Author Topic: The Early Music Club (EMC)  (Read 404077 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1060 on: August 02, 2017, 03:46:40 AM »
Are you familiar with the Ars Subtilior? If not, you might find it well worth investigating. It's known for its rhythmic complexity and quirkiness, so as you're a fellow Cardiacs nut it might well appeal. When I was introducing a Cardiacs fan to early music a while back he found the Ars Subtilior pieces particularly to his liking, as I thought he might.

What I've found is that this quirkiness and complexity tends to get smoothed over in performance. Only a few recordings bring out the avant garde element of the music, Pérès is one I think, as is Schmelzer,  maybe also some of the things Nevel has done, though I haven't heard that CD Drasko posted, the one I know is called Febus Avant.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 03:50:03 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mr. Minnow

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1061 on: August 02, 2017, 06:18:15 AM »
Sort of, sort of not. I know some of Baude Cordier's music but I'm still having a major exploration at the moment. Hit me up with any suggestions?  ;)

I'd definitely recommend those already mentioned, as well as these: 

   

   

   

As Mandryka says, Peres' disc is one that really brings out the rhythmic quirkiness and complexity. However, even the less rhythmically pronounced recordings still have a lot going for them IMO. We don't have a vast quantity of CDs to choose from in this music, to put it mildly, so I decided to grab what I could when I could, and I'm glad I did. I don't have a single Ars Subtilior disc that I've regretted buying.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1062 on: August 02, 2017, 07:49:19 AM »
A very different approach from Ensemble Organum is from Tetraktys, who are probably the most up to date and complete performers of music from the Chantilly Codex. Tetraktys are sensual and languid, Orlando are vigorous and austere, Ensemble Organum are physical and visceral.

My own introduction to this music was through the Project Ars Nova disc above, and I still love it. I remember then listening to Orlando Consort and being completely disorientated! Now I can see it's a great great piece of music making, though there's something about the sound quality of the recording I don't care for. It's not a warm sound.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 08:02:43 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1063 on: August 03, 2017, 12:06:00 AM »
I've noticed this same issue with Perotin and Gesualdo. Maybe it's just me but early music (maybe due to being... Early) suffers from interpretation problems, composer to composer?

There are indeed special difficulties about making sense of early music. This has led people to do lots of fun experiments to escape from the hegemony of romantic singing and playing  - for example they may look to different cultures to find traditional ways of making music and inject those ideas into their performances of (e.g.) Solage and Machaut. And because the traditions which are inspiring them are far flung - from Bulgaria to Algeria  - the results sound very different.

Another aspect is a certain unwillingness on the part of performers to sing in a historically informed way, and they let their imaginations take flight.  People may underestimate what we can say with confidence about early music. I'm reading a book about this at the moment by Andrew Parrott called "Composers' Intentions?" - recommended!

And a third aspect is that it just may not be possible for people to do it like they did it in medieval times because people have changed and techniques have been lost for ever. Male voices break earlier, for example, which means that you can't get mature men (18 year olds) singing high - you have to use women or countertenors. The different work rounds to practical problems give rise to a different sound.

I've just been sleeping and I'm barely awake but I'll get back to your comments, great to see quite a lot  ;D

Early music is a really lively area right now, theoretically and practically - my impression is that there are more exciting things going on with it, new ground being broken, than with baroque, classical or C19 and C 20 music.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2017, 12:22:08 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1064 on: August 05, 2017, 09:45:53 AM »
Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity", Early Music, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1 April 1978, Pages 233–246

By musical performance I mean the general and particular problems of performing styles, old and new—and I interpret authenticity both in its real sense and in the contemporary cult meaning of the word.

 I suppose it is valid for my purpose to classify Western music (at least) into two categories. First, and most familiar, is that music capable of surviving almost the worst performance: for instance, the works of such composers as Josquin, Monteverdi, Beethoven and Berlioz. though I once heard a recording of Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arrana sung by a German contralto with continuo by Carl Orff realized—if that is the appropriate word—for four hands (or fists) on one harpsichord: Monteverdi's masterpiece was completely obliterated, no mean achievement.

