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Mortality, Vol. 17, No.

2, May 2012

As if the composer is dead

Music Department, Durham University, Durham, UK

ABSTRACT The composer occupies a prominent position in Western classical music. In most cases the
composer is dead: the music-making communities maintain their practices and identities without the
composer. In this article I will examine first the characteristic features in the current discourse about
music and the performer’s creativity. Then I will discuss an example where the composer and performer
collaborate with the performer approaching the production ‘as if the composer is dead’. This reveals the
inherited practice of this music where creativity is clearly partitioned. The isolation of the composer is
compared to the literary movement of ‘The Death of the Author’ to tease out similarities and differences.
This is followed by an assessment of what the death of a composer might mean to the cultural practice of
Western classical music.

KEYWORDS: performer; creativity; musical work; collaboration; author

A composer is a person who creates music. In the world of Western classical music
many composers are also musicians (performers) but most performers are not
composers. The division of labour – composition and performance – has become
particularly distinct following the development and dissemination of printed
music, the rise of public musical domain and the formation of musical canon. This
division has also generated new dynamics: despite the fact that there are more
performers than composers, the prominence of composers in the culture of
Western art music remains unassailable: they are perceived to have an immortal
status. We can even say we go to a concert to listen to ‘Beethoven’. However, it is
actually the musicians, not Beethoven, who make music in the concert and
Beethoven himself remains silent throughout. He is dead. Who, what and where is
‘Beethoven’ in this context?

Musical work and musical experience

Recent trends in musicology suggest a move from musical work to performance in
defining the subject of inquiry in music. Cook gives an overview in his articles
‘Analysing Performance, Performing Analysis’ (1999) and ‘Music as Performance’
(2003), and writes that the traditional model of musical transmission with the

Correspondence: E-mail: mieko.kanno@durham.ac.uk

ISSN 1357-6275 (print) ISSN 1469-9885 (online) Ó 2012 Taylor & Francis
As if the composer is dead 171

composer’s original vision as the origin has come to be seen as unsatisfactory in

explaining music as experience and that explorations of horizontal relationships
(from a performance to other performances) rather than of the vertical relationship
(a performance to the notated text) are on the horizon. Clayton proposes a
direction for ethnomusicology where it ‘takes account of human sound experience
in the description of musical events and contexts’ and explores ‘the possibility that
the materiality of sound, and its identification with voices [my emphasis], may be as
important a motivation as the communication of a structured text’ (2008, p. 134).
The desire to relate form and experience in a more meaningful way has led to a shift
in musicologists’ standpoint from that of informed individuals (with knowledge of
the ‘work’) to that of astute observers.1 At the same time, it is also true that the
motivation for change originates in part from a dissatisfaction with the inadequacy
of evidence in the previous mode of inquiry, that of examining musical works
through scores. Although many musicologists attempt to capture musical sound
using a vast array of means today,2 the pinning down of a musical experience
remains a challenge. While the study of musical performance has grown into a
discipline that has as much currency as the study of musical works, a striking
feature has emerged in the studies of musical performance: they focus on the
contribution of the performer in their studied object and rarely assess the musical
contribution of the composer beyond the provision of the score or equivalent
material.3 Since the majority of music that comes under the scope of musicology is
already known to people, it has been made possible for musicologists to take the
musical work as a given. This approach seems to deny that the composer’s
creativity manifests itself in performances beyond the mere compositional
structures that are visible in the score. I am referring to the composer’s ephemeral
creative contribution – a quality that participates in the instantaneous music-
making of the performer and contributes to the experience of music. When this
quality is felt to be lacking in a composition, we often describe it as ‘academic’ and,
when it is neglected by the performer, we feel that the composer’s role has been
reduced to that of simply providing notes and rhythms; Beethoven becomes a mere
vehicle for the performer’s demonstration of her creative skills. But, in any case, the
composer’s role as provider of experience remains hard to define, especially when
he/she does not physically participate in the event.4
It is important to stress at this point that the musical work is not a product of the
composer (in contrast to the score which is a product – as well as the property – of
the composer). The musical work is what is created upon repeated performances
of a score, and the production of the identity of a musical work is a complex social
process comprising many different kinds of contribution. ‘Authenticity’ has been
cited as a measure of closeness to the intentions of the composer for a musical
work. The argument against the ‘authenticity’ movement (notably Taruskin’s Text
and Act) provides an insight into the nature of these intentions. It attests that the
search for ‘authenticity’ in performance style and the selection of historical data is
conditioned by the taste of the person who searches for it, and that the intentions
of the composer are equally conditioned by the composer’s time and taste.
However, one might argue that higher-order intentions do not change – namely,
172 M. Kanno

