The respondent to a statement, coming after the statement, determines how the statement is spoken about, determines in which context the statement is placed, and thus what it meant. To the extent that every statement makes an appeal to the respondent to give the statement a social life, to show changes attributable to the statement--to that extent statements submit to the power of the respondent.
A respondent has the power to declare an utterance to be a response.
If you say ``it is'', then it's as good as is; in the social world, the validity of the assertion is of no consequence. What is crucial is the fact that you say it is.
The often-heard complaint that a person ``always has to have the last word'' is a commonplace acknowledgment of the respondent's power. The respondent always has the last word.
A respondent is a respondent to a statement only when showing traces in the respondent's language which would not have been left but for that statement--so says a respondent.
The respondent has the power to determine how the respondent's listeners label, describe, conceive, remember, judge--the responded-to. That the respondent's listeners could themselves subsequently become respondents and so have the power to contest the labeling, description, conception, memory, and verdict determined by the first respondent does not diminish the power of that response while it holds sway.
What makes the ability of a respondent to determine the social life of the responded-to a power is the prevalence of misrepresentation, falsification, slander of various sorts, and dismissal.
The power of the respondent is frequently amalgamated with other sources of power: the power of position, the power of authority, the power in numbers, the power of technical reproducibility.
It is easy to learn to recognize the power of the respondent, difficult to learn how to behave facing it.
``The power of the respondent must be recognized, moderated, and if necessary, temporarily suspended. Not the response, but its falsification of the responded to, must be noted and rejected. Again, any violent manifestation of the respondent's power must be boldly testified to by an alert witness.''
(Brün, My Words and Where I Want Them, 99)
I speak of the power of the respondent when I want someone to `bear witness' to a speaker's exercise of power to dismiss. Learning about composition, learning to compose, learning to be a composer, learning to desire a social role for composition would include learning how the composer's composition is dismissed, how the composer is dismissed, how dismissal takes place, and learning to become a witness (loudly!) to dismissals.
``... Some have described a composition they would have preferred to make ... some have simply mapped onto the given work, words drawn from bags of accumulated `music language', learned who knows where, and regarded as a kind of general-purpose tote bag whose words, (so it seems), can be pulled out without notice, and applied to any given;--(the given, not being able to talk back, so-to-speak, therefore, de facto, allows the pollution to continue)...''
I can tell the difference between a tangent, a change of subject which has the effect of erasing the previous subject, and a leap of thought which transforms the subject under discussion.
The composer's imaginary respondent is partly constructed by the composer and partly collected from observations of people, texts, behaviors (choice of the pool in which one would like to make a splash, in which one wishes to be celebrated and admired, but wants also to upset, to confound, to cause controversy, to have opponents and partisans).
The composer's image of the respondent: not only in terms of that to which the composer responds, but also in terms of the play of predicting how the addressee will respond.
``A hybrid medium [gesture] limits the field of response with the consistency of its constraints. The composer chooses to preserve one set of borrowed characteristics
instead of another. The significance of the choice is a function of the chosen set's power to limit the interpretations available to the respondent. If a change of the set of borrowed characteristics would elicit a change of interpretation, the gesture has the power required to limit the field of response. ... Gesture limits the interpretations available to a respondent.''
A composition's limiting of the availability of interpretations requires a respondent who acts as a witness speaking up for the composition against its falsification.
``In discourse or in a composed work, gestures are made in anticipation of response. Unless the addressee gathers something that requires interpretation, the gesture will not function. An addressee has to gather something that requires interpretation before [the addressee] can become a respondent.''
If a speaker, having the power of response by sheer dint of following an event with an utterance, is to be called the respondent, then it is up to the respondent to feel addressed, to become the addressee.
``We discovered that what induces even more resentment than taking music seriously is taking talking about music seriously ... Music is talked about before it is listened to, while it's listened to, and instead of being listened to. And who does this talking about the music which determines what is the little bit that's recorded, the tiny bit that is published, and, therefore, what can be heard, and therefore what is listened to, and therefore what is learned and eventually, therefore, what is composed? Well, this talking is done mainly by a group of past and present masters of the detached normative, the dangling evaluative, those who have created an epistemological situation which is usually satisfied by a self-comforting tautology: `If I don't understand it, it's not worth understanding; therefore I understand everything worth understanding.'''
(Babbit, Words about Music, 174-5)
``A reminder: as described earlier, a listener brings to music an image which he has created of it, this image consisting of wishes and desires for what he wants music to be, articulated in the language available to him, and he will react to what he hears within the context of those wishes. For him, the music will appear as a kind of 'candidate' for the fulfillment of those wishes and desires, and its suitability for that candidacy will determine the listener's response to the music. Thus the capabilities of the listener's language will interview what he is perceiving, and act as a measuring standard to the perceived.''
(Brün, ``The Political Significance of Composition'')
``Language cannot change itself. It will continue to interrogate any acoustical event which comes its way in the terms it has learned from past music. The presence of new music, then, not only confronts what music has been, it also confronts present-day language and its capabilities. (We could say that the music 'perturbs' the language.)''
``If the respondent neglects to search for an address [addréss], or assumes that the composition has no intended address when it does not articulate its address the way compositions did in the past, then the composition will be falsified by the respondent.''
The composition's gesture limits the field of non-falsifying response; or puts obstacles in the path of a respondent to speak uncontested by other respondents. Otherwise the description, verdict, interpretation--the response--remains undisturbed.
Notice the difference between having the power of the respondent and being aware of the power of the respondent.
