Matthew Gelbart – Nineteenth-Century Piano Transcriptions and the Development of Modern Listening

Matthew Gelbart

What happens to the genre connotations of a piece of music when it is torn from the instrumental medium, the type of performance venue, and the social setting that helped define it originally? Which of its meanings and signifiers are stable, and which lose their associations or pick up fundamentally different subtexts? How is our understanding of the types of music we listen to inflected by living in a world where an ever vaster array of musical styles and types can be consumed one after the other in the private isolation of a pair of cheap iPod headphones in an airport? These questions seem increasingly pressing: in reception theory, communications, philosophy of music, and together in the growing field of sound studies, the ramifications of listening strategies and techniques have come center stage. By considering these questions from the angle of genre, I hope to shed light on some key changes in listening habits that began in the nineteenth century, and that continue to bear on the way we contextualize music today. I will suggest that the explosion of piano transcriptions in the nineteenth century began a largely linear development spanning through the advent of gramophone recordings and player pianos, radio, and finally portable audio devices. Transcriptions changed the way we feel the genre of a piece of music—in fact, they made us feel two genres at a time.
I should specify quickly that I use “genre” in the broadest possible sense to denote the interface that allows communication between composers, pieces and the listening public.[1] Genres are defined by expectations about multiple factors: instrumentation/medium, musical forms, apposite performance venues and times, appropriate expressive gestures, and audience types or listening styles—in a mixture of proportions. Despite the impossibility of capturing in words all the aspects of any genre, the displacement of music from its original instrumentation and typical venue since the nineteenth century, through transcription and then recording, has created some relatively consistent patterns of change, trends that can be examined and tentatively summarized. Thomas Christensen has noted how, through the spread of piano transcription musical genres could become “irrevocably untethered from their traditional geographies of performance.”[2] Amplifying Adorno,[3] Christensen draws a connection between the role of piano transcriptions and of later mechanical reproduction in this process.[4] Today I would like to pursue these ideas further.
I will argue that transcription and mechanical reproduction created and then reinforced a bifurcated type of listening, in which we are aware of the “trace” of an original genre and “generic contract”—with all its connotations of medium but also of fellow audience-members and shared spaces—but simultaneously we are also part of the active shaping of new generic spheres (writ small or large), new contexts in which listening to transcription or reproduction makes its own meaning. I would go so far as to label this listening in imagined layers that can remain separate and at other times interact as “modern listening.”[5]

* * * * * *

            Let us step back to begin with the fallout of piano transcription in the nineteenth century. As with any new major technological shift, the spread of the piano—particularly its increasing power, via transcription, as a tool for virtuosi or amateurs to channel music from its original context onto the solo stage or into the parlor respectively—could often be absorbed in stride. At other times, however, the disorientation brought about by transcription was tangibly real. A key aspect of this confusion was the disruption and forced rethinking of the long-established genre boundaries and categories tied to specific places and social settings. For example, in 1843, Ignaz Lewinsky began a consideration in the Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung called “On Transcriptions and Paraphrases” with an almost rueful look backward to an era when genres and their apposite styles were more simply organized around the church, the chamber, and the stage.[6]
Of course, the movement of melodies from one medium and context to another was itself nothing new in the nineteenth century. There was a centuries long tradition of inter-generic migration of tunes,[7] and such migrations had already had important effects on the musical world and conceptions of genre.[8] (Nor were occasional complaints about this migration new.) Nevertheless, for several reasons nineteenth-century piano transcriptions forced a conceptual rethinking of genre that earlier instances of musical relocation generally did not. Certainly, many piano “paraphrases” still put themselves forth as new pieces or fundamental reworkings, but a newer wrinkle came with the more “faithful” “transcriptions”—which also or instead purported on some level to be the pieces they transcribed, or at least versions of those pieces.[9] Indeed, they staked this claim at precisely the historical moment when romantic conceptions of organic, reified masterworks and of Werktreue were solidifying.[10] The idea that transcription could, alongside performance and score study, be a way to learn and “understand” holistic artworks explains the explosion of some types of piano reductions (including the development of four-hands transcriptions) at this time.[11] Yet these “works” were being approached and learned in a form that was also on some level not “the work” (by virtue of diminishing some generic markers and introducing others). Thus, from E.T.A. Hoffmann and A.B. Marx to a raft of anonymous reviews across Europe, such transcriptions were ubiquitously judged on the extent to which they capture the “original” on which they are based.[12]
Here I want to invoke the terminology of Jonathan Sterne, who in his study of the cultural origins of sound reproduction discusses the development of “audile technique,” that is, new specialist listening strategies for perceiving the level of sonic fidelity to a source.[13] Sterne contends that sound reproduction popularized audile technique after medical work with stethoscopes and professional work with telegraphy had developed it.[14] To his list of cultural forerunners to sound reproduction, I suggest we should add another: the specialized “listening through” that developed for transcriptions.[15] However, I wish to widen Sterne’s idea further by noting that it is not only fidelity to sound itself that was sought in the reception of sound reproduction (or earlier in piano transcriptions), but also fidelity to the original connotations of that sound, that is, to the full implications of the original generic context.[16] At stake particularly were the social and spatial connotations of the transcribed work.