the composer’s ‘vision’ regarding the music’s effects upon listeners. This view is
linked to the notion of Werktreue – fidelity to the work and to the faithful
reproduction of an original intent. But such intentions are the hardest to grasp and
the most sensitive to context. Pianist Alfred Brendel expresses scepticism towards
Werktreue and suggests ‘Texttreue’ as a less ambiguous and more workable
approach for Western classical music (2007, p. 30). Considering the ‘vision’ of the
composer as something only partially knowable, he professes to promote the
composer’s ‘vision’ in his – Brendel’s – own way.5 Kivy points at a gap between
the composer’s intentions on the one hand and ‘the intentions of the composer’
created by the performer on the other and observes that ‘performers generally
operate on some kind of principle of ‘‘charity’’ to the effect that the best way is the
intended way’ (1993, p. 101). Brendel and Kivy both acknowledge the authorial
responsibility of the performer on two accounts. First, if there is a perceptible
vision in a musical performance it is created/recreated here and now by the people
who are present at the occasion and, second, that the musical work that we come
to know is a result of collaborative scenario-making: it reflects many different
intentions and wishes people have projected onto it – including us, other listeners,
the performers and the composer who may have cast his wish 200 years ago.

The performer’s creative license

Having said that the identity of a musical work includes contributions not only
from the composer but also from others, I acknowledge that notation determines
much of the identity. It is a known fact that many musicians spend countless hours
‘learning the notes’. This is perhaps the defining character in the experience of
learning Western classical music. Yet, many specialists – particularly performers –
argue that the notes represent only a small portion of what makes music musical.
In this section I explore different arguments within the community of performers
who promote their creative licenses and authorial responsibilities in the
performance of musical works.6
Howat (1995) gives concrete examples from the piano repertoire (Mozart,
Chopin, Debussy and others) to illustrate where and why ‘playing notes’ does not
suffice, and identifies a pool of enlightened possibilities with which the musical
work can be realised. His argument rests on the grounds that the identity of a
musical work relies heavily on the idiom of each composer and his milieu. What is
of particular interest is the way in which Howat goes about making correspon-
dences between the notation and sound through his informed knowledge of the
idiom. For him, ‘Style, like expression, is inherent in music (Mozart’s music
audibly has more style and expression than Salieri’s)’ (Howat, 1995, p. 5). While
advocating the interdependence of notation and style, Howat is also mindful of the
balance between stylistic conventions and individual composer’s ‘expression’:
‘though composers from one era and notational background naturally share
elements of style, to derive and impose retrospective rules risks wagging the dog by
the tail’ (Howat, 1995, p. 5). For today’s performers, discussions on style are
necessarily retrospective and stylistic conventions are rules to be learned in
As if the composer is dead 173

addition to the notes. But stylistic determination does not necessarily diminish
creative space. Lester’s illustration (1995) of how ‘great masters’ (Horowitz, Kraus,
Rubinstein, Busoni, Ormandy and others) gave individual interpretations shows
the extent to which the same notation can lead to considerably different
interpretations that are nevertheless equally ‘truthful’ to it. These examples
suggest that many of the restraints imposed by notation or stylistic conventions
often propel creativity.
To what extent should the creative intentions of the performer/listener overlap
with those of the composer? In discussing creativity in theatre, Schechner is
adamant that the ‘script’7 – a code for transmitting action through time – is
distinct from ‘drama’ – a written text. Schechner’s ‘script’ is a series of instructions
from which a performance follows and which persists from one performance to
another as a set of practical instructions. His ‘drama’ is a specialised kind of
‘script’ in the sense that it determines words (but only the words) for the
producer’s script (Schechner, 1977/2003, p. 69). He explains the background to
this theory:

