch of the possibility of disc inscription, Stuckenschmidt contemplated the practical aspects of the idea. "The problem now is to find as adequate a system for instruments of the phonograph type", he wrote. [...] Such a process was never developed. In theory, such a system could work, but that was where the idea was destined to dwell -- in theory. As the composer Ernst Křenek later wrote, "The notion of composing on a gramophone record seems preposterous. For who could so engrave the microscopic grooves and notches that a complex tone picture would emerge ?". No experiments are known to have been carried out, and few critics or composers raised the idea in later years. (Mark Katz)
Original excerpt : « Here the tone is not transformed into graphic signs easily recognizable, but into short, wavy lines so minute as to be extremely difficult to study. This obstacle, however, might be overcome with a microscope; the lines could be divided into definite rubrics and a fixed scheme established embracing all shades of tone-color, pitch and dynamic intensity. With this new script definite sounds could be transcribed. Sound waves would be shown in highly magnified form; in order to be transferred to the record they would need to be reduced by a photo-mechanical process.A Vision of the Future”). »
Source : Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz (?), “Twentieth century music”, translated from the German by Richard Deveson, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.
Source : Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz (1927), “Machines - A Vision of the Future”, In Modern Music 4, March-April 1927, pp. 9-11.
Source : Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz (1951), “Musique Nouvelle - La décade des expériences”, In Neue Musik, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1951.
Source : Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz (1925), “Die Mechanisierung der Musik”, Punk und Taktstock 2, p.8,
Source : Křenek Ernst (1939), “Music Here and Now”, trans. Barthold Fled, New York : Norton, 1939, p. 38.
Source : Katz, Mark (2004), "Capturing sound: how technology has changed music", Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 106-107.

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