Notation versus Improvisation?

Eric Salzman and Thomas Desi

in The New Music Theater

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780195099362
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199864737 | DOI:
Notation versus Improvisation?

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This chapter discusses the impact of the growing constraints of notation (to achieve ensemble togetherness) on operatic performance. Solutions include text declamation over chordal punctuation, dry recitative (recitativo secco) or spoken text alternating with set musical numbers; also the introduction of improvisation, embellishment, and performance flexibility. It considers some recent works created with the collaboration of the performers and without a fixed score — as in dance or jazz; the whole range of possibilities for improvisation and performer involvement from modified strict notation to free improvisation; and the implications that follow such as the notion of music and music theater as play. Audiences do not always recognize improvisation, but all theater needs the aura of improvisation in order to convey a performance that lives in the moment.

Keywords: notation; improvisation; operatic performance

Chapter.  4214 words. 

Subjects: Opera

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