In the great tradition of the west the active sense of script was forgotten, almost
entirely replaced by drama; and the doing of a particular production became the
way to present a drama in a new way. The active sense of script was preserved in
popular culture . . . But in the great tradition the script no longer functioned as
a code for transmitting action through time; instead each dramatic ‘production’
became a way of re-presenting and interpreting the words-of-the-drama.
Maintaining the words intact grew in importance; how they were said, and what
gestures accompanied them, was . . . of lesser importance. (Schechner, 1977/
2003, p. 69)

Schechner promotes a theatre that is defined by ‘script’ and performance and that
reflects the significant link between theatre and rituals from around the world.
‘Drama’ is a specialised kind of ‘script’ in the sense that it determines a storyline
(but only the storyline) for the producer’s script. But in assigning a limited
authority to ‘drama’, his approach brings to the fore the tension and dichotomy
between the art of the author and the art of the producer/performer. This becomes
inevitable when a playwright’s drama, his (Schechner’s) script based on it and the
playwright’s imagined script (the author’s ‘vision’) are juxtaposed. He recalls a
disagreement that broke out between himself and a playwright when they were co-
operating in a production – Schechner arguing that it is the producer and not the
playwright who should dictate the identity of the script. Schechner’s approach is
radical in two ways: first, it denies the significance of style – in his view style is not
a given, and needs to be created as part of a script by the person who produces a
performance. Second, while his ‘script’ translates closely to the musical work
suggested by Kivy, Schechner’s approach suggests that too much of an overlap of
intentions can be detrimental for performance.
Godlovitch unravels the relationship between works and performances in music-
making through comparison to the practice of story-telling.8 He cites an example
where a story about Robin Hood is told, and observes that while the storyline
174 M. Kanno

remains identical each telling of the story is different. He then argues that this
flexibility is critical for the effectiveness of story-telling and, coming back to music,
suggests that the composer always ‘underdetermines’ the musical work for
performance by fixing certain elements whilst leaving others. He takes care to
articulate that ‘underdetermination’ refers not to a small quantitative amount of
information given in the score but to the areas remaining open for musical
elaboration for the performer ‘to exercise that much more ingenuity and to expand
invention . . . because composed works are often musically more sophisticated and
extended than the results of much impromptu playing, the former actually offer
surplus opportunities for expression and novelty over the latter’ (Godlovitch,
1988, p. 84). In other words, a large amount of information encountered in some
scores makes no qualitative difference to the ‘freedom’ of the performer.
Furthermore, all notated works are guaranteed to underdetermine whatever
emerges in performance. Underdetermination, according to Godlovitch, brings
forth room for ‘instantiation’ – transforming of material into an event – and it is
the people who are present in time and space that carry out this transformation
(Godlovitch, 1988, p. 86).
The three examples I have cited so far – Howat, Schechner and Godlovitch – all
support, to varying degrees, the view that what is central to the experience of
performing arts is the creative license of the performer/producer. In doing so, they
emphasise that the ownership of this creativity is in the hands of the people (both
the performer and audience) who are present at the moment of experience. Yet, as
Schechner’s disagreement with a playwright shows, there can be much more
tension when the author is present. Next, I shall examine the cultural practice of
performing compositions by living composers. In particular, I shall look at those
instances where performers (and audiences) approach the matter of practice and
performance ‘as if’ a living composer is dead and assess how this attitude
practically affects performance. Then I shall consider whether or not this attitude
benefits the performance culture in Western classical music.