The second category, however, is the one that creates so many problems of performance—most of them insoluble. Here, the listeners' enjoyment of the music is largely if not completely dependent, not merely upon technical skill, but more significantly upon the performer's familiarity with the particular musical style of his own time, place and social position.

Where there is no surviving tradition—and performing style is something that can only be learned by imitation, not from books—any piece of music, medieval, renaissance, baroque, what you will, offers the modern performer the potentiality of countless possibilities of interpretation: one medieval piece for instance, could be played in a dozen ways and the result would almost certainly appear to be twelve quite different pieces of music. Of course, one of these performances could, by sheer chance, be more or less historically correct. But how are we now to judge which? And supposing a medieval or renaissance listener could hear a modern performance of a chanson by Binchois or a Dowland lute solo, for instance, would he say (I 'Use modern English of course) 'How can anyone ruin such fine music in this way ?'; or would he exclaim 'What the hell is that? Some Moorish barbarity no doubt.'

In monophonic music, subtleties of musical style are particularly critical. The unaccompanied singer or instrumentalist has the sole responsibility of focusing an audience's attention, and in order to achieve this, he must be able both to make use of every rhythmic and melodic nuance in his technical vocabulary, and to exploit his talent for improvisation and ability to memorize. Most renaissance writers on music stress the fact that the performer was expected to exploit his technique not merely for aesthetic reasons but in order to astound his audience by his skill. The modest per-former was not generally admired.

Many of these traditions survive to the present day in the remoter parts of' Europe. In many regions of the Balkans, for instance, the epic ballad, like the medieval lai, is still part of modern rural life. These songs are performed at ceremonial occasions—weddings and so on—by the descendants of the medieval minstrel: proud men who regard their art with high serious-ness. These ballads are no brief interludes in the village festivities. Like their medieval equivalent, the narrative, dealing with most subjects, from the slaying of dragons to the massacre of CIA agents, will generally last for many hours, as may be heard, for instance, on many of the fine recordings made by A. L. Lloyd.

 As a method of preserving monophonic music, notation, medieval or modern, is almost worse than useless—and it is not too helpful either for poly-phonic music. Indeed, early in this century, Bartok insisted that folk music could only be preserved adequately on gramophone record, otherwise the essential elements of performance would be lost. Although folk music—or most non-European art music—conveys little or nothing when committed to paper, today we at least have the tape machine to record the subtleties of performance.

But in the case of medieval song—the monophonic works of the troubadours, trouveres and minne-singers, an impressive number of which have survived—the possibility of' reconstructing a performing style containing any element that might be familiar to a medieval listener is so remote as to be, in my opinion, not worth the attempt. The notation of these songs indicates the pitch but not the duration of the notes, and the total absence of oral tradition provides a musicological puzzle—but a puzzle without a solution. Of course, if one is prepared to manufacture one's own rules—knitting your own middle ages as Thurston Dart put it—one may construct a rhythmic style derived from a personally inspired logic or the product of assured but arbitrary conviction, and then, of' course, the music can be performed. But the result, far from bearing any resemblance to medieval performing practice, may be a species of quasi-composition and a musical performance that diminishes the composer and glorifies the modern performer.

Folk music, unlike western art music, is not conceived in terms of musical notation, but in terms of exceedingly idiosyncratic performing styles. This innocence of notation was also a feature of minstrel music before the early years of the 16th century. On the other hand, polyphonic music from the middle ages to the present day has been intimately associated with the development and changing styles in musical notation. But, as every folklorist knows, even the most sophisticated notational systems are incapable of indicating the essentials that make a performing style: however inspired the music, written notes are mere symbols; a musical performance is an act of creation, and without the performer music does not exist. Lacking a convincingly stylish performance, much fine music may often appear tasteless or meaningless. And yet, while a traditional melody, for instance, can all too easily be reduced to bastardy, it can also be trans-formed into a pleasing drawing-room ballad or an elegant art song.

In recent years there has been a most heartening advance in the knowledge of the construction of renaissance instruments, particularly stringed instruments, though viol makers seem to be conducting a muted war over what actually constitutes a renaissance viol. Mass producers of harpsichords have now realized that in order to sell their machines they must call them 'Italian model', `Ruckers model', and so on.

