Epilogue to Part 1: "The Art of Delivery"
The Craft of Musical Communication by Keith Hill and Marianne Ploger, ©2005
1). These are the cognitive techniques needed to enhance communication. According to Aristotle, in Poetics XXI, "The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean (commonplace)." The purpose behind these techniques, for the performer, is to connect musical information into clear and meaningful phrases to help the listeners make sense of the score. The effect of these techniques is a clear sense in the minds of the listeners of what is important and what is unimportant. Also, the brain needs constant and intense stimulation in the form of unpredictability, clarity of reference, clarity of relationship, uninterrupted flow of idea, and the occasional enigma in order to maintain an alert, attentive, and focused frame of mind. That is the function of the techniques - these eleven different techniques are devices needed keep the brain from falling asleep and to create connections in order to make clear the musical hierarchy for the listener. What feels clear for the listener creates a feeling of resonance in the soul and so moves it.
2). CPE Bach stressed the importance of flowingness in performance. Flow helps the feeling of connection of all parts and aspects of a heard piece of music. This is of great interest because the use of these eleven techniques can have the tendency to create a disruption of flow, due to the infusion into a musical performance of so much interest, meaning, character, emotion, and expression. That, we believe, is the reason CPE Bach tried to impress on his readers the importance of flow. However, too often, we read such passages, as that from CPE Bach's treatise, and assume we understand what they mean. That feeling of assumed understanding gives us license to do anything that can be argued will create the effect of which the writer speaks. In the case of CPE Bach's use of the word "flowing," the meaning today has been perverted to mean constant and continuous sound using the metronome as the final arbiter of truth. Judged by Bach's own words, that behavior is both mechanical and slavish...or as Aristotle might have described it, mean or commonplace.
From all that CPE Bach says of flow, it is clear that he is referring to flow as in “flow of thought.” Flow of thought, whether musical or verbal, must be strictly maintained, especially in front of an audience, lest a lapse be detected and the performer appear to have lost his or her train of thought. It also needs to be remembered that flow of thought is always supported by the intention to say something specific. Constant and continuous sound has no such requirement, and as such, is a pathetic attempt to appear competent in the face of the lack of musical ideas or thoughts. And ultimately, it is for this reason that the injunction to maintain strict flow must refer to flow of musical thought because maintaining strict flow of musical thought is essential to an "agreeable" (to use Bach's term) or "love"ly performance.
Flow, however, is not the same thing as tempo or speed in music. As we all know from experience, a performance can exhibit an absolutely strictly maintained speed and yet be devoid of flow of musical thought. In music, it is musical thought which must flow; the notes are necessary only to carry that flow. Musical thought must flow like a great river. The eddies, whirlpools, currents, and swirls that one observes on the surface of the river never stop the overall movement of the whole river...it flows on, come what may. So it should be with musical thought. Its purpose is to express the meaning of the music intended by the composer. The performer’s job is to intuit what that meaning is and to express the musical thought behind the notes. Any honest effort in this regard, no matter how meager, is better than none at all. These eleven techniques are a means and an aid for uncovering and communicating to listeners the intention of the composer.
3). The problem with using these techniques is that they are effective only when they are obvious. The trick in using them is to be as obvious as possible without having any one technique be the center of attention. This is most easily done by using all of them simultaneously, whenever possible. By intending to use all eleven techniques simultaneously, it becomes impossible to use one to the exclusion of the others, thus keeping all eleven in the right perspective, as it were. As soon as one can notice the technical means of generating an effect, the technique is being employed improperly. As the saying goes: Art disguises itself. It is a delicate balancing act to use a technique or techniques without having the technical aspect become the focus of attention.
4). These techniques enhance musical communication because they induce and support a high degree of attention-paying in the listener and the performer alike. Loving and paying attention are one and the same thing. This is why performances of music can be characterized as either supporting attention-paying or stealing from it...there is nothing in between. The mere presence of sound in a room is no guarantor of attention, only of passive exposure. When a high degree of attention is created in the listener, the meaning intended by the composer can then be felt - the alternative is either boredom or incongruity. Whereas boredom is clear, incongruity is purposefully not. That is, performers who lapse into mechanical habits of playing music and only occasionally use one or two of these techniques when they remember to do so, bore the brain but seek to interest the mind. Being both bored and interested is a confusing state to occupy for anyone, but most especially a devoted music lover.
5). Very few listeners have the skill or the power to overwhelm their feelings of boredom in order to focus on meaningless matters (i.e., sound events that can mentally be followed but remain unfelt because the feeling of boredom is too intense) such as compositional techniques and structure...matters which call attention to the "genius" of the composer rather than to the feelings which the composer intended to create in the listener. It requires a significant amount of practice to acquire some degree of mastery to notice these structural details in music when it is performed without these techniques - that is what music students spend their years in conservatories learning. Ordinary, untrained listeners have very little time or patience to do that. Yet, curiously enough, when music is performed in a manner designed to create a high level of attention-paying in the average listener, all the details of compositional technique and structure are enhanced to the point that the average listener can detect and appreciate them.
When all of these techniques are used appropriately in a performance, the essence of the music is efficiently communicated by the performer and easily received by the listeners. In the 18th century, the French used the term bon gout to refer to the business of good execution in music. Bon gout only can exist if there is intense flavor of any kind to speak of; you can not have bon gout when everything tastes flat and boring. The fear of mauvais gout creates players who play sans gout. Learning to develop bon gout requires that everything have a strong, pronounced flavor. Bon gout implies a strong cultivated sense of how to balance all the flavors (the cognitive techniques) in the piece by using them all in exactly the right amounts needed to exactly express what Affect the composer is suggesting in the music. No one but yourself can give you that strong, cultivated sense. That is something which only comes to whomever will grab it.
The result of an extremely skillful use of technique is a highly expressive performance of music that deeply touches and moves those that hear it. Using these techniques creates the effect of playing "from the soul," that is, playing "from the soul,” from the listener's point of view. This is the function and purpose of the Art of Delivery.