As if the composer is dead

When you go to a concert of Western classical music it comes as a surprise if
someone sitting next to you turns out to be the composer of a musical work you
are about to listen or have just listened to. It is surprising not only because there
are usually no more than a few composers whose music can be performed in a
single evening’s concert but also because most composers we know about are
dead. Our understanding of a composer’s work has little to do with that
individual’s status as living or dead, but this status has highly significant relevance
in practice. The experience of working with living composers reveals many
features of our practice which, in my view, take the deceased state of the composer
as the norm. The example I use concerns a well-known and highly institutiona-
lised practice: a professional orchestra specialising in late eighteenth, nineteenth
and early twentieth century concert music incorporating a new (or newish) piece
into their staple repertoire.
As if the composer is dead 175

A classical musician’s training equips her with skills to master her instrument,
read notation, identify relevant styles, assess the most appropriate way to put
material and style together and execute it with conviction. Training at music
conservatoires has long been dedicated to the establishing and improvement of
these skills for every musician. It works well and it is credit to these trained
musicians that we are able to experience music with pleasure. But anyone who has
learned to play an instrument can tell us that learning to play classical music is
largely a lonely process. Putting aside the time spent working with other
musicians, much of the learning takes place within the triangle of musician,
instrument and score. The process allows very limited room for anyone else’s
(except perhaps the teacher’s) participation, let alone for the composer.9 Large
musical institutions, such as symphony orchestras, have these trained musicians to
play orchestral works ranging from Mozart to contemporary music where the latter
is often prepared and presented alongside the older music. The most standard
sequence of events from composition to performance, such as the preparation for
the first performance of a newly commissioned orchestral work, can be observed in
the rehearsal schedule and has the following pattern. First the composer submits a
score to the performing organisation (at an agreed time such as six months before
the scheduled première) and the conductor will be left alone to look at it. The
notated parts for the musicians will be distributed and the musicians go through
the usual process of learning I have just mentioned, rehearse the piece one or two
weeks before the performance date and then present a draft performance to the
composer a few days before the première. Some last minute adjustments are
agreed there and then, and the first performance goes ahead.
This last-minute meeting with the composer is a very strange occasion. While
the composer is ushered in as the author of the piece the performer (orchestra) has
already formed an almost concrete idea about what this piece is going to be like,
having gone through the process of performance preparation. Let us assume that
the composer likes what he hears. Comments such as ‘it sounds great’ come as a
relief to the performer because they suggest that her reading of the score was
appropriate. The comment ‘it sounds great’ can mean something else too. The
performance may be different from what the composer envisaged but he thinks
this performance is just as good as, if not better than, the one he imagined. This
presents an interesting example, and to which I will return. Let us assume another
scenario that the composer does not like what he hears. This is usually expressed
in comments such as ‘I wanted a different type of sound’, ‘I want it faster/slower
(louder/softer)’ or ‘this section sounds different’. There are at least three possible
causes to this response. First, the performer isn’t following – or is unable to
follow – the instructions given in the score. Second, the composer’s notation is
inappropriate or inadequate and the intention is poorly communicated to the
performer in writing. Third, there is a gap of understanding between the two
parties in the sense that each party is competent in their respective disciplines but
the communication through notation fails. The performer might respond by
saying ‘I can’t play this’ (in the first two cases), ‘it’s not possible to do it’ (again in
the first two cases) or ‘your notation suggests something else’ (in the second and
176 M. Kanno

