On the contrary, what it does is to give one the impression that there are variations in terms of how authentic a musical piece is as compared to others. Although comparison may be inevitable, there is strong reason to believe that each individual inclination to relate to a musical piece depends on how authentic that musical piece is. Much of this holds true for the musical performer, so much so that Hans Keller even elaborates his article by citing instances wherein he and certain violin ‘players’ of an orchestra have walked out during performances in several occasions as a sign of protest on issues regarding ‘bowing’.
Of course, it is only part of the course wherein the issue of authenticity becomes central not only to the audience but also to the performer and to those who have strong attachments to musical works, especially the musical pieces which have become famous and labeled as ‘masterpieces’ in their own right. It can be noted that a considerable part of Keller’s article expresses some of his musical experiences. At such a point, it can be argued that Keller himself was once an audience to the numerous performances he has attended during his lifetime.
It can also be said that Hans Keller is no less than a critic than some of us may become. Yet what one cannot simple remove from the picture is the fact that Keller is simply one of the many people who have bear witness to numerous musical performances and interpretations of classics such as the works of Beethoven. Nowhere does it refute the claim that Keller is a cut above the rest in terms of authority in criticizing the musical performances and, most significantly, the authenticity of musical works performed. The matter of cultural identity is another issue when faced with the question of authenticity.
Hans Keller does not exactly give a straight commentary on the issue of cultural identity in the context of his article. However, one can get a fine grain of such a crucial issue when reading the article from the point of view of Keller. That is, his personal experiences did show us a meaningful taste of his identity and the identities of the musical masters which came before him. This cultural identity stretches further out of the boundaries of what one may call as the cultural backgrounds of the geniuses such as Beethoven or Bach.
Perhaps the best way to understand the issue of cultural identity through the article of Keller is to comprehend the subtle hints of the unique ways in which he expressed the manner of playing for the numerous examples of artists Keller identified in his article. It gives us a pleasant view of how rich these individuals play their instruments and musical pieces in a variety of ways, none of which appear to be exactly alike, such as the softness of the vibrato performed by Casals.
It can then be said that the authenticity of music in terms of cultural identity springs not only from the vantage point of one’s personal interpretation of the musical piece but also from the point of one’s characteristic way of handling the instrument and playing the notes—or even perhaps departing from the notes—of the original composition. To each of these ways one may inevitably find the unique cultural identities embedded in the performer which, on the other hand, is detached from the musical piece being played.
The question on Hans Keller’s article remains: does cultural identity have a central role in the authenticity of a musical piece? Apparently, one can hardly deny the role of cultural identity, especially in terms of the cultural influences that are embedded on the musical player and of the playing styles attributed to certain cultures. With this in mind, one can also hardly deny that cultural identity has a definitive role in the authenticity of a musical piece. However, it does not strictly establish the answer to the question.
Neither does it resolve the problem of authenticity in its entirety. What it does, on the other hand, is to give accounts of how and why certain players perform certain musical pieces in certain ways. If one is to completely allow cultural identity as the defining element in the authenticity of a piece, what then becomes of the composer and of the audience? Do they have a lack of role in that area? Certainly, the composer should not be discredited for that matter for obvious reasons.
As for the audience, Hans Keller in his article appears to embody the whole of any audience: observing, criticizing, and feeling not only the music but also the musical performances of, say, the violin player in an orchestra. Going back to the issue of understanding, there seems to be a hard part. For one, how is it possible to have an understanding, specifically a clear understanding, of the musical piece in order to arrive at its authenticity when in fact Hans Keller provides us a rough glimpse of the thought that there are certain cultural identities differing from others?
Perhaps Keller’s article merely gives us an account of authenticity from the author’s point of view and should not be used strictly as a paradigm to comprehend the authenticity of any musical piece. This is not to discredit Keller of his musical background. Rather, the question of authenticity is one question difficult to tame. What one can find substantially useful in Keller’s article is one way of looking into the context of authenticity. Perhaps the author may have lacked the understanding of the future implications of what his contemporary artists may have been doing for some reason one may never discover.
But more than simply criticizing Keller’s article, it should be reminded that authenticity should be a great deal of thought to musicians and audiences. In fact, Hans Keller admits that the root causes of all the problems on the question of authenticity are fallacious premises. It may be true, indeed, that fallacious premises tend to blur the arguments in substantiating authenticity, yet there arises a consequent argument to Keller’s reasoning: how can one exactly pinpoint if the arguments for authenticity are fallacious or not?
If we are to follow the case being pursued by Keller, one can find that at the bottom of his arguments rests the implicit premise that there should be a general basis in identifying authenticity and the validity of premises. Carefully considering Keller’s article, it can be said in the long run that perhaps Keller in his article is trying to persuade us to take his view that it cannot be the case that the musical pieces are more authentic than those who reflect upon them.
Nevertheless, what is true and cannot be contested is the observation that the article of Hans Keller gives the reader another way of looking into the question of authenticity. It cannot be argued that Keller does not provide us with a separate way of understanding authenticity. In its inclusion of personal life experiences, the article proves to be worth the reading and also proves to be useful not only to those who seek the authenticity of musical pieces but also to those who seek to get another way of understanding authenticity.
Bibliography KELLER, HANS, ‘Whose Authenticity? ‘ Early Music, 12/4 (1984), 517-19.