Posted on

The Maxime Principle: Thoughts on the origin of dynamic markings

In a com­mu­ni­ca­tion we recent­ly received from Pro­fes­sor Maxime in Paris, she encour­aged all instru­men­tal­ists to begin think­ing of the Ital­ian piano and forte sym­bols to mean rel­a­tive degrees of emo­tion­al inten­si­ty and not the stan­dard prac­tice of indi­cat­ing only “soft” and “loud” sound.

This rec­om­men­da­tion, that the piano and forte sym­bols should reflect “emo­tion­al inten­si­ty,” is per­haps a bit star­tling for those of us who have been taught that the pur­pose of these sym­bols was to reflect only the degrees of loud­ness or soft­ness of the actu­al vol­ume of sound itself. For those who believe that the sole pur­pose of music is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of feel­ing and emo­tions, Pro­fes­sor Maxime’s prin­ci­ple is a wel­come reminder that in ear­li­er times the piano and forte sym­bols were also asso­ci­at­ed with feel­ing and were often the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the per­former, not the com­pos­er. But the sym­bols are intro­duced to us today as being of an objec­tive char­ac­ter with no dis­cus­sion of how these sym­bols are relat­ed to feel­ing. While Pro­fes­sor Maxime speaks of “emo­tion­al inten­si­ty,” we rel­e­gate these sym­bols to the sta­tus of being only “dynam­ic mark­ings.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing The Maxime Prin­ci­ple: Thoughts on the ori­gin of dynam­ic mark­ings