third cases). There are composers who then start instructing the performer how to
do it (though this is seldom welcomed by the performer). In a last-minute
rehearsal situation, most composers accept what the performer is doing to a large
extent, may give suggestions that will address key issues in the piece, and settle
with a compromise. Meanwhile, the performer will address issues that can be
resolved within the given time-frame and proceed to the first performance.10
In reality, nearly all last-minute composer–performer rehearsals contain all of the
elements above, both good and bad. The first performance is seldom a happy
occasion for any parties involved as far as aesthetic satisfaction is concerned. The
emergence of a musical work takes this première as a starting point, as if the music is
born on this occasion, but it takes much longer to establish and disseminate an
identity for the composition because it needs to grow into a musical work over time.
What is most striking about the last-minute composer–performer rehearsal is that
despite being a necessary and significant step in the process of premièring a new
composition these rehearsals often reveal the extent to which the practice of creativity
is partitioned in Western classical music and, consequently, how challenging it can
be at times to bring together the creative contributions of the composer and
performer effectively for the benefit of the musical work.11 Creativity is demarcated
in isolation for each party: for the composer it takes place during composition and for
the performer during the preparation period and performance. The image of a great
composer having a stroll in a forest in search of musical inspiration or that of a great
performer (usually a pianist) at work oblivious to the rest of the world is an
illustration of this tendency.12 As for the performers, one could say that they
approach the matter of creation ‘as if the composer is dead’; with the triangle of
performer, instrument and score at the centre of the creative practice. Also, audience
(and scholars) can have their own niche of isolated creativity: we have seen some
‘popularity surges’ after the death of iconic composers in the last decade, including
Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001), Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) and Luciano
Berio (1925–2003). These composers have become somewhat more accessible since
their death by acquiring a commodity-status to which we relate in our own ways.
What these examples show is that the death of a composer prompts a new cultural
dialogue with the composer’s work. The approach ‘as if the composer is dead’
implies that there is a particular kind creativity that becomes only available with the
composer’s status as dead, that is distinct from other kinds of creativity found in the
process of composer–performer collaboration.
Composer–performer collaboration is often seen as something new in Western
classical music though there are precedents throughout history. I suggest that the
crucial element to its success is the idea of shared ownership. Composer–performer
collaboration works well when the two individuals come out of their respective
creativity niches and become ‘musicians’ to share the creative purpose. But this
depends on the acceptance of ideas that music never gains any permanent existence
in spite of notation, performance, recordings and all other material or conscious
traces pertaining to the music’s presence, and hence that no one exclusively owns
any music. In other words the stakeholders (composer, performer, listener) need to
accept that there is a temporally distributed collective creativity (called
As if the composer is dead 177

music-making) across a long period of the life of the music from its conception, to
performance, to the establishment and further transformations of its musical
identity that continue today. When a composer says of a performance ‘it sounds
different from what I imagined, but I like it’ as I mentioned earlier, he is
acknowledging shared creativity. Yet, this is not a frequent occurrence precisely
because the individual effort involved in each clearly demarcated section of labour
(composition, performance and the creation of meaning) is very real and distinct.

The death of the author

Four years after Barthes wrote ‘The Death of the Author’, he penned another
titled ‘The Grain of the Voice’, in 1972; both articles are included in the collection
‘Image, Music, Text’ (Barthes, 1977a, 1977b). While the former is about
literature the latter makes specific references to musical performance and they
combine to offer a reading that has relevance to the subject of the relationship
between authorship and musical performance. ‘The Death of the Author’
proposes that the author becomes a ‘scripter’ to produce but not to explain the
work: Barthes saw that the intentions and historical context of the author, ‘the
human person’, imposed an unhelpful limit on the possibilities of interpretation,
and argued for the necessity to substitute ‘language’ for ‘the person’:

The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book:
book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and
after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which . . . is in the same relation
of antecedence to his work as a father to his child. (Barthes, 1977a, p. 145)
This had led to mythologising of the Author to the exclusion of the reader.
Classical criticism has the writer as the only person in literature. The concluding
remark, ‘the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author’ (p.
148), points at the change of dynamics in literary pieces of work.13
‘The Grain of the Voice’ compares and contrasts two types of singing: ‘pheno-
song’ and ‘geno-song’ (terms borrowed from Kristeva). According to Barthes, the
former covers ‘all the features which belong to the structure of the language being
sung, the rules of the genre, the coded form of the melisma, the composer’s
idiolect, the style of the interpretation’, while the latter ‘is the volume of the
singing and speaking voice, the space where significations germinate from within
language and in its very materiality’ (Barthes, 1977b, p. 182). He names Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau as an example of the former and describes that:

[Fisher-Dieskau] is assuredly an artist beyond reproach [from the viewpoint of

the pheno-song]: everything in the structure is respected and yet nothing
seduces, nothing sways us to jouissance. His art is inordinately expressive . . . and
hence never exceeds culture: here it is the soul which accompanies the song, not
the body. (Barthes, 1977b, p. 183)

In contrast, Barthes describes Charles Panzéra’s singing as ‘in the letters’: ‘An
extreme rigour of thought regulated the prosody of the enunciation and the phonic
178 M. Kanno

economy of the French language’ (Barthes, 1977b, p. 184) and what Panzéra’s
singing produces is not a personal history but a song itself where the song speaks
and writes itself. It is not hard to see which one Barthes prefers. His preference for
Panzéra may be opinionated, but when it is read in conjunction with his
promotion of ‘text’ some features become clear. The two singers have two
different artistic aims: Fischer-Dieskau (described by Barthes) represents the
school of singing where the author, contexts and culturally coded meaning of the
music are manifestly presented; and Panzéra represents another school that
prioritises emerging text, his voice and the heightened sense of the moment in the
production of meaning. What Barthes sees in Panzéra’s singing is a newly situated
authorial subjectivity – a type of creativity available to the performer that is vital
not only to the performance but also to the identity of the musical work.
I am not likening Bathes’ Panzéra to the musicians who perform contemporary
music ‘as if the composer is dead’ or Fischer-Dieskau to the musicians who are
happy to interact with living composers. If anything the contrary is true: the
musicians who are weary of coming into contact with composers care more about
traditions and composers’ intentions than the others. They respect the author’s
intentions and historical context and will work around these with expertise in their
preparations for performance. They are happy to shift emphasis from one
expressive parameter (say historically informed pedaling) to another (following the
author’s pedaling instructions or altering them according to a given instrument
and context of performance) and are willing to be both Fischer-Dieskau and
Panzéra as long as their creativity has its own space and integrity. Furthermore,
musicians are happy to join forces with other musicians sharing their creativity, but
they find it difficult when another type of creativity tries to join their own. The
musicians do not like a living author meddling with their established practice of
performance preparation because performance preparation is their – the
musicians’ – creative territory and not a territory for composers. While the dead
status of the author (as if the composer is dead) secures room for the performer to
turn a musical composition into a musical work, the problem originates from a
conflict that exists between the authorship of performance and that of
Literary criticism since Barthes has argued that the author is never completely
removed and never completely dies.14 But the author does not thrive beyond the
completion of a piece of writing as the original author. As one argument
(Foucault) shows, the principle of authorship exceeds the bounds of the body of
texts that bear his name and the author has transformed into another kind of
author/Man. The empowered reader is to explore how to cohabit the creative
space with the transformed author and collaborate with him.

Living composers
Life for living composers is seldom easy in a culture that predominantly orientates
itself around their fictional non-existence as composers. However, it is also true
that some performers have developed effective ways to engage with composers
As if the composer is dead 179

(and vice versa) in more co-creative, collaborative productions while still taking
full advantage of the independent creative and interpretive skills nourished by
The real or ‘as if’ status of being dead marks the point of departure beyond
which the composer becomes an object. The ‘sealing off’ of the composer from the
rest of the community enables a process of reification of the musical work. This is
where the concept of ‘reflexion’ becomes relevant. Paddison explains reflexion as a
‘bending of thought back on itself’ (2006, p. 185) and refers to the process of
historical ‘coming of age’: ‘This is a further kind of mediation, as reflexion upon
historical ‘‘becoming’’ [Werden] . . . It has to do with a process of inner
rationalisation whereby those elements which earlier allowed for freedom and
play now become necessary and thematic’ (p. 187). In other words, reflexion in
this context can be seen as mediation enabled by the passing of time. While
mediation is taken as a significant process in articulating what characterises
Western classical music – a dialectical engagement with human thought – the
concept of reflexion might be considered to characterise its cultural practice of
But the harder we try to remove the composer as a creative ‘person’ from the
musical discourse the more persistent his presence becomes. I contend this is
because music is not about the musical work after all, not even about performance
or musical experience, but it is about people. Beethoven the person is more alive
than ever in concert halls today because he has become more real through the
processes of reflexion which our society continues to exercise on his music and,
through this mediation, participates in the music-making today. ‘There may be a
certain irony in the fact that antihumanist discourse has provided the most
significant directions in the theory of the subject [Humanism], but there is not
paradox: for the thought of the death of man cannot but be – in the most insistent,
engaged form – the thinking of man about man’ (Burke, 1992/2010, p. 111). The
concept of mortality enriches Western classical music in distinct ways and an
understanding of its significance might also suggest new ways of engaging with
living composers.