For example, it is striking that by the mid nineteenth century, two of the most famous composition treatises (by Anton Reicha and Carl Czerny), presented orchestral sonata form through piano transcription.[17] In Czerny’s course for example, symphonic sonata form is illustrated by Beethoven’s First Symphony in reduction.[18] It would be easy to conclude too hastily that these pedagogues simply viewed genre as manifest primarily in formal process—a conflation of genre with form that became the basis of avant-garde rhetoric attacking generic conventions from that time onward. But the conflation of genre and form was not and is not a fact, since generic horizons of expectations have always involved so much socio-spatial information as well.[19] Czerny was clearly all too aware of this. He does not in fact introduce “the symphony” with a discussion of form; rather, he begins by noting the many ways in which the ideas and character of orchestral music must be quite different from piano music because of the assembly of instruments and the presumed large, public space in which it unfolds.[20]
There is nevertheless a sharp layer of irony here: to illustrate this very point Czerny’s book features several pages of famous symphonic thematic material—in piano reductions! When bits of piano reduction are specifically called upon to illustrate that which sets the public and symphonic apart from the private and pianistic, we can see the idea of listening through a transcription to a trace original operating quite explicitly not only for individual works, but for the entire genres they represent. In sum, whether or not the questions were posed openly, anyone playing, listening to, or analyzing a nineteenth-century “faithful” transcription had to negotiate how some of the implications of its original genre followed it into its new presentation while others did not, and develop audile techniques to recapture the trace.
But as soon as we move away from textbooks into musical praxis, we see the other side of the coin. Transcription didn’t only evoke the social and spatial aspects of the original genre; it also generated new sound, in a new setting in the here and now, thus creating new genre implications of its own. After lamenting the loss of earlier generic markers such as church-chamber-theater, for example, the critic Lewinsky in the above example had gone on to refer to piano transcriptions and paraphrases as their own “genres” (Gattungen)—crossing various earlier defined boundaries.
Sometimes the emerging generic implications of the new transcription genre(s) were themselves the butt of objections, as we can see in a tirade against Liszt’s “Arrangements and Transcriptions” by another critic, writing in 1876 in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung.[21]  At one point, the writer (signed “R”) attacks Liszt’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream music, complaining that Mendelssohn’s “fairy-tale fantasy…is reduced to serving an insipid game of effects: the woods in which the elves get up to their tricks is transformed into a gaslit ballroom, the scent of flowers is wiped away and in its place we have ladies’ perfume.”[22] There are many interesting slippages and assumptions in this short statement, but it is striking that the critic seems to assume that the original version of the music, in its orchestral form (perhaps even performed in a theater as incidental music) could transparently call up its subject matter. The loss that is mourned here is not therefore (directly) the original theatrical/orchestral social situation but rather the apparently “transparent” listening that the critic presumes or believes that setting would allow—making a fantasy world seem real.[23] In Liszt’s version,[24] with its intrusion of the openly pianistic, the critic finds that the transparency is lost. I have argued elsewhere that in the nineteenth century popular ideas of genre became increasingly tied to types of audience,[25] and such associations show through here. For this critic, Liszt’s new piece and in fact its genre writ large failed to evoke elves and forests because it could call up only its own presumed beau-monde performance settings and audiences, “gaslit ballrooms” full of perfumed people.
