Cover image for History, imagination, and the performance of music
History, imagination, and the performance of music
Walls, Peter.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Woodbridge, Suffolk ; Rochester, NY : Boydell Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 184 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Introduction -- Escaping tradition, embracing history -- Measure for measure or as you like it? -- What's the score? -- The well intentioned musician -- The compromised composer -- Loyal opposition : transcription and historical fidelity -- Legislating for inspiration -- In the meantime-- .
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML457 .W34 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The legitimacy of applying historical research to musical performance has been much argued about in recent years. Those advocating historical authenticity have been attacked on philosophical, aesthetic, and even practical grounds. This book both defends the practical value of trying to determine how music sounded in the past and develops an intellectual and musical justification for relating historical research to performance. From the outset Peter Walls stresses the need for research driven by curiosity rather than by the desire to justify a particular approach. Arguing that a performance determined entirely by historical rules is an impossibility, he asserts that the imagination is inevitably involved. His book envisages a relationship between historical knowledge and imagination that is dynamic and stimulating. Case studies range from printing formats and performance in seventeenth-century violin music, to tracking composer intention through the rehearsal and production phases of nineteenth and twentieth century operas. PETER WALLS is professor of music at Victoria University of Wellington, and chief executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The book's title is a play on "HIP," the acronym for "Historically Informed Performance." Walls (Victoria Univ., Wellington, New Zealand) contends that study of historical performance practice provides all sorts of benefits to musical performance and does not hinder creativity in any way. Moreover, the aims of historically aware performance are misunderstood or misrepresented with some frequency. Thus, Walls refutes critics from Adorno (and earlier) to Taruskin who may regard HIP as rule driven and circumscribed. Score excerpts, mostly from 17th- and 18th-century string music, are provided to demonstrate ways in which historical awareness can impact even very basic elements of performance. The author also examines groups of recordings to determine whether "aware" and "unaware" performances differ predictably in the matter of tempo. That such a personal, ruminative book could appear suggests that performance practice research has achieved some level of maturity. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Very advanced students and others who already have a good grasp of the performance practice scene. B. J. Murray formerly, University of Alabama