A quote for Sunday morning
Since we veered a bit off course from our usual Saturday quote, we offer another quote for today.
Miranda. How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!
Prospero. ‘Tis new to thee.
– Shakespeare, The Tempest (Act V, Scene i)
The world is constantly changing and pragmatic adaptation is absolutely essential if one desires to remain relevant. This is a primary reason for our blog: to share with the world the ideas that have informed us as people and, by extension, as musicians. But our participation in this brave new world does not mean we reject the old standards of honor, decency and acknowledgement.
Performing early music today requires much more than just finding a score in the library, twiddling about to interpret the meaning of the notes, and staging a concert. We have benefited enormously from the hard work and discoveries of those who have come before us. Interpretations of old lute music for instance have come full circle from the brilliant virtuoso technique of trailblazer Julian Bream, which must seem flamboyant when compared to the careful, detached playing of some of today’s lutenists. This latter academic approach is what Bruce Haynes refers to as the ‘straight’ style. But the recorded examples we have heard at least spark us to dig into the music and search for a different way, honoring the source of our inspiration but adding our own touch.
Our goal is to imbue our interpretations with a certain amount of personality – not because we don’t know any better but because we know through our research of the sources that expressing emotion through music was a vitally important aspect of performance. Our goal is to spend enough time with each and every piece so that text, phrasing, rhythmic accents, and musical quotations are as clear to us as they would have been to the musician who wrote the piece. There are other performers and ensembles at work today with a similar approach, and we’ll mention the Rose Ensemble by name. Seldom have we seen and heard performers bring the music alive with such committed performances and we heartily applaud and recommend their work.
There is an expectation today that successful performers of early music will somehow grab your attention, either by demonstrating that they are dazzlingly fresh, edgy and new, or by elbowing their way to the front of the line because of their connections. The really successful ones use some combination of both. But as we look about at the promotional material of some new ensembles, we are less than impressed by the lack of specialization. You cannot convincingly embody the voice and aesthetic of a 16th century English lute song if you just sang a Wagner opera and you are preparing for a recital of Broadway show tunes. Wrong. Sorry, it can’t be done.
Getting back to our quote from The Tempest, it is indeed a brave new world with such people in it. No wonder the public expresses anger toward bankers who operate with such an attitude of entitlement to the wealth they gain through questionable means. We have new entrepreneurs like the smarmy Facebook and Spotify kids, who can’t help but sneer at their public as they scam them and then fence the goods (music, personal information) they’ve stolen. Indeed the example they set implies that it is OK, to take whatever is found on the web, lay claim to it and not bother to credit the source. Not only have we seen our editions and recorded music pirated and sold without compensation, but we have even seen examples taken from our series of quotes, with our own titles, translations, emendations, and customized graphics, absconded without credit or linkback.
Prospero’s reply to Miranda says it all. We’ve seen this before and it used to be called dishonesty.