Such newly established genres were of course often framed in a much more positive light, especially if their performance could be held in a kind of delicate balance and exchange with the sanctified originals and their auras. Consider one description of a concert in Paris in 1835, in which movements of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique played by the full orchestra were interspersed with two movements of Liszt’s piano transcription played by Liszt himself .[26] The critic from the Gazette musicale turned first to the trace, the ability of the piano to rival and mimic the orchestra in a direct comparison.[27] But the success of the concert was really about the performance in the moment, and the new audience interaction being formed: “Impossible to give a proper idea of the frenzied applause of the entire audience, after [Liszt played] the Ball movement. No one before M. Liszt had ever played the piano in such an astonishing way.”[28] Here transcription is once more inscribing its own generic expectations about shared listening experience. By the end of the century Thomas Mann could enthuse over the prospect of Wagner piano evenings. Even though, as a Wagnerian, he must have seen them at least partly as diminished traces of the Gesamtkunstwerk useful in the absence of full performances, he noted them also as a Munich concert season highlight. So did critics.[29]
In sum, then, transcriptions demanded and received a bifurcated approach to listening, with two generic contracts in force simultaneously. One could feel the connotations of the “trace” genre, perceived by listening through to an “original” and imagining its performance space and one’s fellow listeners there. But one could also feel the “real-time” presence of the transcribed work in a new social and spatial setting. Generally, the “trace” and the “present” generic implications, rather than melding into a single layer of understanding, operated independently at the same time, in a precarious dance. That dance might fail if the transcription was presented in the wrong time and place,[30] but it might also succeed, creating a heightened experience.
From the typical listening and audile technique developed around piano transcriptions to the typical listening and audile technique applied to early sound recordings and player pianos there was actually no large leap, despite the obvious novelties of sound reproduction technology, and the introduction of new dimensions.[31] We can see the same bifurcated listening, the same simultaneous presence of two types of generic contract.
The more well-studied and self-evident side of the reception of early recordings was the obsession with the trace original. Here I would simply like to add that, again, listening through to original music went beyond timbres and notes to encompass the social and spatial aspects of genres. In 1903, Louis Laloy enthused that on his gramophone recordings: “M. Renaud sings the aria ‘Voici des Roses’ from The Damnation of Faust, in such a beautiful full voice…that we can believe ourselves to be in the théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt…finally, M. van Rooy makes me recall my impressions of Bayreuth, with the grand and simple melancholy” of his Walküre singing.[32]
Again too, however, the other side of the coin—the sense of hearing with a new audience group—was also present. There was already from the earliest days of recording a community-building aspect of gramophone listening that was created through the playing of records themselves. In 1907, the Revue Musicale noted, arrestingly, the details of gramophone “concerts”: the French Gramophone company “offers in all towns free concerts. It organizes these listenings as would a virtuoso on tour, always renting out the largest hall. The company offers two sessions, a matinee and an evening, hoping that the largest number of enthusiasts will come listen to the splendid program it offers its audiences.”[33] In all senses, listening to recordings and player pianos shaped its own social and spatial musical experience; you were part of an audience for a new genre defined by its being a transcription or recording.[34]
Arguably, the primary difference that emerged in extending the listening strategies of piano transcriptions to sound reproduction was that the audience members for the trace “original” became more spread out. Radio played an especially large role: Michele Hilmes has discussed the idea that radio, even more than print, created what Benedict Anderson famously called an “imagined community,”[35] and while Hilmes focuses on the attendant national aspect, and not necessarily on music, the same processes clearly allowed listeners to envisage themselves as part of a diasporic audience for a particular performance. If a single performance could have a nationwide audience, audience groupings for genres—“people who listen to this type of music and can identify with its original meanings”—could grow even more widely.[36] In fact, such enormous “imagined audiences” lead to the formulation and entrenchment of deliberately disseminated and popularly recognized genre labels, developed as recording and broadcasting industry tools that would be used in measuring and promotion. (This is how the Billboard charts were born.) Genre became a marketing tool.[37]
Still, even with the monetary and cultural force of the music industry behind them, the imagined communities of listeners (for trace genres) remains only one half of our modern bifurcated generic understanding. That is, such stable conceptions are still unsettled and balanced by local and present listening experiences. Phenomena such as the crossover sensation that sparked rock and roll in the 1950s can be seen as the spontaneous, partly unpredictable and uncontrollable drafting of new generic contracts, based on the intersection of trace implications and present-time listening. People came to compare themselves not only (and sometimes not even primarily) to the original audiences for a genre, but also to the audiences for certain types of transcriptions or recordings.[38]
To end with a brief foray into the twenty-first century: since the development of the Walkman, the potential array of listening situations, and hence “present”-oriented generic resonances, has recently been increasing exponentially. As Shuhei Hosokawa noted in his seminal article on the “Walkman effect,” portable audio listening is centrifugal and unfolds through time in an urban landscape.[39] Michael Bull has expanded the examination of this type of listening in his study of the iPod experience. His ethnography shows that subjects sometimes use their iPods to plot a very active interaction between the sounds in their ears and the unfolding world around them, often for example imagining that they are in a movie and creating a soundtrack incorporating the people and spaces around them.[40] This exaggerates a framework in which the listener experiences (and most often chooses) music moment-to-moment at the intersection between the previously existing connotations (its known, reified qualities and its original trace genre—including its original presumed audiences and audience types) and its redefinition through the present. The trace, however, remains. Listeners may also use their iPods to “be somewhere else.”[41]
It was the proliferation of piano transcriptions in the early nineteenth century that appears to have started us down the path to a kind of listening in which “works” (fully conceived) are torn from their original generic contexts and reinscribed in new domains. Although some conservative observers at the time lamented the changes in generic implications and other, avant-garde polemicists used the same changes as an excuse to claim that genre no longer mattered, it continued to matter very much.  The resultant bifurcated sense of genre is still with us.