 Few makers of renaissance instruments today seem to recognize the existence and the importance of what they would term transitional forms. They appear not to consider that there must always have been at the same time archaic forms, transitional forms and the latest models. This is as though a naturalist were to say: the prehistoric eohippus evolved into the horse as we know it today. Between the two there existed other horse-like creatures; but these, of course, were merely transitional forms.

The human voice, on the other hand, has the ability to produce virtually any sound imaginable. Unfortunately, singers (and their public) today and through the ages have always maintained that there is only one valid vocal style—their own. Some time ago a friend of mine was at a lecture on singing and, as an illustration, the speaker played a recording of Melba : the audience giggled. In a few years time a similar audience will almost certainly be reduced to hysterics by a recording of Kathleen Ferrier singing Kindertottnlieder.

Even provided one had exact evidence of lost vocal styles. one would need first to convince the singers no mean task instruct them and then educate the audience. For there are two things most audiences and all music critics abhor : non-conventional singing and non-conventional violin-playing. With crumhorns, of course. anything goes.

One still needs to insist that for the music of any period an appropriate vocal style is absolutely essential. I recently remarked to a friend of mine that, unlike the well-known tarted- up performance of the medieval Play of Daniel—a performance that included a fire-eater, lots of amusing instruments, jolly dances and featured modern vocal techniques—in order to perform a miracle play all one really needs is a few medieval singers. This is demonstrated in a Folkways recording (FE 4538 A/B) of a Portuguese passion play where, as in the Middle Ages, scenes are mounted on a horse cart and take place in the open air. The singing is not particularly sophisticated but it is remarkable for its intensity of conviction.

 With several very happy exceptions, I have always found it difficult to work with singers. This is partly due to my ignorance of 20th-century vocal technique: articulation from the diaphragm rather than the throat, expression by means of the eyebrows instead of the voice. I find it hard to come to terms with the British baritone—beef to the heels like a Mullingar heifer—singing Captain Stratton's Fancy at 9.30 on a fine BBC morning; the gorgeous contralto-tenor turning his best profile to the audience; the soprano attacking a high note like a screech owl pursued out of a tunnel by an express train. There seem, however, to be signs that this post-war breed of singers is gradually being put out to grass. But I wish I felt a little more confident about the stylistic conventions of their successors.

 I fear that to any singer this may all appear offensive: I assure you it is not intended to be. After all the human voice can and should be the most perfect of instruments—expressive and agile, and was tradition-ally so regarded. The fact is that most singers occupy a curiously ambiguous position in the musical world—something between musician and actor. Perhaps the difference is that, while the instrumentalist can take an objective view of his technique in relation to his instrument, the singer's instrument, like that of the actor, is himself: to criticize a singer's technique is to criticize him, and this is hard for him to accept. The instrumentalist may come on to the platform, scowl at the audience, ignore it, sit down and play; the singer or the actor, on the other hand, must project himself to the audience and, however well he has performed, if he doesn't sense that the audience is adoring him he feels he has failed utterly.

Today musical authenticity is a subject for serious consideration. But, though the connection between music and the theatre has always been close, the attitude of the modern theatre to historical authenticity is that of a rather shifty lip-service. Any expression of the view that poetry, even Shakespeare's poetry—especially Shakespeare's poetry—could benefit even remotely from authenticity of pronunciation, of acting styles, authenticity of music or design, would be summarily rejected. Great poetry is for all time; Shakespeare is no more or no less Shakespeare in doublet and codpiece than he is in blue jeans. A well-known Shakespearean scholar once told me that if' we could be transported to an original performance of a Shakespeare play we would be bored rigid ! Great publicity is made these days of the latest 'authentic' Shakespeare theatre: apron stage; awfully Elizabethan sets and musicians playing pop versions of olde Elizabethan numbers on a preposterous conglomeration of' shagbuts, crumhorns and rebecs. But the actors? Any consideration of 16th-century conventions of declamation or pronunciation would be to them unthinkable.

Singers have exactly the same reactions to the idea of 16th-century pronunciation as do actors. While they feel that 15th-century English, say, is a funny old language and are quite prepared to pronounce it as they are told, 16th-century English is a different matter. Being accustomed to editions in modern spelling they naively suppose it to be modern English.

