Skip to content

Saturday morning quotes 8.25: Points of interest

Our readers know we have a unique point of view that offers an alternative to the usual story promoted from inside the echo chamber of early music enthusiasts. Since we are independent and have no commercial nor institutional obligations, we can point out the obvious without worrying about offending gatekeepers or risking funding that was never going to come our way in the first place. But as thinking persons, we diligently take the time to inform ourselves without prejudice as to the source from within or without the commercial-institutional early music complex.

An essential source of information is Timothy McGee’s book, The Sound of Medieval Song: Ornamentation and Vocal Style according to the Treatises, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998.

“The primary goal of this book is the presentation to the scholarly world of an aspect of medieval music that is often ignored because it cannot be seen on the page…Although several excellent ensembles have been ornamenting medieval music for some time, following some of the theoretical information included here, most have not. The modern classically trained voice cannot be used as a model for the vocal sound, and the practice of performing exactly what is on the page—no matter how beautifully it is done—is simply incorrect as a reconstruction of the sounds of the past.
– p. viii

“It is incorrect to view the surviving written versions of much of the medieval repertory as dogmatic texts that were intended to be reproduced exactly as written. In performance each composition became a living creation precisely because the performer took on some of the role of a composer, adjusting each composition in a personal way. Many of the compositions preserved in manuscripts are either outlines to be filled in by the performer or records of an ornamental elaboration invented by a particular performer.”
– p. 4

Moving to another point, an incidental reality check with the status of the world of early music reveals what many of us knew all along: It is impossible to make a living as a professional musician specializing in early music without 1) commercial or institutional sponsorship, 2) a trust fund, 3) absolute dedication, and 4) flexibility. Since we have never come close to 1) and have not even the faintest trace of 2), we have rewarded our surfeit of 3) by embracing 4).

Having spent the better part of 18 years as a duo specializing in historical music for voice and lute, we can say without reservation it ain’t easy. When we hear rumors of young players giving up for good because early music is not commercially viable, we can only say welcome to the club. The age of a viable career in early music is thing of the past. Those who “made it” in the last decades of the 20th century were able to snatch that brass ring as the carousel made its circuit, and many of those players just trousered the brass ring as they continue to perform to this day instead of stepping back and allowing a new generation the opportunities they experienced themselves so long ago. Today, to be a dedicated performer of early music is to take a vow of poverty.

The entire music world has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and early music has morphed from a cultish corner of the classical music market, to a brand in its own right. The real problems emerged when promoters aggressively over-commercialized the early music brand, forsaking the traditional dedicated audience who had an alternative bent and instead pandering to the well-heeled moneyed interests who can and will drop sacks of cash just for the philanthropic thrill of barely-earned prestige as visible patrons of the arts. In the absence of an audience of true believers, the effect of early music is instead gauged by flashy presentations and sideshows rather than whether the substance of the music can cause listeners to feel something, or whether it can bring a tear to the eye.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but another nail in the coffin for professional performers has been the aggressive participation of amateurs possessing large bankrolls, ample collections of expensive instruments, and oversized narcissistic personalities that fuel their desire to draw the public eye. As we have pointed out in these pages, amateurs have every right to share their music with their families and friends, but they should not elbow their way into the world of public performance—it only interferes with professional standards and degrades the public’s perception of musical quality.

“Yea, so that thou haue any skill in [playing the lute] be not ashamed at the request of honest friends to shew thy cunning: but if thou chancest to get an habit of perfection, prophane not the Goddesse, with making thy selfe cheape for a sleight gaine.”

– John Dowland, Varietie of Lvte-lessons, 1610 (after Besard, 1603).

“The dilettante and the amateur should, as a rule, stay out of paid positions, or at least they should not work gratuitously in those which should yield pay: and in those few cases where it seems fair and desirable for them to do any public work at salary they should stubbornly maintain a price and conditions which will aid professionals to hold the same ground.”

– Charles E. Watt, “A Square Deal for the Music Teacher: Let Us Have a Better Financial Status for the Professional Musician,” The Etude, Vol. 39, September 1921, p. 561.

We have reached the point where advancement of technology has undermined the very substance of art. The result is that self-promoting individuals can spend buckets of money employing technology in order to create an illusion of art, and thus technology has become the pointless end, rather than the means, by which both the quality and the substance of art has been utterly pixelated into meaningless data points.

And yet here we are and here we remain, adhering to the old ways that point toward the past.

Saturday morning quotes 8.24 Doulce Mémoire album release

Events of the past 18 months have put a universal damper on concert activities for musicians of all types, and early music specialists, with our narrow and mostly mature audiences, have been particularly hard-hit by limited performance opportunities, a situation made more difficult by a general confused message from leadership with rules that appear to change hourly. Many performers have turned to creating video productions of concerts, taking live performance several steps in a different direction from the concert experience we know and love. Not satisfied with the always imperfect environment of a live concert, and impatient with the static view of the performers typically offered to the audience, performers with deep pockets are going full Hollywood to present fanciful interpretations of old music that are yet another remove from reality, complete with fanciful visual effects. As usual, we choose a different path.

“Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), Self-Reliance, 1841

Like many other industrious souls, we reacted to the lockdown and loss of performing opportunities by directing our efforts towards projects that were awaiting the proper time and focus: We chose to put our energy into completing several recording projects that have been languishing on the shelf for some time. Despite the ever-rising cost of recording and the uniformly diminishing revenues from streaming (in the year 2020 Spotify paid artists an average of $0.0032 per stream), today we release the fourth in our in tempus pestis series of albums with Doulce Mémoire.

Our very first full-length CD, Divine Amarillis, featured a collection of French airs de cour, and over the years we have occasionally revisited and expanded upon our catalogue of this wonderful repertory. Those familiar with early music apply the term air de cour to the ample series published between 1608 and 1632; fifteen volumes of Airs de différents autheurs avec la tablature de luth that presented popular airs extracted from courtly entertainments arranged for solo voice accompanied by the lute. But the term first appeared much earlier in a publication by Adrian Le Roy, Airs de cour miz sur le luth, published in 1571.

