Re: Review of "The Selfish Meme" part II (3)

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Sat 02 Jul 2005 - 21:56:49 GMT

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    Dear Kate,

    > The score doesn't tell you how to play the piano, but if you can
    > already play the piano then it tells you all you need to know about
    > the music - unlike the recording, from which you can infer only
    > incomplete and sometimes incorrect information about the music.

    As a semi-professional musician, I must demur. All of the information in the score is in the recording, and more. A score must be interpreted, which involves inference. If you regard music as some ideal in the mind of the composer (not my view), then consider what Milton Babbitt said about why he turned to electronic music: Electronic music gave him the control he needed so that he could actually hear his music just like he heard it in his head. (I can sympathize, having once written a short string quartet I could not get anyone even to attempt, not because it was technically difficult, but because it was too unfamiliar.) Babbitt's tapes were better representations of what he imagined than scores would have been.

    Have you ever seen scores of traditional folk songs? The ones I have seen have been inadequate. You really want the recordings. Such songs have been passed down for centuries without the aid of scores. Do you think that there was nothing memetic about that transmission?

    Best regards,


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