Though very far from claiming to be an expert on this subject, I recently had occasion to read through the texts of the Dowland Ayres with a young American singer who was anxious to learn about contemporary pronunciation. In the modernized spelling of the Fellowes editions it was immediately apparent that 20th-century pronunciation had completely destroyed the verse: again and again the stress was on the wrong syllable, rhyme was debased—`war' and 'star', 'speak' and 'break', to take two examples that occur many times. One might ask what is a rhyming couplet that does not rhyme?

Singers, like actors, defend these anachronisms by maintaining first that the language is modern English, and should be pronounced as such for the sake of intelligibility (presumably for an audience of halfwits); and second, quite unjustifiably, that they will not only lose face, but be laughed off the platform. Both singers and actors have a morbid fear of losing rapport with their audience. How refreshing it is to work with instrumentalists. who so often ire both interested and enthusiastic about acquiring new, and to them often outlandish. techniques.

 The importance of the relationship between words and music GUNK* be over-emphasized. A distinguished musicologist recently said to me that the 13th-century- rondeau would never have been per-formed in full, but only in an abbreviated form, as it otherwise would have been too boring. Now, like so many of the other fixed verse forms, the rondeau form is in fact fixed. Its effect on the listener is a very subtle blend of verse and music. To cut the calculated verse-refrain juxtaposition in order to present a snappy snippet is insulting to everyone—poet, composer and audience.

 In order to form some idea of past vocal styles it seems to me valuable, it not essential, to familiarize oneself with the enormous variety of sounds that the human voice can produce, with the many highly sophisticated vocal techniques that are found in traditional musics throughout the world. It should be remembered that although a good voice may be the result of a fine technique, it can—and should—also have that indefinable quality to move the listener. And this quality need not necessarily spring from a flawless technique--indeed by its conviction it can often over-ride technique altogether.

As a warning against the belief that the expression of emotion in music is something universal, I'd like to refer to a Yugoslav folksong, sung by a woman accompanied by a bagpipe. The melody is beautiful and very moving—a lament, you would say. In fact it is a satirical song about women marrying young husbands.

I'm all too aware that I have touched rather lightly on the way in which old music should be played, stressing, rather, the reasons why virtually any modern attempt to perform medieval or renaissance music can be at best merely a more or less successful counterfeit—a sort of dud five-pound note, or in many cases a wooden dollar. Though perhaps some might prefer the word pastiche as sounding more optimistic. In recent years the emergence of the old-music virtuoso has done much to encourage the manufacture of counterfeit performing styles. One finds performer after performer adopting the same mannerisms, mannerisms based on no known historical practice, but merely in imitation of a hero's personal idiosyncrasies.

Performing old music as I do, I continually find myself questioning my motives. They are certainly difficult to justify, but I think the reasons, for what they are worth, are twofold. First, my concern with the music is so obsessive that when I am working I can believe that it really is possible to produce a performance that will have all the excitement of the real thing—a conviction that can sometimes even persist throughout the course of a concert. It is so easy to hear the ideal in one's head rather than the disappointing actuality in the concert hall. But reflection leads inevitably to disillusionment and, consequently, I'm afraid I rarely listen to gramophone records of old music, my own or anyone else's. For me, recordings that give pleasure are those of musicians performing with confidence in a style they were born to.

The second is the reason that one reads the classics, looks at paintings and sculpture, attends the theatre: in this way we can share—though in a limited manner—the feelings, emotions and ideas of men of other ages and other civilizations. But we must never forget that in any age the artist is addressing himself to his contemporaries, and his language is composed of a system of familiar conventions—musical, visual or literary. If we don't or can't learn these languages, the conventions will be as meaningless to us as the hand gestures of an Indian dancer are to the average western audience.

We must attempt to approach the arts of the past from the inside or at least from a sense of familiarity, difficult to achieve in 20th-century Europe. This is, alas, the age of the found object, rather than the created object—an attitude towards art uneasily trans-planted from ancient Japanese tradition into the world of Madison Avenue, where it takes its place in a neat and profitable package that uneasily combines Zen-without-tears with health food guaranteed to make you thin, pale, weak but spiritual. I suspect that we are living in an age of cultural parasites, an age that includes early music bores such as myself.