Adrian Le Roy (c.1520 – 1598) was well-connected at court and had familiar conference with preeminent poets like Ronsard and celebrated composers including Lassus. Using his connections to good advantage, Le Roy procured a royal patent to publish music beginning in 1551, in partnership with his cousin Robert Ballard (c.1527 – 1588), producing a large output of high-quality music editions over the span of fifty years. At court, Le Roy was in a position to have an unusually influential role in promoting music and determining popular taste: performing certain music for Charles IX at times resulted in a royal command to publish what delighted the ears of the king.

Le Roy’s music for solo lute demonstrates the direct influence of Albert de Rippe (c. 1500 – 1551), displaying much rhythmic vitality and ample use of arpeggiation technique applied in a manner that implies a polyphonic interpretation. What eventually became a characteristic French style of lute-playing employed a subtle interpretive technique that highlights and accentuates the strands of polyphony in a way particular to the character and resources of the lute. This arpeggiated style was later called style brisé, a term concocted by 20th-century musicologists to describe broken chordal technique, but the term has no historical precedent.

History is selective, and Le Roy’s important role in establishing what was to become an immensely popular musical form is little acknowledged today, and most modern recordings of this repertory present the later series of airs published by the descendants of Le Roy and Ballard. Hoping to redress this imbalance, Doulce Mémoire probes the earlier examples of airs de cour by Le Roy before moving chronologically and stylistically to the more familiar airs by composers Boësset, Guédron, and Moulinié.

You might well ask: what relevance does a chanson first published in 1537 have in a program of proto-baroque airs de cour? The lasting popularity of “Doulce Mémoire” is demonstrated by the appearance of an instrumental arrangement of the piece found nearly a century after its earliest mention, in an English manuscript collection of music for viols written in the hand of William Lawes (1602 – 1645).

Doulce Mémoire”, the title track of this album, opens the gate to a sampling of early airs de cour by Adrian Le Roy and moves forward chronologically and stylistically to music of a few decades later—to what is essentially music of the early baroque. The recording is aptly named to celebrate the sweet memories of 18 years as a duo dedicated to music for voice and lute, and we share the results of our work with this album now and look forward to sharing others that are still in preparation.

Interpretation

In performing 16th-century French music it is difficult to overlook the degree to which dance forms combine so perfectly with poetry to form the backbone of this appealing repertory. The dominance of dance forms should be no surprise to the cognoscenti who understand that the magic in much of historical music arises from shapely phrasing, a firm bass, and a steady pulse.

In many of the airs on our recording, the essential pulse and intricate dance rhythms must support poetry that describes anxiety and despair, and so must be interpreted without crossing the line and cancelling the emotional content of the piece. If the pulse is overly languid, the essential energy of speech rhythm is lost. If the pulse is overly quick, it trivializes the meaning of the words. In any song based upon a dance tune, rhythmic vitality is an essential underpinning and the expected steady pulse only adds substance to the emotional depth of the poetry.

We have taken particular care in presenting the music in an intimate atmosphere that honors original domestic performance parameters of our chosen repertory. Over the past few years we have produced four CDs of mostly sacred repertory recorded live in spacious churches, and that music seems appropriate in its proper context. But historical repertory that was always sung in intimate spaces deserves a more intimate sound. In the studio, we were able to record in a naturally live space with a close microphone placement for both voice and lute, conveying the warmth of texts and music, but close microphone placement is an act of bravery that exposes each breath and every movement of the fingers.

There is a very good reason most early music recordings involving voice and lute have an overly-spacious “cathedral” sound despite the character and intent of the music—it is mostly to insulate the performers from the inevitable exposure of their human imperfections when magnified under what amounts to an aural microscope. But despite the hazards we feel that close microphone placement in a naturally live space conveys the actual warmth of sound heard in a small chamber, bringing the listener closer to the original historical experience of the music.

We are seeing an abundance of (pandemic?) lute videos of late that are obviously recorded in bedrooms and kitchens, as is probably historically-appropriate and proper, but the recorded sound is usually as reverberant as though it were recorded inside the Taj Mahal. That is not what the lute sounds like. One is reminded of an old Gramophone review of a certain prolific lutenist where the sound was described as a “psycho-acoustic nightmare—close up and far away at the same time.” We are well aware that we are pushing back at the modern conventions of the “early music sound” but, as usual, we are trend-setters and we feel it is time the excess is tempered a bit if we are to successfully introduce early music to a young and discerning audience who is more savvy than you might think. While we respect as a conscious choice the interpretations by our peers following the modern conventions of today’s early music aesthetic, after studying the sources and absorbing the context of the original music we are secure in the understanding that our interpretations are historically-appropriate.

It is a well-established fact that the vocal quality of singers circa 1600 was nothing like that of our modern singers typically indulging in bel canto style, affecting what is actually a Victorian approach to vocal projection and diction. The historical sources are very clear on the matter: outside of the cathedral or the theater, a natural voice was preferred by and expected from singers circa 1600, and the flexibility of a natural voice facilitates examples of historical ornamentation, as demonstrated in our rendering of an air by Antoine Boësset (1586 – 1643).

Boësset’s “N’espérez plus mes yeux” is an air that lives on in popularity today among early music performers, probably due to its simple form and melancholy character. In 1636, Marin Mersenne (1588 – 1648) included the air in his book, Harmonie Universelle, as an example of how different singers might improvise ornamented divisions to a popular song. It is from this source we draw the ornamented second and third verses of the air for our recording. Beginning with Boësset’s air for voice and lute published by Ballard in 1643, Mersenne supplied a species of ornaments he labeled port de voix (not just the appoggiatura as known in 18th century terminology) as composed by Etienne Moulinié and Henry Le Bailly, (c. 1580 – 1637), to which we add a few of our own.

Our new album Doulce Mémoire presents a unique point of view on French music that was current during a time of great upheaval and dramatic change. This was a time of the French wars of religion and the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre; this was a time when musique mesurée was supplanting the polyphonic chanson and, inspired by Italian trends in music, creating a new type of solo song with lute accompaniment.

A particular feature of our album is a newly-recorded version of Mignonne allons voir si la rose, where we illustrate conventional 16th-century performance practice in harmonizing an orphan melody. We chose to include an updated version as the first track in honor of our award-winning first CD released 15 years ago.

We include a video below with a pastiche of a few of our favorites, and we offer expanded album notes with all song texts & English translations, available on our website. We hope the music offers a bit of solace in these distracted times.