The performer acts as a respondent to the composer's score on the basis of
an image of the composer:
the not-quite-competent composer,
who produces writing which doesn't fit the instrument,
which is unreasonably difficult to play on the instrument,
which is impossible to play on the instrument,
which damages the instrument,
which hurts or the strains the player,
which is not fun to play ...
``Those who have seen how orchestra players, who perform only reluctantly an advanced modern work under a conductor unsympathetic to and intellectually suspicious of modern music, change their attitude the moment they realize that another conductor knows the score and handles it with the same precision as a traditional one, and that it has meaning in his hands, know where the opportunity lies for an uncompromising composer in motion pictures. Masterful handling of resources carries a certain weight of its own, even when it is directed against every idea tolerated by the industry. Orchestra players are in spite of everything most sensitive to it, and their confidence spreads, under certain circumstances, to everyone concerned with the production of the picture.''
(Eisler and Adorno, Composing for the Film 126)
... versus an image of the composer who is not innocent,
who wants the manifest level of difficulty
who wants to estrange music from the conventions of fitting with the instrument,
who wants to change the current status of what is considered possible,
who wants to entice those interpreters who will bring about the necessary changes in order to perform the composer's work, and create a music which could become fun to play.
Composition as Reply: ``Brahms is lost on you because you don't know that to which he responds.'' Another framing of the problem of reference: not to know the quotations only, but know the sense of the composer's response. ``You can't understand Berio and Boulez if you don't know Schönberg and Webern; and you can't understand Schönberg and Webern if you don't know Wagner and Brahms''--and so on. ``Where do you start?''
Composers make reference not only to what precedes them but also to that which is contemporaneous with them. Thus it is more difficult to understand the composers of 200 years ago than it is to understand new music.
Dialectics of response: being able to appoint one's teachers; being able to respond to one's contemporaries, current trends, and that which is held to be true--but having only one's contemporaries, only the current trends, and only that which is held to be true, to respond to.
A respondent to a composer makes a contribution only if the respondent succeeds not merely in challenging the composer to defend the composer's preferences, but in offering a new defense of the composer's preferences.
Transformations of the adage `We learn from our mistakes':
We declare our deeds to be mistakes in order not to learn from them.
We learn to declare our deeds mistakes in order to justify our repeating them.
We declare our deeds mistakes and do not realize that ``success in an undesirable social system is social failure''.
We declare our deeds mistakes, vacillating in the decision where to draw the line between consequences of our choices and consequences of our respondent's choices.
We declare our deeds mistakes before the correctness of our deeds has emerged.
To the category of unintended message might correspond a category of ``unintended teaching'', such that someone might say ``I learned this from you'' about something the teacher never intended to teach. To be able to tell you what you taught: this is within the power of the respondent.
``A `difficult' student tries to make a new start and is quiet and obedient. His teacher responds to this behavior by saying, `You're off to a good start this year,' and so informs the student that a bad start was expected of him. The student becomes angry and defiant. A supposedly dull student gives a correct answer in class and is praised excessively. He is embarrassed and becomes withdrawn.''
(Kohl, The Open Classroom, 19)
Kohl focuses on the expectations which are the criteria for the teacher's choice of response. The teacher's response, ``You're off to a good start this year'', declares an expectation whether the teacher holds that expectation or not. From what field of alternatives could a response be chosen?
One kind of power: to be able to deliver someone from something to which that person would otherwise be helplessly delivered; not necessarily able to `control' or coerce, but able to rescue.
``Power is a problem for all of us. The development of open, democratic modes of existence is essentially the problem of abandoning the authoritarian use of power and of providing workable alternatives. That is a problem that must be faced by all individuals and institutions that presume to teach.''
A teacher offers a new image of the composer's respondent. The teacher manifests this image through the teacher's (composed) performance.
Out of desperation, having faced the power of the respondent in the concert hall, the commercial world, the ``public sphere'', the composer turns to teaching. When teaching, the composer still faces the power of the respondent, but in a new context. In this context, a composer can ask listeners (students, respondents) to yield some of their power as respondents to a composition: the composer can ask them to imagine that the composition responds to them.
`Yielding'? Conferring, conceding, abdicating, abrogating ... sharing ?
Three notions of sharing:
The teacher, having the power of position within an institution, the power of knowledge, and the power of the respondent to boot, will be frustrated in the attempt to give up these powers by the necessity of giving up position, knowledge, and response (as if that were possible!). Since a teacher cannot get rid of these powers (at least the last two) and remain a teacher, ``power sharing'' in the teaching situation refers to the notion of ``sharing with'', where that which is offered is still retained by the one who makes the offer.
So it is with the respondent who might wish to ``yield power to a composition''. The respondent who attempts not to falsify the composition, volunteers to be vulnerable to a composition's input.
Good teacher: good respondent--i.e., the proposal put forward by the student's network of connections is taken by the teacher and tied in (preferably with many filaments) with the teacher's network of connections. The friction generated by the two networks intersecting in the shared proposition is teaching.
From this experience the student might learn to take this structure from the student- teacher relationship and apply it by analogy to the piece-listener relationship. In the analogy, the piece would have to be so interrogated that the answers of the piece can be taken by the listener and given the form of a proposed network of connections. The listener could probe the piece's network of connections for moments of friction with the listener's network of connections.
... so having fled the audience and become a teacher, the composer finds another audience: the students. In that new context, facing the students, the composer discovers that there are certain things that can be asked of them that cannot be asked, so far, in the concert hall.