What then about all these first modern really authentic performances proclaimed by the record companies and so many concert handbills? Nonsense. All this means is an `imaginative reconstruction', 1970s style, featuring a few novelties that are the per-former's interpretation of the translator's idea of what some 16th-century writer was attempting—usually unsuccessfully—to describe. This is not authenticity. Authenticity can only mean the real thing; and no modern performance of any music of the past can sustain such a claim, any more than a bunch of European enthusiasts, however knowledgeable and skilled, would be capable of giving an authentic performance of an Indian raga. Use of the word Indian. like medieval, renaissance and baroque, constitutes an automatic disqualification.

As well as a convenient catchpenny commercial label. I suspect that. for the devotee of what is now termed 'earl,/ music', the word 'authenticity' has acquired a special meaning, a meaning less precise—less rigid, perhaps—than that given in the OED, but nevertheless one that successfully defines a musical quality, the presence or absence of which is instantly apparent to the early music initiate. To the general public, however, this usage can often be both confusing and misleading; rather as the casual mention of nakers, which would leave an early music percussion player unperturbed, might cause a raised eyebrow or two in less esoteric circles.

The early music vogue has added a third class of concert-goer to the London musical world. The traditional light/serious music distinction has now been superseded by pop/serious/early music. One result of the emergence and popularity of the early music scene is the serious effect on the romantic violinist or pianist who, until quite recently, regarded the music of the 18th century as an important part of his repertory. Many players who felt this music to be their special province now find that the vogue for `historically correct' instruments and instrumental styles for baroque music is no longer merely the whim of a few old music cranks, but is increasingly becoming accepted—indeed, insisted upon—by audience and critic alike. Unless he is prepared to risk public ridicule or is fortunate to have a name and reputation that will shield him from criticism, the traditionally trained violinist must renounce his favourite Handel sonatas, the pianist the keyboard works of Bach and Scarlatti.

For the early music man this is, of course, victory: virtue has triumphed. But is this really so? Is there not a place for both styles of performance? Furthermore, how much resemblance does modern baroque bear to baroque baroque? Who knows?—or, rather, who really knows? If one had the option of listening to, say, a Handel concerto grosso performed in the really lush assured style generally admired in the 1930s and 40s, or a modern baroque reconstruction of the same work (in which the listener's attention may only too often be diverted from the music to the desperate concentration of players striving to reproduce accurately all the unfamiliar mannerisms—notatable and un-notatable—that their conductor has assured them constitute the real authentic baroque style) which performance would one choose to attend ?

Like those Handel violin sonatas and the Bach and Scarlatti keyboard pieces I referred to, many musical works have retained their popularity for generations and also retained their freshness in the face of changing fashions of performance. Yet, if' authenticity can only mean the style in which the music was conceived, and if there is only one valid style for each piece of music, it seems to me that we are in danger of condemning out of hand the sensibilities of a not in-considerable number of distinguished musicians and some hundreds of thousands of intelligent music lovers of the past—condemning them, moreover, tor their belief in the superiority of the fashions of their own time over all others: a delusion, certainly, but one that through the ages has been the prime inspiration for all the works of art.

It is well known that Italian and French music was greatly admired in Germany during the early years of the 16th century. It would be interesting to know exactly how conversant the average 16th-century German musician was with Italian and French styles of performance; surviving evidence suggests that what little information he possessed was often gravely misinterpreted. The poor devil just didn't know any better. So we are left with the interesting possibility that 16th-century Germany produced some of the earliest examples of unauthenticity in the performance of 16th-century music, a point worth considering and one, surely, with a certain relevance to the subject of authenticity.

 A neat problem is presented by the Roman de Fauvel. This is a long allegorical verse satire dating from the second decade of the 14th century. The manuscript contains a large number of musical interpolations or glosses on the text, some monophonic, some polyphonic, some evidently chosen for a fortuitous relevance to a particular episode in the poem, others specially composed to amplify the literary text. The Roman de Fauvel is not only an important and remark-able poem, it is also in effect a unique anthology of medieval music drawn from a period spanning 150 years. And although during this century and a half musical notation had undergone many changes, all the music in the Roman de Fauvel is written in the short-lived form of notation current at the time the manuscript was compiled. As this system, clearly, indicates certain rhythms that were impossible to represent in earlier notations, it would seem reasonable to suppose that all the pieces in this manuscript were intended to be performed in the style current during the early years of the 14th century, with no thought at all for antiquarian authenticity. It is interesting to observe that the notation has been further modernized by a later scribe, thus superimposing on the music yet another style of performance.

