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Saturday morning quote #10

July 23, 2011

Our Saturday quote is attributed to one of our favorite poets, Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) and is excerpted from the dedication found in his Livre des mélanges, 1560.  The collection was dedicated to the 16 year-old François II, husband of Mary Queen of Scots.  François died that same year, leaving the likewise very young Mary an unfortunate widow, necessitating her return to Scotland.

The quote establishes a theme, later touched upon by Shakespeare, that the person who appreciates music is truly fair and balanced.

For he, Sire, that hearing the sweet accord of instruments or the sweetness of the natural voice feels no joy and no agitation and is not thrilled from head to foot, as being delightfully rapt and somehow carried out of himself – ’tis the sign of one whose soul is tortuous, vicious, and depraved, and of whom one should beware as not fortunately born.  For how could one be in accord with a man who by nature hates accord?   He is unworthy to behold the sweet light of the sun who does not honor music as being a small part of that which, as Plato says, so harmoniously animates the whole great universe.  Contrariwise, he who does honor and reverence to music is commonly a man of worth, sound of soul, by nature loving things lofty, philosophy, the conduct of affairs of State, the tasks of war, and in brief, in all honorable offices he ever shows the sparks of his virtue.

And, with that thought, we refer you to our prior quote on our crisis in leadership, and to one of our favorite Ronsard settings.

  1. Steve permalink

    In Oklahoma they say, “Don’t trust a skinny chef,” and though I cook and am thin, I can see their point. Today we view discord as a natural part of ‘universal harmony’ (thinking now of Ives and the revivalists, Cage, etc.), but back then the need to bring things into accord with nature was paramount.

  2. Thanks for your insightful comment, Steve. We frequently seek out opportunities to perform for audiences who are new to early music, and we have grown to enjoy the process of seeing people settle into the aesthetic of our particular brand. Tuning into quiet and nuanced music is one thing but, as you point out, the use of dissonance in old is music is also much more natural (normally well-prepared) and subtle. Today, it seems we are constantly subjected to loud, flashy and dissonant sounds and images – it’s nice to be able to offer an alternative.

  3. Dan Winheld permalink

    A perfect follow up to the “crisis in leadership” post. Really puts the currant crop of ruling fools into under a merciless spotlight, for they are now in the position of having to “face the music” – but are utterly lacking in any training and basic sensitivity for the task; and they have no concept of “accord”. “Tortuous, vicious, and depraved” indeed.

    Dissonance is a tricky business. Done very skillfully it can be a powerful tool to express rage, grief, and heart-felt negativity. (“Primavera Portena”, Astor Piazzolla, is a superb example- I play it for fun & therapy, not sure it’s suitable for public performance on the lute.)

    Nihilistic noise for its own sake is another matter altogether, nothing to do with musical dissonance of any degree; which has to at least be implied with unstable harmonies at times to spur forward movement in piece of music. It all has to do with tension and release- the inevitable movement of life in the temporal dimension. Boring stasis, a frozen deadness, is as unavoidable in mere cacophonous noise made by idiots as it is in bland harmonies that go nowhere, when composed by untalented pedants who also have nothing to say. Both waste time, and the noise is unhealthy.

    I have noticed that “early music”- especially viol consort cds- sell especially well at the CD music store I work in for my day job- in a large room where the usual store music is Salsa, Country, Jazz, World, and all the rest. People are always surprised and pleased to discover that such music exists- the cd rarely gets past the first track before it is eagerly bought.

  4. Dan Winheld permalink

    Ah, for the piquantly sweet (to us) “Hellish, hellish, jarring sounds…” -that constituted dissonance in Dowland’s time…..

  5. Thanks, Dan. Yes, I have to admit that my mind is so attuned to old music that Dowland’s use of dissonance still seems very expressive and still holds my interest.

    We just played a concert that ended with a pair of intabulations for solo voice and lute of madrigals by Luca Marenzio, and the audience really seemed to ‘get’ and enjoy Marenzio’s dramatic harmonic language and heavily garlic-laden use of dissonance. This, of course, was in the context of what we played earlier by the posatore, Verdelot. Context is everything.


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