Writing as a medium of perception

With regard to a theory of writing, the argumentative figures and theoretical building blocks developed in the course of the research efforts outlined above enable a shift in the epistemological focus from the aspect of writing as a medium of communication to that of writing as a medium of perception (Krämer 2006:75). Accordingly, the reference to current debates on writing can substantiate an observation already made heuristically in the context of music performance: The traditional, Eurocentric idea, which has in many ways become dubious and partially obsolete, that music writing constitutes nothing more than a “trans-lation” of a real or imagined sound and serves solely as a set of instructions on how to recreate that sound by translating it back, is not tenable from a theoretical perspective either. Music writing is not just less but at the same time also more than mere documentation of sound events or imaginations of musical sound.

We have thus prepared the ground and laid down the epistemic asphalt for a modified perspective on the theory of music writing. The factors, observations, and epistemic shifts touched on above motivate, evoke, and enable a turn in the theoretical perspective on music writing that sheds light on phenomena that have previously received scant attention, without making it necessary to demand a renunciation of traditional conceptions regarding the function of musical notation as a medium of storage and communication. We would now like to emphasize three elements:

(a) The aisthetic dimension may be regarded as a constitutive media element of music writing. The special attention to the aspects of the dual dynamics of visibility and perceptibility (Strätling/Witte 2006:7) – in the specific mode of audible signs – will open up new phenomenal domains of music writing for critical inquiry on the one hand and enable a more subtly differentiated categorization of a general theory of writing on the other. Writings undermine the separation of language and image that has been deeply rooted in European intellectual and cultural history since Lessing’s Laokoon; they “combine attributes of the discursive and the iconic” (Krämer/Totzke 2012:14). In a basic sense, the visual perceptibility is tied to the materiality of the writing and the act of writing. Against this background, it will be useful to take into more close account than has previously been the case in music philology (cf. Urbanek 2013) the highly differentiated philological contributions made by the schools of new philology (cf. especially Cerquiglini 1989 and the discussion precipitated by this study), which developed a stronger interest in “writing/Schrift/écriture” in contrast to the finished “work,” particularly with regard to older written documents; material philology (Nichols 1990), which raised our awareness of materiality; and finally critique génétique (Grésillon 1999, 2010; Bernhard Appel in particular has applied successfully several ideas introduced in critique génétique to research on musical sketches; cf. Appel 1999, 2003, 2005, 2010) with its interest in a more sophisticated description of genetic processes of text creation. These approaches will provide, over and above the consideration of the internal iconicity of the writing, important inspiration for treating questions concerning the spatiality and temporality of writing, with which musical notations – contrasting to a certain extent with the notation of verbal language – by definition share a close relationship.
(b) Music writings possess a specific element of inscribed performative presence that provides scope for the analysis of essential theoretical categories in a neutralization of the referential aspect of writing as a medium of communication against the backdrop of the media status of music writing as a record of musical events. Whereas the hermeneutic perspective of text and writing interpretation (and after all, text hermeneutics may be seen as the archetypical situation of philological endeavors) assumes that the function of language and writing consists only in its representational reference (cf. for instance, Gadamer 1999/II:356), this stance turns out to be questionable in many respects against the backdrop of music writing. A post-hermeneutic turn (Mersch 2010) of the discourse of writing receives argumentative support from the analysis of the specific mediality of music writing.

(c) Sound events become manageablemanipulable, and open to reflection in their written “reification” and can thus be subjected to diverse (textual) operations (Strätling/Witte 2006:9). The thesis that the form of language constitutes itself in the first place in and through its written representation, that therefore the phoneme in fact turns out to be an “epiphenomenon” of the grapheme (Krämer 2006:78), also opens up previously little discussed avenues of thought for a theory of music writing, whose precise mapping will for its part enable a theoretically differentiated discussion of important key words in the current discourse of writing.

We propose that the development of an adequate theory of music writing that takes these three elements seriously as a shift in fundamental thought patterns should make reference to four categories: (I) materiality, (II) operativity, (III) iconicity, (IV) performativity. A finely differentiated, source- based analysis of these categories, intertwining as they do in manifold ways, enables a new focus on previously neglected yet constitutive aspects of music writing, allowing us not only to establish a consciousness for their subtle network of cross-references. In addition, these investigations in the field of music promise a phenomenological extension and theoretical clarification of the basic constellations involved in a general theory of writing, which in the precarious exclusion of non- phonographic writing concepts has previously been developed almost entirely according to the paradigm of the (semantically bound) writing of language. The reference to a theory of music writing can make a fundamental contribution within the context of this endeavor, bringing us closer to the declared goal of attaining a theory of speech-independent (non-phonographic) writing (Krämer 2003b, 2006:77, etc).