[1] I find it unhelpful to limit definitions of genre to a single discursive level, separated from smaller subgenres or from more overarching categorical divisions. Treating the word and concept of genre flexibly is more constructive both heuristically and historically. For example, in the nineteenth century, words such as Gattung and genre were not differentiated with any consistency at all from other words such as Art and sorte, and consequently their use varied, covering everything from huge categories such as folk and art music to types of adagio movement, or different instrumental media. To take an example from the period at hand: E. T. A. Hoffmann, in various reviews, uses “Gattung” to refer to the symphony (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 13/48 [1811]: 797), and to “ernsten, heroischen Opern” (ibid. 13/11 [1811]: 185), but when approving of the allegretto movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 70, no. 2 because the concept of the whole movement is only grasped by the interlacing of all three instrumental parts, he says Beethoven has thus stayed true to the type [Art] of composition at hand (ibid. 15/9 [1813]: 151). If anything, Art (sometimes seen as a narrower label than Gattung) here suggests a classification broader rather than narrower than a single Gattung—perhaps the idea of intimate chamber music in general, derived from the ideal of the string quartet. (This very sort of slippage makes it entirely fitting, in my opinion, that all these three examples are translated as “genre” by Martyn Clarke in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Musical Writings, ed. David Charlton [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989], 264, 272, and 317.)
[2] Thomas Christensen, “Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Musical Reception,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 52/2 (1999), 289. See also Christensen, “Public Music in Private Spaces: Piano-Vocal Scores and the Domestication of Opera,” in Music and the Cultures of Print, ed. by. Kate van Orden (New York and London: Garland: 2000), 87; and Dana Gooley, “Stormy Weather: Liszt and the Noisiness of Pianistic Transcription,” Musiktheorie 25/3 (2010): 223-45.
[3] Adorno, “Vierhändig, noch einmal,” in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970-86), 17:303-6; “The Radio Symphony,” “The Curves of the Needle,” “The Form of the Phonograph Record,” and “Opera and the Long-Playing Record,” all in Adorno, Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert, trans. Susan H. Gillespie, and Thomas Y. Levin (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2002).
[4] Christensen, “Four-Hand Piano Transcriptions,” 256, 280, 288-9. See Adorno, “The Radio Symphony,” 259-60. See also James Parakilas, “The Power of Domestication in the Lives of Musical Canons,” Repercussions 4(1995): 5-25.
[5] In fact, even live performance may now be heard in the context of recordings, such that bifurcated listening occurs even when we are listening to “originals.”
[6] Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung 3/2 (5 January 1843): 5.
[7] Such migration included the use of secular melodies as the basis for cantus firmus masses, the creation of hymns using melodies previously associated with bawdy texts during the reformation, the long period of exchange of tunes between the London stage and broadside ballads, and continued through such later examples as Haydn’s reworking of “Che Farò senza Euridice” as a movement in a baryton trio for Nikolaus Esterházy, or the large number of wind band arrangements from popular stage works in the high classical period—and finally to the growing trade in keyboard adaptations themselves (including piano-vocal scores) as the eighteenth came to a close.