Two further questions about authenticity. First, supposing we could be totally familiar with all historical performing styles, how should we approach, for instance, an early work of Dufay ? 'Authenticity' insists that the music must be performed in the style of the time it was written. But would it not have been probable that many instrumentalists, even then. had been trained in a much earlier style of performance. and could well have been reluctant to acquire modishly new techniques? How would Dufay have wished to hear it ? His attitude to performance must surely have changed radically during the course of his life; so which is more authentic, the musical taste of the young Dufay or that of the mature composer?

Secondly and finally, one must realize that a considerable amount of surviving medieval music is found in manuscripts that were compiled many years after the death of the composer. From this one can only conclude that the music was still valued, was indeed probably still being performed; however, like the Roman de Fauvel, it seems most unlikely that these later performers would have considered employing archaic musical styles, styles that they almost certainly would have regarded with contempt. So, where does this leave us today? I really would like to know—and I have no doubt that somehow, somewhere, somebody will be only too anxious to explain to me how simple it all really is.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2017, 10:33:25 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1065 on: August 05, 2017, 10:39:46 AM »
Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity", Early Music, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1 April 1978, Pages 233–246

But in the case of medieval song—the monophonic works of the troubadours, trouveres and minne-singers, an impressive number of which have survived—the possibility of' reconstructing a performing style containing any element that might be familiar to a medieval listener is so remote as to be, in my opinion, not worth the attempt.

Not only not worth the attempt, but utterly useless --- anyone listening today is emphatically not a "medieval listener" but a "contemporary listener" for whom the medieval worldview and soundworld is utterly and completely alien, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. There is nobody alive today, nor will it ever be anybody alive in the future who does or will hear medieval music exactly as the people living the Middle Ages did. It is not enough that, say, Messe de Nostre-Dame be performed exactly as it was performed the first time (assuming such a thing is feasible)--- what is conspicuously missing is its first audience, that is, people with exactly the same mindset and worldview. In this respect, authenticity is a chimera.

I am reminded of an anecdote about the celebrated 19th century French actor Mounet-Sully. He was rehearsing the leading role in a historical play and one of the scenes involved his taking an oath, his right hand on "an old Bible". An ordinary Bible was presented to him. "The text says 'an old Bible', just give me an old Bible!", he shouted with his whole authority. After a while, he was given a 16th century Bible. To which he retorted "Back then, it was brand new!"

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

EDIT: If I'm not mistaken, this anecdote is cited in Igor Stravinsky's The Poetics of Music.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2017, 10:46:53 AM by Florestan »
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Offline North Star

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1066 on: August 05, 2017, 11:28:11 AM »
Not only not worth the attempt, but utterly useless --- anyone listening today is emphatically not a "medieval listener" but a "contemporary listener" for whom the medieval worldview and soundworld is utterly and completely alien, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. There is nobody alive today, nor will it ever be anybody alive in the future who does or will hear medieval music exactly as the people living the Middle Ages did. It is not enough that, say, Messe de Nostre-Dame be performed exactly as it was performed the first time (assuming such a thing is feasible)--- what is conspicuously missing is its first audience, that is, people with exactly the same mindset and worldview. In this respect, authenticity is a chimera.

I am reminded of an anecdote about the celebrated 19th century French actor Mounet-Sully. He was rehearsing the leading role in a historical play and one of the scenes involved his taking an oath, his right hand on "an old Bible". An ordinary Bible was presented to him. "The text says 'an old Bible', just give me an old Bible!", he shouted with his whole authority. After a while, he was given a 16th century Bible. To which he retorted "Back then, it was brand new!"

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

EDIT: If I'm not mistaken, this anecdote is cited in Igor Stravinsky's The Poetics of Music.