[1] Cook explained this shift in 1999: ‘The history of musicology and music theory in our
generation is one of loss of confidence: we no longer know what we know. And this
immediately throws into doubt the comfortable distinction between the objective description of
fact and the subjective judgment of value – an assumption whose power can hardly be
underestimated’ (p. v).
[2] Music can now be described, using many ‘staves’ and windows on computer screens, in
numerous parameters including attack detection, finger pressure (on the keypad of a
performer’s instrument), bodily movement of performers and statistic divergence in a rubato
practice (the amount of hurrying and slowing against the clock-time in a musical passage).
[3] In some contexts this is an inevitable consequence of the fact that many musical traditions are
more performance-oriented than in Western classical music to the extent that the idea of the
author is irrelevant, as in many traditional and folk music cultures.
[4] There are, of course, cases of living composers contributing to the performance of their works,
as conductors or performers. However, these are relatively rare. The number of dead people
180 M. Kanno
considered as ‘composers’ is overwhelmingly larger than that of living composers who also
[5] Brendel explains further that his aversion to Werktreue stems from its historical and political
connotations of the Nazi régime: ‘In the slave mentality of that era, not only words like ‘faith’
and ‘fatherland’, but also the word ‘fidelity’ suffered shameful abuse. Even a fairly harmless
word like ‘work’, when used in conjunction with ‘fidelity’, strikes a militant pose’ (2007, p. 30).
While many highlight epistemological problems concerning werktreue, Brendel’s criticism
comprises an additional element of ethics.
[6] I have previously explored this subject in John Cage’s Freeman Etudes (Kanno, 2009).
[7] Schechner’s ‘script’ is, as he himself comments in 1986, now understood as a Deconstruc-
tionist ‘text’. Schechner maintained the term ‘script’ up until then and I have opted to keep the
old term to avoid confusion between text and notation/score.
[8] The purpose of Godlovitch’s argument is quite different from the one I’m pursuing here,
though his focus on the playing/making of music, more than on musical works or the
experience of music, provides ample relevance to the discussion. See Godlovitch (1988),
Chapter ‘Performances and Musical Works’, pp. 81–83.
[9] This is reflected in music education systems for children too, where instrument-playing is
learned and assessed mostly at an individual level.
[10] Not all of the last-minute encounters between the composer and performer end up this way. In
some cases the first performance is incomplete (only some sections of the composition are
performed), postponed or cancelled.
[11] Despite this difficulty, society values the ‘authentic status’ that comes with the presence of the
composer in the performance production. A ‘composer-supervised’ recording of a performance
carries a particular prestige. The aesthetic value of such a recording soars further when the
composer dies. Performances attended by the composer often acquire a similar significance.
[12] Keith Sawyer (2006, p. 225) attributes this tendency to the individually centred ‘creativity
myths’ that surround the European fine arts traditions.
[13] Burke (1992/2010, p. 22) explains that ‘the author is to his text as God, the auctor vitae, is to his
world’ and the centrality of reference to ‘The Death of God’ in Barthes’ article.
[14] I am indebted to Burke’s book (1992/2010) for an overview of the literary criticism that came
after ‘The Death of the Author’.

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Biographical Note
Mieko Kanno is a freelance violinist and Reader in Music at Durham University.
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