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notes by Marina Hervás (December 2020)

A R I _ M _ _ R I C A.: Question points


We can tell almost any story from at least two perspectives: either we can understand it as a series of milestones and great moments, or we can see it as an endless process that is inescapable, in which we inhabit momentary, fragile achievements that we need to go over continually. We can adopt both perspectives to understand elements as disparate, apparently, as the notion (and practical dimension) of democracy or music "itself". For many decades, music "itself" has been understood as a single event closer to the former option. Music's story would seem to star some honorable figures whose successes were celebrated for their exceptionality and for their cooperation in the progress of "the" story. This is how geniuses and heroes enter the historical story. In this story, the implied presupposition is that history always advances, always moves forward: some people merely follow its course, which inevitably ends up dragging them along with it; but others, ah, those others! They cooperate so that everything changes. The problem with the "big" is that it displaces the "small"; the "small" or the "scum", now expressed with comparative offense. The second line, which calls into question the "big", branded as exceptional, faced with what is ordinary, the "everydayness", what has not been proven as different, it does not try to equalize every difference, but rather to trace the conditions that make such difference possible. Therefore, what the second line confirms is that everything could have been different. This gulf between what actually happened and what is open, the possibility of difference, is the challenge posed by this second model of historical consideration. It travels with less optimism than the first, since its objective is to dispute everything that is considered essential and concluded.

Regarding the definition of “musical work”, the first approach considers each of them as a “whole”. In Carl Dahlhaus's terms, compositions are considered "autonomous, individual, unrepeatable, self-based and self-existent." Thus, there could be important compositions that have managed to transcend their moment of genesis and reception. Faced with this model, the second line places the history of “compositions” in dialogue with the political history in each case. To a large extent, the organization of the concerts we are used to consists in a collection of compositions put together about what we have learned within the context of the visual arts. Museums propose a certain story about the pieces that makes them valuable by the mere fact of having been included in within them. Their visitors do not participate in critical reflection on its validity, but rather, on the contrary, with each visit, they ratify and legitimize that institutional validity. Concertos, along the same lines, make up the canonical repertoire, whose foundations are very often opaque. Thus, the canonical repertoire is largely exclusive and limiting for those who never receive an invitation to occupy it, not even to visit it. However, the idea of what a "repertoire" has varied throughout time. There was a time when, unlike today, what was composed was performed: the most exact reconstruction of the past did not prevail, as in the present. In fact, a large part of the works fell into oblivion after being performed and there was much less attention to possible plagiarism -even self-plagiarism-. Today, we love to go to a concert and shout the lyrics with the singer; the fact that we know a piece beforehand gives us a sense of peace (in auditoriums, however, humming is not even allowed). So, on many occasions, a concert is a kind of confirmation of what is already known: it is calmness for the brain, which does not have to learn anything new. Current music and premieres, however, emphasize the historical contradiction that form our museum-concerts. As we strive to carefully program these “great works of the past”, what could really account for the past is being very aware of the present. If, as we have indicated, in the past the objective was to create new things, any type of programming that today tries to reconstruct the past “as it has been” should not strive to guarantee the “authenticity” of its interpretation, but rather advocate radically for the present. That's how complex the understanding of history can be sometimes. Therefore, a concert, following what it once was, could refrain from considering the "museum" approach to it, or the "freezing of works", which is understood as a whole. On the contrary, it would seem that it can be reconsidered as a possibility to explore, each time, new ways of dialogue and proposals: works understood as an open question, directed towards themselves and towards their tradition. In his aesthetic Theory, T. W. Adorno asks us to think about works of art as enigmas. These enigmas invite us to wonder about how a piece has come to be such and how its permanence in the discourse on the arts will end up being. When we think about compositions in this way, we realize that they are always in motion and that they also mobilize our thinking regarding our beliefs about what compositions should be.

Sinoidal ensemble, thus, proposes to question the concert as a closed event, in which the listener receives, more or less passively, the result of a process that remains hidden. Here, the process is placed at the center, as well as the notion that decisions are provisional, that they could be made otherwise: that is, it prevents all dogmatism. The concert is seen as a discourse, not as an order for taste and reception. There is no final point in any artistic proposal, but the point of an interrogative sign.