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ESSAYS2017-12-13T08:33:53-07:00

Throughout his lifetime, Klaus Roy wrote untold numbers of articles for newspapers, magazines, orchestra programs, books, and record/CD covers. This section contains a sampling of those writings—taken primarily from Cleveland Orchestra program notes and republished in “Not Responsible for Lost Articles.”

IMAGE INTO SOUND: THE COMPOSER HEARS A PAINTING

“All art aspires towards the condition of music” –Walter Pater (1873)

With all respect to the visual, plastic and literary arts, was Pater right? Is he saying music is the greatest of the arts, or is he merely putting his finger on the unique nature of musical expression?

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MARTIN LUTHER’S 500TH ANNIVERSARY: HIS MUSICAL CONTRIBUTION

Indeed I plainly judge and do not hesitate to affirm that except for theology there is no art that could be put on the same level as music, since, except for theology, music alone produces what otherwise only theology can, namely a calm and joyful disposition. My love for music is abundant and overflowing.
Martin Luther (in a letter to the composer and court musician Ludwig Senfl, October 1530)

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MUSIC AND THE MACHINE

When we evaluate performances, the terms “machine-like” or “mechanical” have negative connotations. To playing of that kind, we ascribe a regularity too scientific, an absence of expressive phrasing and “breathing.” Although, after all, the musical instrument is itself a machine, we demand that it be operated in a flexible manor and with human variability. Yet the boundary lines between the approaches are extremely subtle, and often quite narrow; on the one hand we ask for rhythmic precision and accuracy, and on the other we look for natural inflection. In musical compositions also, we tend to become impatient with a work that moves metronomically for too long a time span, or with one in which rhythmic or tempo changes are pervasive and unpredictable.

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MUSICIANS WITH AND WITHOUT FEATHERS

In 1982, Antal Dorati conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in a program which featured Ilse von Alpenheim in Haydn’s D Major Concerto and included that composer’s Symphony No. 82, “The Hen,” Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale” and Kodály’s “Peacock” Variations. Although no one was brazen enough to claim that the program was strictly “pour les oiseaux,” it was evident that three or four of the pieces took their inspiration from the aviary kingdom. Of the three birds, however, only one can sing: the nightingale. The Hen is not noted for its musicality, and the peacock’s beauty resides in the gorgeous beauty of its coda (tail), not its vocal chords. Haydn, whose piano concerto was the only non-aviary piece on the program, dealt with birds in his oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, if none too willingly. Mozart owned a pet starling, and taught him the beginning of the finale theme in his G major piano concerto, K. 453.

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REFLECTIONS ON IMMORTALITY IN ART

Life is short, art is long” —Quintius Flaccus Horatius

“The main function of the artist . . . is to preserve the history of mankind as it were in a time capsule.” —Leonard Bernstein

To the best of our scientific knowledge, the earth is some four-and-a-half billion years old. Four-and-a-half billion! We find it difficult enough to conceptualize one hundred thousand years, or even ten thousand. But four billion is four thousand million years, a figure quite beyond our grasp.

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REPRODUCTION OF AN ORIGINAL

In the August 1982 issue of Harper’s, Prof. Edward C. Banfield of Harvard University raises once again the question of whether a first-rate reproduction of a great painting is not just as valuable—to the viewer—as the original. In an article entitled “Art vs. Collectibles,” he draws a distinction between the work as an investment and as an aesthetic communication. He asks whether the wide public distribution of great art is not ultimately more important for our culture than the insistence that only the “original” is valuable (as well as expensive). Is a good reproduction really a “fake” or is it a perfectly acceptable version of the artist’s intent?

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THOUGHTS ON THE CREATIVE SPIRIT IN MUSIC AND ART

“We are not trying to break anything. We are trying to make what does not yet exist.” —Carlos Chavez

“Exactly herein lies the achievement of genius, that in the finished work there shall nowhere be perceptible the torment of sweat of the creative process. The final result still possesses for the hearer the dewy freshness of first inspiration. Haydn, who clung to nature and all earthly things more fervently than almost any other composer, succeeded in reflecting here the youthful purity of the first day of its own creation, and so produced a work the influence of which endures unbroken through the centuries.” —Karl Geiringer

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WHEN THE MUSIC STOPS

The question of quality—how good a work of art (and its performance) are considered to be—remains one of the most difficult issues to resolve or even to discuss. It is a matter of both personal and universal, both subjective and objective. This is not the time and place to deal with it in a serious way, but let us make a stab at an aspect of it.

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