“Oral Music – Written Music”
“Nisi enim ab homine memoria teneantur, soni pereunt quia scribi non possunt”
Saint Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, Book III, XV, 2
Music is an artistic discipline that is “materialized” over time; its immateriality is fixed in the passing of time itself as well as its perception as a sensory, psychological, and physiological phenomenon. Music can only be perceived through our memories and experienced through our cultures, education, tastes, and expectations.
The development of written codes to express this abstract sound material has been a tremendously important reality throughout history. In the West, this symbolic expression through writing has been of great importance in the development of its own music as well. Western musical notation has been one of the most significant impetuses and energy fields for the evolution and individualization of Western music, from monodic song or the medieval organum to Bach or Wagner or from Franco-Flemish polyphony or Machaut to Boulez or the most current trends in musical creation.
However, writing itself has always coexisted with an extremely important presence of memory of musical creation and interpretation: Sheet music almost never 100%
resembles the music it tries to symbolically represent, sometimes not even 5%… The above quote by Saint Isidore points out that lack of precision or impossibility in expressing sounds through writing, with memory as the only reliable option (“Unless sounds are held in a person’s memory they perish, because they cannot be written down”).
Many of the world’s cultures have been and are exclusively oral and do not recognize writing as a symbolic form of expressing sound. In our own Western tradition, written music coexists with very prominent oral practices that enrich the writing itself as well as the richness of the musical material.
In all these forms of musical language (the praxis of medieval vocal music with its improvisation, the instrumental gloss of Renaissance music, Baroque ornamentation, the rubato of Chopin himself, flamenco or other similar oral music) that which is written and that which is not fundamentally coexist, balancing each other out, excluding each other, interacting. What is the role of memory in musical ideation and perception? What role does musical writing play in our society of global intercommunication? What is the possible role of musical writing in the future?
The importance of the role of writing, from the legend of its invention in Plato’s Phaedrus to Derrida’s Of Grammatology, passing through a multitude of various visions and reflections, demonstrates its indisputable presence and philosophical significance, even more in a current society in which new forms of writing, reproduction, and communication have driven a new revolution that, over five centuries after the invention of the printing press, now determines and establishes new paradigms and pathways that can even affect how human beings think and consequently, how artistic creation is developed. Writing and memory (machina memorialis) continue to reintroduce new, different, and still incomprehensible challenges in thought and creation today.
This year’s conference frames these reflections within philosophy and music itself and in a practical way, from the very important work that Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum have been plowing through for many years. Thus, this conference is a forum for philosophical and musical reflection on this fascinating decisive topic for thought and current art.
José María Sánchez-Verdú
Tomás Marco – Written Speech, Oral Writing
Francisco Jarauta – The Politics of Writing
Marcel Pérès – What Could the Hermeneutics of Music Be?
Gotzon Arrizabalaga – That Which Is Not Written
Juan Ramón Makuso – Bertsolarism: From Oral to Written
María Luísa López-Vidriero – Scales of Desire: Vivace Musical Adulation in the Times of Ferdinand VII
Diego Valverde – Acolytes of Two-Face Orpheus
José María Sánchez-Verdú – Writings on Memory
Víctor Gómez Pin & Javier Echeverría – Conversation: A Comparison of the Role of Writing in Mathematics and Music