Saturday morning quotes 8.23: Dead Josquin

josquin-des-pres-circa-1440-1521-engraved-from-a-work-in-st-gudule-cathedral-brussels

Persons peripherally associated with early music will no doubt be inundated this weekend with tributes to the famous composer, Josquin des Prez (c. 1440 – 1521). Although it might seem a bit ghoulish to indulge in general jollifications to celebrate a person’s demise, on the 500th anniversary of his death we are compelled add our unique take on Josquin, his music and what it means to us as early music specialists with a deep-rooted concentration in sacred polyphony.

Many apocryphal legends about Josquin have emerged over the 500 years since his passing, but we must make do with scant factual information about the life of the man responsible for such deeply moving and enduring music. Even the woodcut from Petrus Opmeer’s Opus chronographicum (Antwerp, 1611) may or may not represent the human face of Josquin. Like this illustration, the substance of the legend of Josquin was formed and disseminated many years after his death, and in the presence of so much speculation, we are happily compelled instead to turn our focus to the fruit of his labors, the music itself.

Josquin’s early career began, as with all composers of the era, as a singer employed to provide music for daily worship in the chapels of affluent patrons. With an estimated birth date of 1440, Josquin may even have been composing as early as the 1460s. In The Rise of European Music, 1380-1500 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1993), Reinhard Strohm reveals that Josquin was part of a cadre of composers employed at the chapel of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan, a team that included Weerbeke, Compère, Agricola and Martini.  With this sort of inspiring company, it is not difficult to see how Josquin’s mastery of form and style was fully developed by the time Ottaviano Petrucci fired up his printing press, the monumental event that cemented the enduring reputation of the composer.

“The relatively small number of sources for Josquin’s music and the sparse biographical evidence of his stature before about 1500 make it seem almost as though he were catapulted to fame at the turn of the sixteenth century. Indeed, Jessie Ann Owens has argued persuasively that Josquin really only “became Josquin” with the advent of music printing and Petrucci’s subsequent publication of three books of Josquin masses in 1502,1505, and 1514. Regardless of when these masses were composed—at least one dates from no later than 1494—there is little evidence of their impact before Petrucci.”

– Jesse Rodin, “When Josquin Became Josquin”, Acta Musicologica, [Vol.] 81, [Fasc.] 1 (2009), pp. 23-38

There is scant evidence of Josquin and his work prior to Petrucci’s innovations in moveable type at the printing press.  The earliest source of Josquin’s music is a manuscript from the Leopold Codex, copied circa 1476, that contains a setting of the famous Ave Maria…virgo serena. Another early source is found in Obrecht’s Missa Plurimorum Caminum I, composed c. 1487; the Et resurrexit of the Credo movement is clearly based on the tenor of ]osquin’s chanson, “Adieu mes amours.”

Josquin produced a respectable catalogue of secular works, with 20 or so appearing in Petrucci’s early prints. But secure attribution of these pieces aside, Petrucci did not include texts for the secular chansons, and the question remains whether these pieces were meant to be sung or played instrumentally. There is also the fact that, for Josquin, the sacred and the secular were not so far removed. Several of his masses and motets were composed on melodic themes drawn from what we consider today secular chansons, and several of his secular chansons are peppered with bits of recognizable chant as sacred canti firmi. An example is the chanson “Que vous ma dame” that is built upon the chant, In pace in idipsum.

Once more, we see an example of the historical integration of sacred and secular music, which seems to be confusing to both musicians and appreciative listeners today. We see both performers and audiences extracting Josquin’s music from its context and assigning the repertory a comfortably numb “Zen” quality that tactfully avoids the depth of Josquin’s faith. How do we embrace the music today?

“For whom do the singers sing? This is not a question that is asked very often, and it is probably one that singers themselves rarely think about. If it is chant, the easy answer would be ‘for the glory of God’. Often the answer will be that the singers sing for themselves, for the sheer love of singing. Sometimes it is just a job: they sing for their supper. The question becomes more pressing in the case of sacred music: do the words matter to the singer? Is it necessary to be a believer in order to sing a confession of faith, as we must do when we sing the Ordinary of the Mass? Of course the answer, for many people, is ‘No’. Yet I suspect that many will sing what they might not be willing to say.”

– Bonnie J. Blackburn,”For Whom Do the Singers Sing?” Early Music, Vol. 25, No. 4, 25th Anniversary Issue; Listening Practice (Nov., 1997), p. 594.

 The result of decontexualizing Josquin’s music is that, in many performances, the depth of emotion has just gone missing. This is acutely observable in the (mostly historical) instrumental arrangements of Josquin’s music, sacred or secular. Mainly what is missing is a sense of line that Josquin so lovingly wove together into strands of polyphony. And also missing is the understanding vocalist’s essential sense of pulse that ties the polyphony together—foregone in favor of a flurry of notes.

How did we get to this point with Josquin’s music? How is it possible that we can collectively get the man and his music so wrong? It seems that his posthumous reputation as a towering genius in the model of the 19th-century Romantic composer is what done him in.

“In this postmodern era, the ubiquitous phenomenon of genius has become inefficacious, arguably pernicious, and so invested with hyperbole as to render it an almost meaningless category of thought. Do we really want to saddle Josquin (or any other artist) with a label so intellectually bankrupt that it is now more often linked in the popular imagination with gridiron celebrity than with astonishing creative achievement? If seeing Josquin as a “genius” means eradicating all signs of History—of his own musical and cultural past—and regarding him as some infallible, timeless, mythical force of Nature; if it means imposing ahistorical standards of perfection on pieces historically attributed to him; if it means perpetuating in eternam the current fetish with authentication studies and thereby consigning some of the most breathtaking music ever written to the dustbin; if it means misappropriating “Josquin” in the commodification of stereotypes of gender, race, class, and sexuality, then for the sake of the disservice it does to the historical body of musical texts surviving under his name, I would not only deny but, more importantly, spare him the ignominy of genius status.”

– Paula Higgins, “The Apotheosis of Josquin des Prez and Other Mythologies of Musical Genius”, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Fall 2004), p. 493.

Josquin lived four score years and died on 27th August 1521 in Condé-sur-l’Escaut. Possessing a highly-developed sense of self-worth and good business acumen during his long career, Josquin accumulated a bit of wealth and so had the means to establish an endowment to finance the performance of his six-voice setting of the Pater noster and Ave Maria during feast day processions that passed his house, terminating at the town’s marketplace altar to the Virgin Mary where a communion wafer was to be placed. This was not the act of an agnostic.

