Sospiration

"Sospiration" is an experiment in notation. It considers the "scientific" (using this word liberally) understanding that the same music notation ought to produce the same music. I say "ought to" because sometimes the causal relationship is imposed: If I play a wrong note while sight-reading, the failure is my own, not the notation's and certainly not the composer's. If a publisher decides to break the line in a different place than the autograph score, it is understood that the music is the same. I shouldn't play the line break.

Similar initial conditions sometimes produce widely divergent songs. A composer may feel angry on two separate days, and play two "angry" songs, but one song may be a raging, anarchic representation of the anger while the the other is melodic and restrained, a regulatory device the composer uses to check his or her anger. He or she can explain the difference by explaining the song: "This is my song about when I get angry." Or, "This is my song for when I get angry." To define the song by the emotion that precipitated it is to define the emotion by the song that ought to sound like it. The emotion and the song can be both antagonists and partners.

How to perform "Sospiration":

  1. The piano is a Steinway L with the lid at half-mast.
  2. The bench is padded and adjusted to the maximum height.
  3. A FedEx Print & Copy receipt for an $11.64 transaction is placed on the left music shelf.
  4. The score, above, is presented to the pianist after he or she is seated and ready to play.
  5. The pianist begins to play "Sospiration."

When musicians make music, the notation is an attempt to regulate the initial conditions of the experiment that music is. In other words, the score is the independent variable. The composer writes what he or she "hears," notating with as much specificity as possible. The composer thereby prescribes the initial conditions of the music, so that any deviation from expectations is the fault of the performer. The written music is the controlled reference point by which the performance is judged. What happens when the notation is not tightly enough controlled?

In "Sospiration," there is an independent variable, too. It's just not the music. It's the piano, the setup, the receipt reminding the player of the composer's morning. The object of the experiment is to see how consistent the results are.

Here's my take on "Sospiration."