Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks – music and chance

Here are two performances of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks:

And now a little quiz – which one did you like more? If you chose the second version, we’re in the same club – I really really enjoy the fireworks that are to be heard in the background (and sometimes – foreground!) of the music.

There exists a term in musical terminology of ‘aleatoric music’ where some of the end result is left to chance. The most extreme example is of course ‘4’33’ by Cage, where everything is left to chance – the silence is never the same and cannot be repeated. Which in fact brings us to the conclusion that every kind of live musical performance is in a sense aleatoric – you will never listen to the same composition twice in a concert hall – if you count into your experience the whole ambiance, the sneezing and coughing, people shifting in their chairs and sometimes even – mobile phones going off at a very inappropriate moments. But – surprisingly – I do not mind it. I am not a purist in this sense – a live performance is for me just this – (a)live performance – I am interested in the whole situation of which music is a part, a big one, but it fills a space with people, so what happens around music is also interesting and creates a special moment – never to be repeated.

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