[8] James Parakilas has considered the importance of arrangement to the “domestication” needed to form musical canons, for example. Parakilas, “Power of Domestication,” esp. 8-17. See also Ruth Solie, “Gender, Genre, and the Parlor Piano,” The Wordsworth Circle 25/1 (1994): 53-7.
[9] Thus, like later recordings, they raised a new problematic of what the work was and to what extent it needed to be rooted in its original medium and setting. In Christensen’s  words, “transcription problematizes the ontological identity of the individual musical work” (“Public Music,” 68). The straight approach to transcription itself resulted in an output split into two types, one for home use (and often for four hands) and pitched in skill level toward amateur players, the other for virtuoso display and beyond the capabilities of those same players. Liszt’s two early Tannhäuser trancriptions, of Wolfram’s Hymn to the Evening Star and of the overture, are deliberate examples of these two types, respectively. See Alexander Rehding, Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth Century Germany (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 85; also Jonathan Kregor, Liszt as Transcriber (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 168-9.
[10] On the work concept see Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992). On the interaction of the work concept and early transcription, see Gooley, “Noisiness of Transcription,” 230; and Christensen, “Four Hands Transcription,” esp. 290.
[11] See Christensen “Four-Hand Piano Transcriptions,” 257-64; also Gooley, “Noisiness of Transcription,” 230-31.
[12] As just one example, a reviewer in Revue et gazette musicale de Paris noted that the transcription of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliette for piano was inherently daring since the work is full of so many new and interesting orchestral effects, but guessed the transcription would be a success because Berlioz himself had entrusted the work to Théodore Ritter (25/52 (26 December 1858): 435). The idea of compensatory (and often over-compensatory) listening as an inherent aspect of the reception of transcription is one that has been considered at greater length in different ways by both Jann Pasler and Dana Gooley, in ways that make eminent sense. Pasler considers the issue more from a Lacanian angle as lack and excess, while Gooley focuses his attention on media, particularly on the piano as a “noisy” channel that could at times seek either to erase or to assert itself and its mediation. See Jann Pasler, “Contingencies of Meaning in Transcriptions and Excerpts: Popularizing Samson and Dalila,” in Approaches to Meaning in Music, ed. by Byron Almén and Edward Pearsall, 170-213 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006); Gooley, “Noisiness of Transcription.”
[13] Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), esp. 23-6, 90, 111.
[14] Ibid., 157
[15] Indeed, such “listening through” may have begun to develop earlier and simultaneously as well through the fascination with automatic and reproducing instruments in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. See Emily I. Dolan, “E. T. A. Hoffmann And The Ethereal Technologies Of ‘Nature Music,’” Eighteenth Century Music 5 (2008), 7-26; also Dolan, The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
[16] I might therefore slightly alter Christensen’s formulation that transcription “irrevocably untethered” genres from their traditional geographies of performance, since those geographies remain as mental traces.
[17] In Reicha’s course, the sonata form exposition is presented through a reduction of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro overture. Reicha, (with original French and German trans. by Czerny) Vollständiges Lehrbuch der musikalischen Composition (Vienna: Diabelli, [1834]), 4:1104-6.
[18] Czerny, School of Practical Composition; or, Complete treatise on the composition of all kinds of music, Trans. John Bishop, (London: R. Cocks & Co., [1848?]), 2:40, 44.
[19] As I have argued elsewhere, for music—much more than for literature or even drama—social settings and communal activity played an indispensable role in shaping generic contracts, and this situation led to a greater persistence in many types of generic categories in music than in literature or music during the romantic period. Even Wagner and Liszt were aware of this, and while Wagner limited his use of the word genre to its negative (formalist) implications, he had a keen sense of the apposite venues, styles, and crowds for different types of music. This innate sense of genre in the broader sense, for example, explains his attack on Brahms for writing symphonies that were too akin to “chamber music.” See Gelbart, “Speaking of Music in the Romantic Era: Dynamic and Resistant Aspects of Musical Genre,” in Speaking of Music, ed. Keith Chapin and Andrew Clark. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013).
[20] Czerny, Practical Composition, 2:34-5
[21] Note though that what Lewinsky called transcriptions (strict transfers of the material to another medium, trying to translate an “original”) are here called arrangements, and what Lewinsky called paraphrases (freer work with motives and themes from the original) are here called transcriptions. It is notable that there is a slippage even in the use of this terminology.