We celebrate the general noticing of Josquin and his music with a few clips of some of our favorites.


Adieu mes amours

Comment peult avoir joye

Que vous ma dame / In pace in idipsum

Stabat Mater dolorosa

Saturday morning quotes 8.22: Song & Dance

As we put the finishing touches on our latest recording of French airs de cour it is difficult to overlook the degree to which dance forms combine so perfectly with poetry to form the backbone of this appealing repertory. The dominance of dance forms should be no surprise to the cognoscenti who understand that the magic in much of historical music arises from shapely phrasing, a firm bass, and a steady pulse. What is surprising is the pan-European nature of both poetical themes and dance forms. In this post we examine one example.

“Mes pas semez” is from Adrian Le Roy’s 1556 Second livre de guiterre for renaissance guitar, and is labeled “Chanson a plaisir” as a page heading. Based on other examples of Le Roy’s work, both the poetry and the music were likely purloined from Italian examples, this time employing the Cara cosa ground, a variant of the popular and enduring La Folia.

“The folia is thought to have originated either in Spain or Portugal; it was certainly very popular in Spain, whence it spread to France, where it became known as the ‘ Folie d’Espagne’.”

“The folia has numerous variants, the type known as ‘La gamba’ or the ‘Cara cosa’ being at once the most popular and the kind most frequently found in the English manuscript sources.”


– Ivy L. Mumford, “Musical Settings to the Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt”, Music & Letters , Oct., 1956, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct., 1956), p. 320.

The poetry to “Mes pas semez” is distinctly Petrarchian in form, and the content of poem appears to be a direct adaptation of Petrarch’s “O passi sparsi” set to music by Italian Sebastiano Festa (c. 1490 – 1524). Festa’s setting is perhaps best known in an intabulation for lute by Le Roy’s mentor, Italian Alberto da Ripa (c. 1500 – 1551). As Mumford describes in the quote above, Italian poetical forms were copied by English poets of the mid-sixteenth century, and it was common practice to set poetry to Italian grounds such as the Cara cosa/La folia. This was also true in France, where Italian musical forms were embraced and employed to accompany the unparalleled elegance of French poetry. Interestingly, Le Roy later recycled a close variant of the tune for “Mes pas semez” as the melody for the chanson “J’aymerey mieux dormir seulette”, which was in turn adapted by Thoinot Arbeau to serve as dance music for a particular galliard, the choreography published in 1588-89 in Arbeau’s collection of dances, Orchésographie, 1589, English translation by Mary Stewart Evans, with Introduction and Notes by Julia Sutton, Dover Publications, New York, 1967.

It is a fascinating diversion to delve into the manifold and minute details of movements common to historical dance, and the galliard was one of the more complex dances. Galliards frequently mixed meters, and dancers developed a series of moves that were synchronized with specific dances to accommodate time changes. One series of steps encountered in the galliard at a point of time change is called the fleuret, and in her commentary to Arbeau’s Orchesographie (1588), Julia Sutton described the effect:

“By superimposing two-beat patterns on music organized into three-beat musical groupings, the fleurets create interesting cross accents.”

– Sutton, Orchesographie, p. 222.

As described by Mumford above, variants of Cara cosa ground appear in mid-16th century English manuscripts demonstrating the English taste for Continental music. Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “Blame not my lute” does not survive in a 16th-century print, but the title is found attached to a setting for lute in the Folger Library MS V.a.159, as detailed by John Ward in Music for Elizabethan Lutes, Clarendon / Oxford University Press, 1992. The musical setting for the poem is basically the Cara cosa ground and bears points of similarity with “Mes pas semez” as set by Le Roy.

“Mes pas semez” presents a challenge in performance: The essential pulse and intricate dance rhythms must support poetry that describes anxiety and despair, but without crossing the line and cancelling the emotional content of the piece. If the pulse is overly languid, the essential energy of speech rhythm is lost. If the pulse is overly quick, it trivializes the meaning of the words. Our performance follows 16th-century practice and adapts Le Roy’s version for four-course guitar (ukulele, basically) to the lute, complementing the sparse arrangement with a fuller lower register and adding an appealing bass line. As with any dance tune, rhythmic vitality is essential but also adds substance to the emotional depth of the poetry.

Our performance of “Mes pas semez” appears on our new recording scheduled for release in September. Watch for it.



Saturday morning quotes 8.21: More on Context

Our last post posed contrasting points of view concerning musical performance, highlighting musical content versus performances that attempt to place music in its context. For obvious reasons, musical content is and should be the performer’s primary focus when offering obscure, unique or unfamiliar music to an audience. But placing music in its historical context can be an effective way of benevolently guiding or influencing the listeners’ experience of a concert—or contrariwise it can be an excuse for performers to indulge in a narcissistic circus side-show.

As early music specialists, we have presented many lecture-recitals in academic settings across the US, replete with visual materials employed to add context or to reinforce an important point. And as performers we have occasionally dabbled in providing visual materials to illustrate the links between art, politics, religion, literature, poetry and music. But where do we draw the line between concerts that present thoughtful, informed interpretations of intimate historical music, or performances that seem more like a day at the circus? At what point do performers cross the line and put more energy into creating a visual spectacle than they put into refining and presenting convincing interpretations of music informed by diligent research into historical context? And at what point are performers simply inventing a cool but entirely unhistorical visual spectacle just because it’s fun to put on a show?

“…What we call historical performance is the sound of now, not then. It derives its authenticity not from its historical verisimilitude, but from its being for better or worse a true mirror of late-20th-century taste…So forget history. What Early Music has been doing is busily remaking the music of the past in the image of the present (necessary because we unfortunately have so little use for the actual music of the present), only calling the present by some other name.”

Richard Taruskin,“The Spin Doctors of Early Music,” New York Times, July 29, 1990

“…I think most historians would doubt that medieval Europe was in the thrall of a half-dozen professional touring ensembles, each consisting of a handful of attractive, literate and well-nourished men and women in their 30’s and 40’s, with all their teeth intact.”

– Benjamin Bagby, “What is the Sound of Medieval Song?

