Phillip Johns wrote:
...A principle that I exercise regarding the boundary is that of reciprocity. If a perfectly capable musician were to take dictation of the work I am performing, he or she must come up with the score that the composer has written...
Is the purpose of making music so that someone can "dictate and transcribe" it back on paper perfectly to the original manuscript or it is to take the musical idea on the paper and place it (by pressing the keys of the piano in the proper order) in the minds of those listening?
These are deep questions. Of course the purpose
has nothing to do with dictation. Yet Eddy's notion of reciprocity makes a valuable point.
The purpose I think is to communicate something to the listeners, to make them feel or think something. What we can debate endlessly is whether we're trying to communicate exactly
the composer's intentions, or whether it's legitimate for the performer to do something different. I don't want to get into that here (it deserves a thread of its own), but I hope we can agree that the starting point is to know
what the composer wanted. From that beginning, we can then decide whether to be "faithful" or whether to "interpret" the work.
So where does this reciprocity come in? In order to get the notation down on paper, the composer made some choices. We generally assume that those choices are deliberate, not accidental. For instance, if one bar contains a minim (half note) and another bar contains a crotchet (quarter note) followed by a crotchet rest, we assume that the composer wanted those two things to sound different. Since pianists traditionally use the pedal, the precise nature of the difference is debatable; there won't necessarily be a literal crotchet's worth of silence for the rest. But there should be some difference in duration, or maybe articulation or tone, which tells an alert listener that there was a difference of notation. I'm sure we can all think of many more examples of the same principle.
In other words, this thought experiment--imagining our listeners transcribing the music--reminds us that attention to detail is an essential part of artistry.