Conductors and Authorship: A Postmodern Critique of Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
A modern conductor’s relationship to the concept of authorship is particularly problematic when viewed from a postmodern perspective. Its current incarnation remains narrowly conceived as a didactic relationship between a subservient interpreter and his or her obedient followers, and an all-significant composer. Because such relationships have been modelled on modern and pre-modern concepts of the self, tradition, knowledge and authority, they remain somewhat antithetical to postmodern concerns. Surprisingly, the marked mismatch between such manifestations of these relationships and postmodern perspectives has remained un-critiqued. Following the work of theorists such as Foucault and Barthes, this paper unpacks the lingering dualistic and hierarchical relationship that conductors currently have towards authorship. In light of Foucault’s critique of the connection between the author and the text (score), it examines the way in which the author ‘functions’ as a part of the discourse itself, and how this then relates to conductors. It also critiques the myth of authorial authority and the ‘knowable text’ according to Barthes’ work, and considers the pleasures and opportunities for creative revision and interplay with and beyond the text.