Wednesday, March 23, 2011

stamitz's sinfonia concertante as hegelian whole

The problem with reading philosophy, for me anyway, is that I begin to see Hegel/Kant/Baudrillard/Foucault/Russell in everything. Every painting becomes an exercise in Kantian aesthetics, an object imbued with the power to both transcend and foster transcendence. The world is merely a simulation saturated with proliferations of imagery and virtual stimuli. Stamitz Sinfonia Concertante is an illustration of Hegel's paradoxically bifurcated and unified I. Perhaps I just need to use something relatively simple (Stamitz) to understand something complex (Hegel).

In any event, here we go. Whether or not this will make it into the big paper remains to be seen. I have but twenty short minutes, and most of my time will be consumed by a discussion on the disciplined eighteenth century body and the means by which the twenty first century performer can resist this condition/tradition. Indeed, there may be precious little time for Hegel.

I've spent some time with the score, away from both my viola and my part and superficially, I can say that there is not much to the Sinfonia Concertante. It is largely pleasing, facile, balanced: representative of the quintessential early classical style. As such, it would be common practice to apply a so-called "dialectic" listening model.


The Hegelian dialectic is commonly understood as that old "thesis; antithesis; synthesis." This, in fact, as your friend and mine Slavoj Zizek tells us, was applied later. In fact, Hegel was more concerned with the a cyclical process of understanding. Among other things, the Truth exists in the space between and interaction of being and actuality: a communion of the "negative" and the "positive." The cycle of being begating actuality, begating being, begating actuality was integral to Hegel's phenomenology. The dialectic is not so simply described as two disparate ideas finding common ground (I fell into this trap some months ago) but rather the truth that emerges from the fluctuations of being and actuality, and the combinations, the layering of ostensibly oppositional concepts.

If we could talk about Hegelian dialectic in simplistic terms, it would be easy to apply to classical form:
First theme = thesis
Second theme = antithesis
Recapitulation/Coda = Synthesis

we could just as easily apply  Aristotelian logic:
First theme = major premise
Second theme = minor premise
Recapitulation/Coda = Conclusion

But. It is not so easy. To apply these arbitrary systems is at best, a reductionist oversimplification rooted in archaic a priori epistemologies, and at worst, just plain wrong. I would argue that Hegel's dialectic applies more to the experience of music--the affect in the listener, the interactions of performers and their respective musical motives, and so on. At the heart of musical understanding is phenomenological inquiry. More than visual arts, music lends itself to experiential quantification.

In the case of the Sinfonia Concertante, I would argue that the dialectic operates on a few levels. The first--and yes, most obvious--is represented by the interaction of the solo voices: one voice poses, the other retorts, the two coalesce subsequently supported by an orchestral consensus. Simple. If I were to apply a Hegelian model, I might suggest that it is the communion of audience and performer, rather than the musical text itself that constitutes the meaning of the Sinfonia Concertante. This cyclical relationship of perception and musical production thus results in Hegel's negative: the space between essence (perception) and actuality (production).

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