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Saturday morning quote #18: A Musick Room

September 17, 2011

Musick’s Monument (1676) by Thomas Mace is an ample source of information pertinent to English music and musical practice of the mid-17th century.  It is also an endless source of amusement, given Mace’s sometimes outrageous opinions, his inventive use of superlatives and completely unique and highly random take on the use of capitalization and punctuation.  The more or less full title of the book is worth quoting:

Musick’s monument; or, A remembrancer of the best practical musick, both divine, and civil, that has ever been known, to have been in the world. : Divided into three parts. The first part, shews a necessity of singing psalms well, in parachial churches, or not to sing at all; directing, how they may be well sung, certainly; by two several ways, or means; with an assurance of perpetual national-quire; and also shewing, how cathedral musick, may be much improved, and refined. The second part, Treats of the noble lute, (the best of instruments) now made easie; and all its occult-locked-up-secrets plainly laid open, never before discovered; … directing the most ample way, for the use of the Theorboe, from off the note, in confort, &c. … In the third part, the generous viol, in its rightest use, is treated upon; …

Moving right along, today’s quote concerns Mace’s advice as to what sort of space is most favorable for music to be heard to its best advantage.  This is an extremely vexing problem for lutenists of the 21st century, mostly because True Quiet is such an extremely rare commodity, as is a performing space that is not crammed with things that soak up sound, or electrical appliances which produce their own constant and competitive irritating hum.

The 1st Thing to be consider’d, as to the Advantage of Good Musick, should be a Convenient, and Fit Place to Perform It in; such I would call a Musick Room; and is considerable in 4 Fold Respect, 1st. in Respect of the Instruments, 2nd. the Musick, 3rd. the Actors, and 4th. the Auditors.

1st. The Instruments; be they never so Good, will not show half so good in an Improper, Stuffed, or Clogg’d-up Room, either with Household-stuff, or Company.
2nd. The Musick very oftentimes is much hindred, by Crowding and Noise.
3rdly. The Performers as often, are so interrupted and hindred, that thy cannot Act as They might.
4thly. The Auditors cannot receive such Ample Satisfaction, as otherwise they might do; besides ther uneasie, and unhandsom Accommodation, which too often happens to Persons of Quality, being sometimes Crowded up, Squeez’d and Sweated among people of Inferior Rank, &c, and cannot be avoided.

What do you suppose Mace would have to say about cell phones in the audience?  In the book, he actually presents detailed descriptive plans for an optimal music room but sums up the issue with these plain words:

Again; ’tis observable, That all Persons who pursue Musick, do endeavour to procure the Best Instruments that can be gotten.  Now let the Instruments be what they will, a Good Room will make Them seem Better, and a Bad Room, Worse, as I said before: Therefore It is of a Great Concern, to have a Room, which may at least, Advantage your Instruments, if no other Conveniency were gain’d thereby.

As we prepare to film a live concert, we have our fingers crossed that the performance will be held in a Good Room.

  1. Mace on cell phones –

    And yet we daily have Among us Persons of Quality clutching and grasping such small Devices that Glow, as it were, a Straunge and Witchcraft-like Iridescence of Light; and chirrup such a Noyse of Alarum as never the Like was Heard; in the Times past when Such Persons would Attend and heed the Sounds of The Best (and most Noble of Instruments); viz, the Lute; and yet Today they turn askance to the Players as they Employ their Thoombs in such Manner as to impart some Straunge and Worshipful Reverence as they Attend to their Devices; when all about their Eares is Heard the most Deviceful and Best Musick in the World. RA

  2. kaline permalink

    It is Uttermost Sad to hear what Whining, toting, yelling or Freecking there is heard in such modern & Ingenious Devices. I must confess: I own one too, but in mine there is played only Good Musicke.

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  1. Saturday morning quotes 3.21: More from Mace | Unquiet Thoughts

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