"I heard my work at least once: when I wrote it". This statement by Arnold Schönberg exemplifies his idea that a musical performer is useful only insofar as he or she renders the music comprehensible to a public unlucky enough not to know how to sight read music. If one adopts this standpoint, every performance is a form of corruption of the ideal purity of the work itself. How did this equation between textual score and "real" music come to be? And what are its consequences? How did an extreme case of musical form, the written score, become the paradigm for thinking about music in general? According to this book's author, the European tradition, unlike the African, was not capable of grasping the idea that excitement of the vibrating human body is the primary source of musical expression. Jazz, in which music and performer coincide, is a body of music "played" by skin, mouth, tongue, lips, arms, torso, and hands. The jazz musician thus exemplifies the most undisguised function of language:: "resonant breath produced by flesh".
Davide Sparti teaches at the University of Siena.