[22] “die Märchenphantasien des Sommernachtstraumes werden dazu herabgewürdigt, einem faden Spiel mit Effecten zu dienen: aus dem Walde, in dem die Elfen ihr Wesen treiben, ist ein Ballsaal in Gasbeleuchtung geworden, der Blumenduft ist abgestreift und Toilettenparfüm an seine Stelle getreten. Was will solcher Geschmacklosigkeit gegenüber—um ein stärkeres Wort nicht zu gebrauchen—der vielgepriesene, ausserordentliche, pianistische Werth bedeuten, der als Einziges bleibt, was man diesen Producten nachrühmen könnte!” (AmZ 11/4 [Jan 26, 1876], 49-50).
[23] Some of the aspects addressed in the move from orchestral work to piano work here have to do with signifiers that ought to transcend the medium and performance space. As just one example, the very the idea of topoi suggests an extremely wide field of reference for music. As John Irving has recently written with regard to the later-eighteenth century: “[t]opical reference as a guide to the understanding presupposes that the frame of reference is a broad one and no respecter of generic identity.” John Irving, Understanding Mozart’s Piano Sonatas (Ashgate, 2010), 75. Irving continues: “To put it the other way round, perhaps topical perception suggests that genre is but an artificial construction for delimiting works in the classical period and that Sturm und Drang, for instance, makes just as much sense in the context of a solo sonata as in a symphony.” I would not carry the former observation to the latter conclusion, because genre consists of so many levels, that some can be retained a musical language that traverses them, even as others are lost. Nevertheless this is rather a thought-provoking consideration.
[24] It should be noted that Liszt in this case was not writing or aiming for a “faithful” formal transcription but a reassembly of Mendelssohn’s material, which may also be a factor in the critic’s statement.
[25] See Matthew Gelbart, “Layers of Representation in Nineteenth-Century Genres: The Case of one Brahms Ballade,” in Representation in Western Music, ed. Joshua Walden, 13-32 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
[26] This concert is also discussed by Gooley as an example of the successful assertion of pianistic technology and compensatory “noise” (Gooley, “Noisiness of Transcription,” 242).
[27] Gazette musicale de Paris 2/2 (11 January 1835):15.
[28] Ibid. “Il y avait encore foule au quatreième concert de M. Berlioz, Le public ne se lasse pas d’applaudire ses belles symphonies. Une particularité remarquable à ce concert, c’étaient le Bal et la Marche du Supplice de la symphonie fantastique, arrangés et exécutés sur le piano par M. Listz [sic]. Impossible de se faire une idée des applaudissements frénétiques de toute l’assemblée, après le Bal. Aussi jamais personne avant M. Listz n’avait joué le piano d’une manière aussi surprenante.”
[29] See Letters of Thomas Mann, 1889-1955, trans. and ed. Richard and Clara Winston (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975), letter of March 14, 1902, 27. The critic reviewing this concert and another Wagner transformation the following evening for the Allgemeine Zeitung went so far as to declare transformations genres in themselves. Of the concert Mann had looked forward to, he wrote: “Die Großzügigkeit und Energie diese spontanen Nachschaffens rechtfertigen die an sich stilwidrige Zerlegung des Kunstwerkes” (Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 March 1902, Abendblatt, 1).
