At the end of Jorge Luis Borge’s story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“, the narrator rejoices in the fact that Menard’s work has opened up a new door to reading: taking a book and imagining that another person penned it. Novels with serious subject matter could seem satirical and hilarious works could be taken seriously, all with the switch of the author. A book could never grow old with infinitesimal variations within each read.
I was left in awe by this imaginative exercise, asking myself a simple question: What if this was applied to music? As a listener, pieces could take on new personalities with each listen. Features would be magnified or diminished depending on who wrote the piece. And as a performer! How would this Bach Sonata for keyboard be realized if written by Chopin? The oportunities in such a simple question! Scores would be transformed with the change of a name.
This technique, taken to its logical conclusion, drives at one of the fundamental questions I think we ask ourselves as performers: What if you wrote this piece of music?