One is reminded of how dirt and layers of lacquer on an old painting - a Rembrandt, lets say - make it look very different than it originally did. While we are also very different from the people who ordered Rembrandt's paintings, I don't find it at all a strange suggestion to try and restore to them what is our best guess of their original condition.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1067 on: August 05, 2017, 11:34:18 AM »
One is reminded of how dirt and layers of lacquer on an old painting - a Rembrandt, lets say - make it look very different than it originally did. While we are also very different from the people who ordered Rembrandt's paintings, I don't find it at all a strange suggestion to try and restore to them what is our best guess of their original condition.

The analogy is tempting indeed, but ultimately false. There is a reason why they always say "what you see is what you get", but never "what you hear is what you get".    ;D :laugh:

"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe

Offline North Star

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1068 on: August 05, 2017, 11:43:04 AM »
The analogy is tempting indeed, but ultimately false. There is a reason why they always say "what you see is what you get", but never "what you hear is what you get".    ;D :laugh:
It's of course true that with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and other techniques it's possible to know every pigment used in a painting, every alteration done to it, and other things. And obviously there aren't quite as effective musicological tools, but there is evidence in the form of e.g. written documents, and instruments, that can offer plenty of hints on how the music sounded. That shouldn't necessarily limit modern interpretations, of course - but before altering a recipe, it's best to learn the original.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1069 on: August 05, 2017, 11:48:22 AM »
It's of course true that with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and other techniques it's possible to know every pigment used in a painting, every alteration done to it, and other things. And obviously there aren't quite as effective musicological tools, but there is evidence in the form of e.g. written documents, and instruments, that can offer plenty of hints on how the music sounded. That shouldn't necessarily limit modern interpretations, of course - but before altering a recipe, it's best to learn the original.

You Westerners / Northerners really do have big difficulties in grasping Eastern / Southern humor...  ;D

... but I still love you all!  :-*
"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe

Offline North Star

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1070 on: August 05, 2017, 12:46:59 PM »
You Westerners / Northerners really do have big difficulties in grasping Eastern / Southern humor...  ;D

... but I still love you all!  :-*
It's true, my mother's onions never elicit much of a reaction from me.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1071 on: August 06, 2017, 09:15:31 AM »
Not only not worth the attempt, but utterly useless --- anyone listening today is emphatically not a "medieval listener" but a "contemporary listener" for whom the medieval worldview and soundworld is utterly and completely alien, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.



Sure, what medieval people meant is inevitably opaque to me. But for me, understanding what a non-English speaker means is also full of  indeterminacy and inevitably guided by guesswork.  And maybe the same is true for understanding anyone -- even if you share a language in some sense and you're contemporaries.  It doesn't follow that understanding isn't possible, just that it's always open to revision.

This made me think of Willard Quine's work on the indeterminacy of translation in Word and Object and elsewhere.

Not only not worth the attempt, but utterly useless ---

I suddenly thought of the reconstruction of The Globe in London. I don't know if you know about it, it's basically a reconstruction of Shakespeare's theatre, and the company which works there were committed, at least at the start, to exploring original performance practice -- males taking women's parts, musical intervals etc. At first it gave rise to a huge creative energy, and I'm sure I don't just speak for myself I think when I say that what they did with Richard II  and The Tempest and Twelfth Night was unforgettable, a fabulous original creative event.

Similar things have happened in early music performance. One example is in Machaut. The presentation of the mass with the propers of the  mass chanted  changes the experience, and I think it is very stimulating to hear it like that. Another is using proper harpsichord and organs to play on, with proper ornaments etc -- I'm thinking of Leonhardt really.

So no, I don't agree with Morrow that it's "not worth the attempt" or with you that it's "utterly useless." 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2017, 09:19:47 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1072 on: August 06, 2017, 09:35:52 AM »
I think I formulated it in an obscure way. What is useless is not the attempt at performing it "the way it was performed back then", a legitimate and interesting endeavor, but the hope or belief that this will made it be received the way it was received back then. We might have a "genuinely medieval" performance but we will never have a "genuinely medieval" audience.
"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1073 on: August 06, 2017, 09:46:21 AM »
I think I formulated it in an obscure way. What is useless is not the attempt at performing it "the way it was performed back then", a legitimate and interesting endeavor, but the hope or belief that this will made it be received the way it was received back then. We might have a "genuinely medieval" performance but we will never have a "genuinely medieval" audience.