“For performances of historical music to be convincing in the present – for them to create an aura of authenticity, historical or otherwise, for both performers and audiences – the sounds and styles used must be perceived as timeless.”

– Elizabeth Upton, “Concepts of Authenticity in Early Music and Popular Music Communities”, Ethnomusicology Review, Volume 17 (2012)

“…Few audiences share the emotional or theological associations that period audiences felt toward specific texts, chorales, or plainchant melodies. This is an example of another broad argument for impossibility, involving reception, which says that composers wrote for audiences whose experiences not only of music but also of much that music refers to differed from those of our time.”

“One [motive for performing historical music] is competition for attention and status in a field that is increasingly crowded. If great performers have already fully explored the mainstream style and repertory, one way to make one’s mark is to stake out new and unconquered musical territory either in repertory or in performance style.”

“Some of today’s most distinguished historical performers agree that their own work will someday appear to reflect the tastes of our time rather than of the historical eras being reconstructed.”

– Bernard D. Sherman, “Authenticity in Musical Performance

While we enjoy a good show from time to time, our philosophical approach and our entire mode of musical performance is based upon the act of drawing our audience into a sound-world that we as performers create; a sound-world that is based upon our own thoughtful and thorough research into the original context of historical music. We don’t present a spectacle laying out the materials of our research as a distraction to our audiences, rather we present the interpretive results of our research through effective performances of our music.

We are keenly aware that ancient musicians who originally performed our chosen repertory lived balanced lives that integrated a strong spiritual element. That spiritual element is not only conspicuously absent today but is often ridiculed by modern performers themselves as they attempt to cover their contempt for the mores of the past with fanciful big-screen illustrations of knights, damsels and unicorns; images more informed by nineteenth-century romanticism than by a broad and deep understanding and acceptance of the actual context of the ancient past. Sadly, many of these modern performers hold academic positions that allow them a privileged platform from which to impart this insufficiently-informed approach to impressionable students. And woe betide the thinking person who dares to question the received approach in academe. It’s no wonder there is such universal diminishing trust in our institutions today, where messaging is primary and content is rendered inconsequential.

“[In academia] we’re dealing with the word of fragile human beings who have their own egos and their own careers to pursue, and who may pursue mistaken lines. And, unfortunately, these are the people we have entrusted with interpreting our past to us, and if they’ve got our past wrong, then it’s only us, through our own actions, who are going to perhaps put it right.”

Graham Hancock

Saturday morning quotes 8.20: Context v. Content

As dedicated performers of historical music, we occasionally mention the importance of contextual details that inform our understanding of song texts and their music, and we are firm in the belief that these details lead to engaged interpretations of musical treasures that have for centuries occupied a silent library shelf. But we want to emphasize that not for a moment do we place context above the musical and literary content of a song.

The case for content

“Can anyone imagine, say, the discovery of a likely model for a play by Shakespeare or Jonson resulting in a discussion devoted entirely to peripheral matters such as date of composition and first performance, method and venue of production, actors, patrons, audience and so on, without a single word being exchanged on the question of content?”

“Ah, but hasn’t musicology usually focused on historical, cultural and textual matters? I fear it has, increasingly so: to the sad extent that, for all the vitality of the early music scene, what we do in a scholarly way seems intellectually suspect to many observers outside music, and the way we go about performing earns (and frequently deserves) the contempt of musicians. ”


– Philip Brett, “Facing the music,” Early Music, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jul., 1982), pp. 347-350

The case for context

“But contextual factors do figure prominently in many other arguments against the possibility of authenticity. For example, one type of argument points to differences between modern and period experience in such realms as economics, politics, religion, and science; it argues (sometimes plausibly, sometimes not) that such factors affect how we play and hear music. Another contextual barrier to true historical re-creation is that our contexts of performance and listening—CDs, radios, and concert halls—are usually quite different from those of the past, such as feasts, church services, and salons. Such contexts affect the nature of performance; one plays differently for one’s private edification in a music room than for critics in Carnegie Hall…Also, the advent of recordings increased audiences’ demands for technical perfection, as well as performers’ concerns with literalness, rhythmic precision, ensemble, and accuracy…; it may be impossible for artists raised in the era of recordings to ever be as comfortable with the approximate as their historical forebears were.”

“Some of today’s most distinguished historical performers agree that their own work will someday appear to reflect the tastes of our time rather than of the historical eras being reconstructed. Perhaps the very concern with historical verisimilitude will appear a peculiarity of our time. On the other hand, some of the historical performers’ work might well be considered to have improved the performance of some repertoire, and some may even come to be regarded as historically accurate.”


– Bernard D. Sherman, “Authenticity in musical performance,” The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Michael J. Kelly, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998.

We juxtapose content of historical music and the context of its performance (both original and modern) with an example we particularly enjoy, “Quoy? faut-il donc qu’Amour vainqueur” by the première songwriter of early 17th-century France, Pierre Guédron.

Pierre Guédron (c. 1565 – 1620) was a close contemporary of the famous composer of English ayres, John Dowland, and, like every prominent musician born in the 16th century, Guédron began his early career as a singer. Employed in the chapel of the Cardinal of Lorraine, later transferred to the chapelle royale, and finally in 1604 promoted to the position of maître en la musique de la chambre de sa majesté, Guédron is best known as a primary exponent of secular airs de cour, mainly songs extracted from lavishly staged entertainments called ballets de cour.

Guédron’s airs received wide distribution even before they were published in the popular series of airs de cour for voice and lute (presumably) arranged and anthologized by Gabriel Bataille and printed by Pierre & Robert (II) Ballard, familial successors to cousins Le Roy & Ballard, who founded the long-lived publishing house.  A few of Guédron’s airs appeared arranged for voice and lute in the large anthology Thesaurus Harmonicus by Jean-Baptiste Besard, 1603, and a handful were included in Robert Dowland’s 1610 Musicall Banquet

“Quoy? faut-il donc qu’Amour vainqueur”, pictured at the top of this page, is an air composed on an attractive chaconne, or a repeating harmonic progression. A little background on the form:

“Most chaconnes are in triple metre, with occasional exceptions. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with Passacaglia. Many composers drew a distinction between the chaconne and the passacaglia, the nature of which depended on local tradition and to some extent on individual preference. The only common denominator among the chaconnes and passacaglias is that they are built up of an arbitrary number of comparatively brief units, usually of two, four, eight, or 16 bars, each terminating with a cadence that leads without a break into the next unit.”

