With a view to uncovering the political implications of notational, technological and musical innovation in composer–performer relationships within Western art music, this paper examines three disparate works: Christian Wolff’s Duo for Pianists II (1958); Brian Ferneyhough’s Unity Capsule (1975); and Georg Hajdu’s Schwer… unheimlich Schwer (2009). By first exploring two innovative 20th century works, Duo for Pianists II and Unity Capsule, the paper establishes a framework for a discussion of the political and ethical dimensions of composer–performer relationships in relation to the 21st century innovation manifest in Schwer… unheimlich Schwer (2009). This multidimensional examination draws on Warren’s (2014) examination of the relationships between ethics and music, Godlovitch’s (1998) philosophy of performance, and research carried out by practitioners such as Couroux (2002), Schick (2006) and Eigenfeldt (2011; 2014). The paper concludes that all three pieces demonstrate the potential for notation to have strong political implications, and that composers are ultimately responsible for the political implications of the performance experience.
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