Listening to Different Texts: Between Reich and Eco with Nycz
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In this essay, the author considers intertextuality in contemporary musical work, conceptualizing it not only as a critical category and as an artistic convention, but also as an aesthetic strategy. Listening for texts, as it were, opens the work for influences and gives it new purposes. The multiple texts, which are mutually interdependent, alter each other’s meaning and are “read” and “re-read” during aesthetic experience. Depending on the listener, these meanings are more or less pronounced; some are seen as primary, while others are seen as secondary. Sometimes they are co-dependent and meaningful together, but sometimes they shy each other out. The multilayered quality of the work is acknowledged and seen as important even before individual meanings can be discovered. The author proposes a look at intertextuality in reference to musical works by Steve Reich, (e.g. Different trains, 1988). The author uses Ryszard Nycz’s definition of intertextuality and confronts it with Umberto Eco’s idea of interpretation and the structural openness of art. Putting forward a concept of listening-in as a necessary element of receiving and understanding certain musical works, she suggests accepting an intertextual aesthetic strategy for a satisfactory aesthetic experience. Assuming the presence of multiple texts, which are different in character and meaning, and accepting their interdependence, changes the reception of the work and colors its qualities. The challenge is not only to seek out different texts hidden behind the purely musical face of the work but to find out the way they influence each other, knowing full well that the major or minor role those texts play depend on the listener as much as on the author.
- “Different Trains .” Bossey and Hawkes. Assessed September 15, 2019. https://www.boosey.com/cr/music/Steve-Reich-Different-Trains/2699.
- Eco, Umberto. Interpretation and Overinterpretation: World, History and Texts. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511627408.
- Ingarden, Roman. The Work of Music and the Problem of Its Identity. Translated by Adam. Czerniawski. Edited by Jean G. Harrell. Haundmills: McMillan Press, 1986. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-09254-3.
- Levinson, Jerrold. Music in the Moment. New York: Cornell University Press, 1998.
- Miklaszewska, Joanna. “Contemporary Music Documenting the Nazi Terror: Steve Reich’s Different Trains.” The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture 8, no. 5 (2013): 125-137.
- Nycz, Ryszard. “Intertekstualność i jej zakresy: teksty, gatunki, światy.” Pamiętnik Literacki 81, no. 2 (1990): 95-116.
- Schwarz, David. “Listening Subjects: Semitics, Psychoanalysis, and the Music of John Adams and Steve Reich.” Perspectives of New Music 31, no. 2 (1993): 24-56. https://doi.org/10.2307/833367.
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