“The chaconne appears to have originated in Spanish popular culture during the last years of the 16th century, most likely in the New World. No examples are extant from this period, but references by Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo, and other writers indicate that the chacona was a dance-song associated with servants, slaves, and Amerindians.”

“The playful, volatile Italian chaconne became in France a more controlled, stately dance, suggestive of pomp and circumstance; whereas the Italian pieces often proceed capriciously, in the vein of a spontaneous improvisation, the French ones exhibit a well-planned, orderly structure. The repetition of units, often with alternating half and full cadences, and the recurrence of earlier units, sometimes with variations superimposed, became important structural techniques.”

– Alexander Silbiger, “Chaconne,” Grove Music Online.

Guédron’s original setting of the air was likely composed for four voices in an accessible homophonic style. The song text describes an amorous journey through various stages of anxiety and bliss associated with nascent love, with Cupid personified as tour guide. The song—in triple time despite the time signature of the unbarred music in the original print— was probably extracted from a staged ballet de cour, and the underpinning of the chaconne signals that there was quite likely a choreographed dance in the original performance. The voice-lute version of “Quoy? faut-il donc qu’Amour vainqueur” printed in Bataille’s 1615 book has the voice pitched rather high but displays very comfortable fingering for the lute.  As was usual for the times, the voice was most assuredly transposed (probably down) to fit the pitch of the lute, with a parenthetical cue note supplied at the beginning of the lute part to facilitate this commonly accepted procedure. 

Since we recognize the 1615 printed version as an arrangement of Guédron’s vocal original, we took matters in hand and transposed the lute part to a pitch that features the voice in its most communicative range.  The repeating chaconne accompaniment happily responds to this transposition, which is nothing more than common-sense musicianship that we are quite certain was the norm when the music was new—a fact that is reinforced by surviving historical transpositions of similar repertory.

Given that communicating the text convincingly and appealingly was (and is) the primary purpose of any given song, we honor both content and the context of “Quoy? faut-il donc qu’Amour vainqueur” and we share this piece as an example to others who may wish to discover the rich content of this historical medium—and hopefully approach the music in a manner that observes the contextual practices of then and now. Our recording of “Quoy? faut-il donc qu’Amour vainqueur” will appear on Mignarda’s new album to be released in September 2021.

Saturday morning quotes 8.19: Doulce mémoire

Our quotes today are from Frank Dobbins, “‘Doulce Mémoire’: a Study of the Parody Chanson,” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 96 (1969-1970), 85-101.

“The chanson ‘Doulce mémoire’ was probably first published at Lyons, in Jacques Moderne’s first book of Le Parangon des Chansons-there are two different editions, both undated but probably appearing late in 1537 or early in 1538. The piece was reprinted (with a few minor variants) at Paris in Attaingnant’s XXVII Chansons, the first edition of which could not have been issued before 21 April 1538. It was one of the first compositions by Pierre Regnault, alias ‘Sandrin’, who was one of the most successful of Claudin de Sermisy’s younger colleagues in the royal service…”

“The poem is a decasyllabic huitain with the three-rhyme scheme a b a b b c b c (with alternating masculine and feminine line endings) common to many of the eight-line epigrams of the time…”

The poem as it appears in our source, Antoine Gardane’s musical setting à deux, is as follows:

Doulce mémoire en plaisir consommée,
O siècle heureulx que cause tel scavoir,
La fermeté de nous deux tant aymée,
Qui à nos maulx a sceut si bien pourvoir
Or maintenant a perdu son pouvoir,
Rompant le but de ma seul’ espérance
Servant d’exemple à tous piteux à veoir
Fini le bien, le mal soudain commence.

Fini le bien, le mal soudain commence.
Tes moins en sont nos malheurs qu’on peut veoir
Car tout le bien trouvé par l’esperance
Le mal nous l’a remis en son pouvoir.
Otant d’ennuy qui as voulou pourvoir.
De varier la fermeté aymée,
Il auroit bien qui sçauroit son sçavoir
Doulce mémoire en plaisir consommée.

The poetry is attributed to “Le Roy,” most likely François I (1494-1547), and may have been written during his imprisonment in Italy following the 1525 battle of Pavia (the inspiration for many instrumental settings that strive to create random battle noises, a variation form popular throughout the 16th century). Music for the résponce, “Fini le bien” is attributed to Pierre Certon (c. 1510 – 1572), and while the music diverges in melodic detail from the original by Sandrin, the text itself is, at least in spirit, a repetition of the first verse beginning with the last line working backward.

The two-voice version performed by Mignarda was adapted for two voices from Sandrin’s four-part original by French musician Antoine Gardane and published in 1555 by Le Roy & Ballard in Chansons à deux, a veritable goldmine of the sort of music sung around our house for our own entertainment. We recorded the version presumably arranged by Gardane, and it appears on our 2009 recording Au pres de vous performed with solo voice on the cantus and lute on the tenor line. Our new recording features Doulce mémoire complete with its résponce sung in two voices a cappella.

You might well ask: what relevance does a song first published in 1537 have in a program of proto-baroque airs de cour? The lasting popularity of Doulce Mémoire is demonstrated by the appearance of an instrumental arrangement of the piece found nearly a century after its earliest mention, in an English manuscript collection of music for viols written in the hand of William Lawes (1602 – 1645).

Doulce Mémoire is the title track of our upcoming September 2021 recording that offers a sampling of early airs de cour by Adrian Le Roy and moves forward, in time and in style, to music of a few decades later—to what is essentially music of the early baroque. The recording is aptly named to celebrate the sweet memories of 18 years as a duo dedicated to music for voice and lute, and we look forward to sharing the results of our work.

Saturday morning quotes 8.18: Airs de cour II

Mignarda’s prolegomenous CD release featured a collection of French airs de cour and we have over the years often revisited and expanded upon our catalogue of this wonderful repertory. When the term air de cour is mentioned, those familiar with historical music for voice and lute instantly think of the series of publications that appeared between 1608 and 1632 which included 15 volumes of Airs de différents autheurs avec la tablature de luth, popular airs extracted from courtly entertainments and arranged for solo voice accompanied by the lute. But the term first appeared much earlier in a publication by Adrian Le Roy, Airs de cour miz sur le luth, published in 1571.

Le Roy (c.1520 – 1598), the rather cunning fellow pictured above, was well-connected at court and had familiar conference among preeminent poets including Ronsard and celebrious composers including Lassus. He used his connections to procure a royal patent to publish music beginning in 1551, in partnership with his cousin Robert Ballard (c.1527 – 1588), producing an enormous output of high quality music editions over the span of nearly fifty years. Le Roy was in a position to have an unusually influential role in promoting music and determining popular taste:

“Le Roy’s 1574 letter to Lassus describes a musical session when the printer had music by Lasso performed for Charles IX, who was so delighted with the piece that he instructed Le Roy to print it.”

Jeanice Brooks, Courtly Song in Late Sixteenth-Century France, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000, p. 28.

Le Roy’s delightful music for solo lute demonstrates the direct influence of the famous Albert de Rippe (c. 1500 – 1551), displaying much rhythmic vitality and ample use of arpeggiation technique applied in a manner that implies a polyphonic interpretation. This style was later called style brisé, a term concocted by 20th-century musicologists to describe broken chordal technique, but the style was based upon a subtle interpretive technique that highlights and accentuates the strands of polyphony in a way particular to the character and resources of the lute. A word about use of the term style brisé:

“Although the word brisé was used in the seventeenth century to distinguish a type of ornament, the term style brisé was apparently coined in the twentieth century. After an exhaustive search through dictionaries, lexicons, theoretical treatises, practical sources, and contemporary accounts, I am unable to find a single example of the term style brisé used in any previous century.”

From the evidence given one may conclude that the terms style brisé and style luthé are modern ones and have little to do with the terms brisé and luthé as they were used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

David J. Buch, “Style brisé, Style luthé,” and the “Choses luthées”, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1, 1985, pp. 52, 66

In addition to his prodigious output of music for voices and for solo lute, Le Roy printed his Breve et facile instruction pour apprendre la tablature, conduire et disposer la main sur le luth (1567), a method that combined repertories by describing how to set vocal polyphony to be played on the lute. Along with the work of Vincenzo Galilei, this detailed description provides an historical example which we have put to good use in making many arrangements of historical vocal polyphony for solo voice and lute. Le Roy also left for posterity a treatise, Traicté de musique (1583), with chapters on the essential rules of counterpoint, consonance, dissonance, syncopation, cadences and modes.



The treatise demonstrates Le Roy’s mastery of musical composition, and his groundbreaking book of Airs de cour miz sur le luth displays this skill in his arrangement for solo voice and lute of airs found in Chansons de Pierre de Ronsard, Philippe Desportes, et autres, mises en musique par Nicolas de la Grotte, published by Le Roy & Ballard in 1569, two years earlier than Le Roy’s book of intabulations. For his intabulations of polyphonic chansons, Le Roy frequently took the tenor part of the original and transposed it up to replace the superius, which was incorporated with the remaining parts into the lute accompaniment. But for our example of La Grotte’s setting of a poem by Ronsard, Le Roy retained the original superius as shown below.

As can be seen in Le Roy’s adaptation of the chanson, the time signature was clarified to represent the music as triple-time throughout, with only the refrain at the close in tempus imperfectum diminutum. Although LeRoy published both depicted versions, it is interesting to note that he used the rather modern alternative to the (black) coloration typically used in notation of polyphonic music at the time when making his arrangement for solo voice and lute.



Le Roy’s important role in establishing what was to become an immensely popular musical form is little understood today, and most modern performers of historical music are content to explore the later series of airs published by the descendants of Le Roy and Ballard. We are pleased to announce the upcoming release of a new recording of airs de cour probing the earlier examples of the repertory of Le Roy as well as later airs by Boësset, Guédron, and Moulinié. This post offers just a glimpse of our research process into the music and its context: Stay tuned, and the results will hopefully be available for your listening pleasure in September 2021.

Saturday morning quotes 8.17: Future is now

Arthur C. Clarke predicted the technology-obsessed present, including the internet, in 1964. But Clarke, like many other old-time futurists, optimistically believed that technology might possibly make the world a better place, and the ubiquitous use of computers could offer greater leisure time to one and all. To those who have been paying attention, it turns out that the futurists’ idealized dream did not transpire. Technology has successfully made the simplest of human interactions complicated and effectively turned each and every human being into a set of data points ripe for manipulation and monetization. But among the more insidious effects of modern technology is the slow seepage of traditional wisdom into the abyss, never to be revived. The tradition of wisdom passed down from sage to neophyte has been supplanted by instructional videos made by would-be viral video stars, a phenomenon that results in 1) the spread of a great deal of faulty or incomplete information, 2) the misconception that information easily translates as skill, and 3) promotion of the idea that professionals are no longer necessary and anyone can become an expert merely by watching videos.

Ease of access to information has led to the phenomenon of the Everyman Expert whose creed is no more waiting to learn by trial and error or develop and refine skills through guided repetition. Now, anyone who needs a [insert profession] goes to Googlytube to learn the ins and outs of every aspect of [insert profession] before getting into a muddle and eventually and reluctantly hiring an actual professional. At that point the Everyman Expert positions him- or herself to watch over the professional’s shoulder, peppering them with laughably rudimentary questions or offering unsolicited, ill-informed, and sometimes dangerously misguided advice at every step of the job.

Peering into the world of early music reveals a microcosm of similar trends. Early music was once the province of the scholar/performer who, proceeding happily unchallenged, convinced the listening audience of the truth in his or her approach and set about teaching the same to eager and willing students. We now have a proliferation of generically-trained musicians whose research has been limited to the plentiful examples of late 20th-century performers and scholars, many of whom simply invented their characteristic but historically indefensible modern approach to interpretation and, through well-funded PR campaigns, proclaimed and sold that approach with supreme confidence.

The lute occupies a narrow and dusty cobwebbed corner in the realm of early music, and historical lute tablatures are now readily accessible via online facsimiles available through academic libraries. There are several industrious souls who have made it their life’s work to copy those tablatures into modern fonts and make them available to the 2000-odd lute players scattered across the globe. While the process of copying tablatures from facsimiles of original sources is time-consuming, it is not an overwhelming challenge. But correcting the many mistakes found in historical printed and manuscript sources is the sort of detail work that demands thorough understanding of music from the original period. It is important to understand that tablatures meant something completely different to denizens of the 16th and 17th centuries than it does to amateur guitarists today. Musicians of the period were not just locating finger positions on the staff, they absolutely considered the tablature characters to represent musical notes. They universally understood that a tablature score was a reservoir of polyphonic music condensed onto a single staff, and they understood how to identify and bring to life those polyphonic lines while following the universal rules of composition and counterpoint. Realizing lute tablature as sound demanded more skill, not less, and that same understanding is required when editing historical tablatures today.

We should celebrate increased access to information but, as demonstrated in recent memory, we must question the accuracy and validity of information at every step. Of course, questioning validity leads to biased fact-checking, which further complicates matters by pitting organizations or individuals against one another in a quest to promote deliberately skewed “facts” that support an ideology or a profit motive. In other words, we’re screwed.

Probably the best solution is to unplug and return to the original model of learning, storing, retrieving and teaching information, for no other reason than it is but a moment’s task for tech giants to erase and/or rewrite history. Besides, they have already accomplished rewiring our brains and training the public to trust the search results the tech giants choose to display. But let’s consider for a moment Link Rot and the durability of information on the internet.

“A 2013 study in BMC Bioinformatics looked at the lifespan of links in the scientific literature — a place where link persistence is crucial to public knowledge. The scholars, Jason Hennessey and Steven Xijin Ge of South Dakota State University, analyzed nearly 15,000 links in abstracts from Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science citation index. They found that the median lifespan of Web pages was 9.3 years, and just 62% were archived. Even the websites of major corporations that should know better — including Adobe, IBM, and Intel — can be littered with broken links.”

“A 2014 Harvard Law School study looks at the legal implications of Internet link decay, and finds reasons for alarm. The authors, Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert and Lawrence Lessig, determined that approximately 50% of the URLs in U.S. Supreme Court opinions no longer link to the original information. They also found that in a selection of legal journals published between 1999 and 2011, more than 70% of the links no longer functioned as intended.”

Moreover, we have learned that uses of technology will mostly weaken core aspects of democracy and democratic representation, and we are plunging headlong toward a new feudalism. Hope y’all enjoy the ride.

Saturday morning quotes 8.16: So what?

One of the many paradoxes of modern life is that we must look to the past for examples of culture and to find a measure of quality that simply is not in evidence today. Current cultural examples share many characteristics with the wretched disposable plastic objects that litter our streets, clog our oceans and disrupt our lives, whether they be plastic bags, cracked automobile bodywork, or outdated smart phones—objects that have no lasting appeal simply because they have no enduring value. Just a few short decades ago, our understanding of history was through discovering and reading books, digesting information through the tactile experience of turning pages, organizing that digested information in our own minds as knowledge, testing our knowledge against real world experience, and eventually forming what once upon a time was universally valued as wisdom.

At present, most people access knowledge of the past in a form entirely filtered through modern technological means. Because of commercial considerations to do with search engine optimization, the less than ideal experience of the failings and foibles of technology has become a determinant factor in the quality of information, and a source such as Wikipedia acts as an algorithm-skewed conduit of history that we must accept is constantly revised by control freaks or the CIA. Think search engines or music playback devices that turn recorded or printed music into a select if soulless set of ones and zeros that can be retrieved on demand. Today, very few musicians visit libraries and fewer still have had the tactile experience of hand-copying old music, the only truly effective way to recreate historical performance practice in a manner that puts us in the shoes of our forebears. It is no wonder that shallow virtuosity in performance is valued today much more than depth of interpretation. We dwell in an age that is ruled by the lowest common denominator.

How do we rectify the rapidly declining interest in meaningful music of the past? We must encourage engagement with and involvement in historical music in terms that make sense to young people. That means honest and direct engagement because, despite the best efforts of willful PR specialists and gate-keeping public arts funding agencies, young people do not want your dumbed-down greatest hits presentations that only trivialize our rich cultural past. They know a scam when they see one because they’ve seen it all and more on Youtube. Young people of the 21st century possess a large and intricate set of life skills, they just have no structural framework of meaningful historical value to provide cultural context and act as a testing ground necessary to convert information to knowledge to wisdom.

That said, we must avoid steering new audiences toward a black-and-white or right-and-wrong concept of historical interpretation. To put it simplistically, we must avoid foisting “cancel-culture” judgements on the inexperienced innocents who may very well like what you don’t. Far too many people of a certain age who have acquired a passing acquaintance with music of the past love to describe to others just what is a correct interpretation of that music. Back off and let them discover what they like without imposing your outdated ideas of taste. And relax about the rigid high-brow Victorian Night at the Opera rules of conduct: Young people don’t understand or care about the unhistorical modern convention of no applause between movements, and they just won’t sit quietly for an entire concert with trousered phones. There are modern tales of young people attempting to attend the symphony only to be dramatically shushed for displays of normal behavior, an act that really is all about entitled persons exerting power.

“Perhaps it’s because of trying to keep classical music audiences living in the dark, in perpetual fear that they might not understand the secret and elite codes of long-term insiders, brainwashing core subscribers into an irrational hatred of anyone who dares to disrupt their peace-and-quiet even if accidentally, regimenting the experience with a coerced and inculcated rigidity that would be abhorrent to any composer worth his or her salt: This is how we have made classical music so awful.”

– Richard Dare, “The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained

Of one thing we can be certain: early music as we know it will not survive. Just as well, since early music has become just another modern exercise in commercialization and slick PR. Young people can’t afford the ticket prices, let alone the instruments. But if we play our cards shrewdly, it is possible that an appreciation for music of the past will be rediscovered in the future—on someone else’s terms—and that appreciation may possibly be as rich for them as it was for us.

“‘Call me Early, mother dear, for I’m to be authentic today’: not really. Put a viol or a gut-strung Baroque violin in a modern player’s hands and you may still leave the human frailties of incompetence, dullness and insensitivity as a barrier to a true interpretative re-creation. But for the best artist, the historic instrument may be the best tool. Sheer experience, sheer work – not solitary, but in communion with listeners and other performers – evolves the style: it did evolve the style.”

– Arthur Jacobs, “Early Music and the Critic,” The Musical Times, Jul., 1982, Vol. 123, No. 1673, Early Music Issue (Jul., 1982), p. 466