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The New Music TheaterSeeing the Voice, Hearing the Body$
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Eric Salzman and Thomas Desi

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195099362

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195099362.001.0001

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Notation versus Improvisation?

Notation versus Improvisation?

(p.342) Chapter 20 Notation versus Improvisation?
The New Music Theater

Eric Salzman

Thomas Desi

Oxford University Press

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

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