I think it's a really interesting thought, and in a way I wish I had more time and a better context to explore it. I'm sure that you're right, and that the role of the listener is really important to understanding what goes on in interpretation, people don't think about it enough. It's a big big area.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1074 on: August 06, 2017, 11:12:07 PM »
This is Taruskin on Gesualdo in The Oxford History of western Music. He's discussing the idea that the invention of “an imaginary, heroic history of visionary prophets” (Lasso → Gesualdo → Wagner → Stravinsky, or something of the sort) and has obscured rather than illuminated the actual historical and cultural conditions that
nourished their various activities."

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There is little to be gained in complaining that the disproportionate interest we now take in Gesualdo’s chromatic madrigals, at the expense of his sacred music or his
instrumental dances or any other less spectacular side of his output, is “a mistaken overemphasis,” as Bianconi so
challengingly puts it.16 Our modern (mis)understandings of the past are not mistakes but the products of changed
historical conditions. We value in Gesualdo something his contemporaries could not have valued, because we know
what they (and he) did not—namely, their future, which is now our past. That knowledge can hardly be erased from
our consciousness. So what interests us now bespeaks our condition and no one else’s. No amount of historical learning can replace new
understanding with old understanding. All one can hope to do is add depth and detail to our misunderstanding. (That
is where the sacred music and the instrumental music can usefully fit into even the most biased modern appreciation of Gesualdo. If that seems a paradoxical thing to say, that has been precisely the intention.)
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1075 on: August 07, 2017, 05:35:32 AM »
This is Taruskin on Gesualdo in The Oxford History of western Music. He's discussing the idea that the invention of “an imaginary, heroic history of visionary prophets” (Lasso → Gesualdo → Wagner → Stravinsky, or something of the sort) and has obscured rather than illuminated the actual historical and cultural conditions that
nourished their various activities."

Taruskin is always saying things like that in the Oxford History.  He slaughters sacred cows with glee, as long as they don't fit his favored narrative (he is fond of Tchaikovsky and Britten, apparently).  I don't think that Stravinsky, for example, loved Gesualdo's madrigals when he discovered them through Craft because they reminded him of himself, much less of Wagner.
"l do not consider my music as atonal, but rather as non-tonal. I feel the unity of all keys. Atonal music by modern composers admits of no key at all, no feeling of any definite center." - Arnold Schoenberg

Offline San Antone

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1076 on: August 10, 2017, 01:30:59 AM »
Re: Authenticity in Early Music Performance

It is an enjoyable but impossible quest since there is simply too much missing information.  Taruskin's point is valid, imo, i.e. the performance practices, especially the HIP kind, reflect not the authentic early period sound but our own modern taste.  Sure we can use replicas of old instruments and learn all we can about the period and what was done, but in the final analysis there is no guarantee that what we produce sounds anything like what was heard in the 16th century.  But it doesn't matter - we still make wonderful music with what we have available.

The analogy made to cleaning a Rembrandt painting is false, since we have the actual work under the dirt and merely need to clean it to restore it back to what Rembrandt made.  This is not the case with early music since all we have are indeterminate scores with little knowledge about how they were interpreted.

Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1077 on: August 10, 2017, 04:06:28 AM »
"this is MY music, here's how you NEED to play it"

Nothing could be more α | ì Æ ñ to the medieval mentality than this individualism.  ;D

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So then you are left trying to decide HIP or no HIP  :(

I have decided long ago: I couldn't care less if it's HIP or non HIP; if I like it, it's good.  :laugh:
"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe

Offline North Star

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1078 on: August 10, 2017, 04:18:02 AM »
I have decided long ago: I couldn't care less if it's HIP or non HIP; if I like it, it's good.  :laugh:
My mentality is the complete opposite of this: if it's good, I like it.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Early Music Club (EMC)
« Reply #1079 on: August 10, 2017, 04:30:57 AM »
My mentality is the complete opposite of this: if it's good, I like it.

How do you know it's good?  :)
"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe