Part 1: The Art of Delivery
The Craft of Musical Communication by Keith Hill and Marianne Ploger, ©2005
Introduction to The Art of Delivery
Playing a musical instrument is a technical craft. Expressing music, by contrast, has been viewed as an art. This view has been held so long that we rarely question it. The purpose of this essay is to question the truth behind this view and to propose another view: that expressing music is also a craft. It is the craft of musical communication, the art of delivery. It is possible to be very good at using a musical instrument skillfully for the purpose of accurately realizing musical notation yet have little skill at the craft of communication. It is also possible to be unskilled at the craft of playing a musical instrument to accurately realize a musical score and still have a high degree of skill in communicating music. This means that these skills have very little to do with each other. The greatest musicians were highly skilled in both crafts. Alas, today we too often hear musicians referred to as “great” who have little skill in the craft of musical communication.
Musical Communication as the "Art of Delivery" (which is what Aristotle calls the Modes of Utterance, Poetics XIX) is the craft of handling musical material by technical means designed to enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the meaning of music for untrained music lovers. The purpose of this craft is to touch the soul, raise the spirits, elevate the minds, and deeply move listeners with music; the technical means employed in the exercise of this craft are 11 in number. These techniques are designed to present heard musical information in forms which the human brain can easily process and comprehend. The cognitive aspect of these techniques is what makes them so powerful. In fact, these techniques are wholly derived from normal human speech and perceptual experiences which we utilize everyday to express ourselves and communicate with others. All of them are natural to human expression.
The 11 techniques are designed to enhance musical communication rather than act as a replacement for being musical. Being musical is a spiritual quality, and it is this quality that indeed resides in the realm of art. If there is a downside to these techniques, it is that if a musician isn't deeply spiritual, the use of the communication techniques will make this lack of spirituality obvious to the listeners. If a musician is spiritual, the communication techniques reveal this reality clearly. The true art of musical performance fuses the craft of accurately
realizing a score using a musical instrument and the craft of musical communication, which supports the intended affects with the spiritual substance of the musician.
As the word “technique” suggests, these 11 techniques are very practical tools, not mere theoretical concepts. To that end, we have placed at the end of the discussion of each technique, where the means of application might be ambiguous, a suggestion for how to apply the technique. The techniques need to be applied to work. When they are applied, they do the job for which they are intended. Unapplied, the effect they contribute is absent from music.
There are two kinds of music...music meant to be heard and music intended to be listened to. The 11 cognitive techniques apply only to music intended to be listened to in the same way that human speech is. What does this mean for music which is intended only to be heard? For such music, these techniques are unnecessary. Nevertheless, even for music which only intended to be heard, the hearers enjoyment of the music is enhanced if these techniques are employed in the performance.
What follows is a discussion of each of the 11 cognitively-derived techniques needed to enhance the communication of music. They have been organized here according to the intensity of the communication enhancing effect each technique has on the listener.