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1907 __ « Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music »
Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)
Comment : In his "Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music" (1907), a publication somewhat controversial in its time, Feruccio Busoni, the Italian pianist and composer who settled in Berlin, staked out the principal paths that music would follow. Busoni wanted to liberate music from outmoded practices and he asserted that music should distill the essence of music of the past to make something new. He proposed new scalar possibilities and a system of microtones and even envisioned electronic instruments (both techniques he never employed). (John Winiarz)
Original excerpt : « [...] A musical person is one who manifests an inclination for music by a nice discrimination and sensitiveness with regard to the technical aspects of the art. By “technics” I mean rhythm, harmony, intonation, part-leading, and the treatments of themes. The more subtleties he is capable of hearing or reproducing in these, the more “musical” he is held to be. In view of the great importance attached to these elements of the art, this “musical” temperament has naturally become of the highest consequence. And do an artist who plays with perfect technical finish should be deemed the most musical player. But as we mean by “technics” only the mechanical mastery of the instrument, the terms “technical” and “musical” have been turned into opposites. The matter has been carried so far as to call a composition itself “musical” or even to assert of a great composer like Berlioz that he was not sufficiently musical. “Unmusical” conveys the strongest reproach, branded thus, its object becomes an outlaw. [pp. 20-21] [...] The fonction of the creative artist consists in making laws, not in following laws ready made. He who follows such laws, ceases to be a creator. [...] That which, within our present-day music, most nearly approaches the essential nature of the art, is the Rest and the Hold (Pause). Consummate players, improvisers, know how to employ these instruments of expression in loftier and ampler measure. The tense silence between two movements - in itself music, in this environment - leaves wider scope for divination than the more determinate, but therefore less elastic, sound. [...] The question of notation seems to me subordinate. In the other hand, the question is very important and imperious, how and on what these tones [tripartite or third of a tone] are to be produced. Fortunately, while busied with this essay, I received from America direct and authentic intelligence which solves the problem in a simple manner. I refer to an invention by Dr. Thaddeus Cahill. He has constructed a comprehensive apparatus which makes it possible to transform an electric current into a fixed and mathematically exact number of vibrations. As pitch depends on the number of vibrations, and the apparatus may be “set” on any number desired, the infinite gradation of the octave may be accomplished by merely moving a lever corresponding to the pointer of a quadrant. Only a long and careful series of experiments, and a continued training of the ear, can render this unfamiliar material approachable and plastic for the coming generation, and for Art. [p. 33] » (Ferruccio Busoni)
Source : Busoni, Ferruccio (1907), “Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music”, trans. Theodore Baker New York: Schirmer, 1911.
Urls : http://www.archive.org/details/sketchofanewesth000125mbp (last visited )

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