Quotation by Richard Sennett

Every actor and musician has a text upon which to base his art, but he can treat the text in one of two ways. The difference lies in how much the performer believes his own work can be "notated." In music, this means asking how far the system of musical signs printed on the page can actually represent the music the composer heard in his head. If you believe these signs—the notes, the loud and soft markings, tempo indications—are an adequate language, then in performing the piece you concentrate on realizing in sound what you, the performer, read. If you believe music cannot be adequately notated, then your task in the performance is to find what is missing from the printed page. The actor has a similar choice. He can treat the text either as a set of suggestions for a character in Shakespeare's or Ibsen's mind, suggestions which cannot be ignored, but leave him much freedom, or he can treat the text as bible which, once understood, will tell him how to act.
Richard Sennett (b. 1943), U.S. social historian. "The Public Men of the 19th Century," The Fall of the Public Man, Cambridge University Press (1977).
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