[30] Reviewing an overwhelmingly successful concert presented by Élie-Miriam Delaborde at the Salle Pleyel-Wolff in 1873, the critic from the Revue et gazette musicale had one large caveat: “As for the symphony with chorus [Beethoven’s Ninth] arranged for two pianos by Liszt, and played at the start of the concert by Delaborde and Mme Szarvady, it was a major mistake, first of all because due to its presence the concert lasted over three hours and the public showed evident signs of fatigue, but also because, however great the interest in the fine work of Liszt and the merits of the performance, the place of this sort of reduction is not in a concert. We use a reduction in a small group in order to get an idea of the work when the orchestra is lacking, or towards the end of studying the work. Whereas, almost all of M. Delaborde’s audience have heard the Conservatoire’s splendid rendition of the Ninth Symphony (it has been given there three times this winter), and thus cannot stop themselves from drawing a comparison that will be disadvantageous to the arrangement. We see that it is still difficult, even when one is a great virtuoso, to design a good concert program.” [“Quant à la symphonie avec chreurs arrangée pour deux pianos par Liszt, et executée au debut de la séance par Delaborde et Mme Szarvady, c’était une grosse erreur: d’abord parce que le concert a duré, par ce fait, plus de trois heures et que le public donnait des signes évidents de fatigue, ensuite parce que, si grands que puissent être l’intérêt du beau travail de Liszt et le mérite de l’exécution, la place de cette réduction n’est point au concert. On se sert d’une réduction en petit comité, pour avoir une idée de l’oeuvre, quand l’orchestre fait défaut, ou dans un but d’étude; or, presque tous les auditeurs de M. Delaborde avaient entendu la 9e symphonie dans la splendide interprétation du Conservatoire, où on l’a donnée trois fois cet hiver, et n’ont pu s’empêcher de faire une comparaison désavantageuse à l’arrangement. On voit qu’il est toujours difficile, même quand on est un grand virtuose, de savoir composer un programme!”] Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, 40/18 (4 May1873): 141. The transcription is faulted here for its inability to live up to the sound and meaning of the original; nevertheless, the implication is that, under the right circumstances, it would be adequate or correct. The real breakdown of generic contract purported here is the presentation of this work at the wrong time and place, and thus for the wrong assembled audience. Interestingly, the concert also contained another transcription, by Alkan, from Gluck’s Iphegenia in Tauride, to which the reviewer had no objection, presumably because it did not have the ambitions of the Beethoven transcription.
[31] Such as the preservations aspect of sound recording, hearing the dead, etc. On early recording, see also William Howland Kenney, Recorded Music in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
[32] Louis Laloy, “Phonographes et gramophone,” La Revue musicale, 3/5 (1903): 223-25, at 225. “M. Renaud chante l’air de la Damnation de Faust, Voici des Roses, de cette belle voix si pleine, et qui semble plus riche encore dans la nuance douce où il sait la maintenir; on peut se croire au théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt…enfin M. van Rooy me fait retrouver des impressions de Bayreuth, avec la grande et simple mélancolie de ses Adieux à la Walkyrie.”
[33] “la Compagnie du Gramophone offre dans toutes les villes des concerts gratuits. Elle organise ses auditions comme ferait un virtuose de passage, louant toujours la salle la plus vaste; elle donne deux séances, matinée et soirée, désirant ainsi que le plus grand nombre possible d’amateurs vienne écouter le splendide programme qu’elle offre à ses auditeurs.” [Anon]. “La vulgarisation de la musique et le gramophone.” Revue musicale, 7/11 (1907): 299-300, at 300.
[34] Timothy Taylor’s article on “The Commodification of Music at the Dawn of the Era of ‘Mechanical Music’” (Ethnomusicology 51/2 (2007), 281-305) focuses on the spread of the player piano and his examples can be used to illustrate bifurcated listening as well. It was not only that the marketing of early player pianos focused as much on “self-expression” as the reproduction of music (see 289-92), but even later “reproducing pianos” made their own “performances” and audiences. Thus the 1910 Pianola advertisement reproduced by Taylor (296) not only shows a new (for player pianos) emphasis on the reified “music” it reproduced or traced, but also visually depicts a new type of “audience” for the reproduced music in its own here and now. A family is shown listening with rapt attention as a young woman (a daughter?) “concertizes” at the piano’s controls.
[35] Hilmes, Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-1952 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), esp. 11-14.
[36] Even this difference was more qualitative than quantitative. Alexander Rehding has discussed the role that elite hopes and fears about expanded access to certain repertoire played in writing about transcription. Rehding, Music and Monumentality, 80-81, 85, 95. The same hopes and fears surfaced again with the radio and the phonograph as popularizers, as Adorno’s writing both addresses and exemplifies.
[37] Recent books by Keith Negus and Fabian Holt explore how frequently categories of genre (expressly so called) in popular music have been linked to marketing and music industry structuring. See Negus, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures (Abbingdon and New York: Routledge, 1999); Holt, Genre in Popular Music (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2007). It should be noted that such techniques were applied in “classical music” by the industry from the start as well, if less blatantly.
[38] Another example is audiophile record collectors who may feel more bonded to each other than to the original audiences for the (types of) music on the recordings they are comparing or fetishizing.
[39] Hosokawa, “The Walkman Effect,” Popular Music 4 (1984): 165-80.
[40] Bull, Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), these examples from 38, 42.
[41] Ibid., 9. (It might be noted that from the start, advertisers had suggested the communal aspect of listening even on headphones. See Sterne, Audible Past, 163-6.)