Saturday morning quotes 4.3: Going dark
We live in disquieting times with the muses gone mute and new reasons for general alarm sounding daily. As the economy continues to tank and times grow tougher for everyone – at least in our clammy, cluttered corner of the world – it seems the result is that the population becomes more fractious and peevish, greedy and grasping, dyspeptic and disappointed. Everyone wants to know why his or her standard of living is slipping, and just who is responsible?
Interest in the early music scene fades as the music biz tanks along with the rest of the economy, and we find there are more performers dreaming up gimmicks for shows bearing the labels “New” and “Improved,” and expanding way beyond convincing competence as they calculate new angles that will corner new audiences. Our friends and colleagues tell us that where once there flowed a corporate fount of funds for the arts, there now only oozes muck from the malarial mire of vacant board rooms.
Meanwhile, it seems that fewer specialist performers are willing to make the significant but necessary sacrifices to learn about the depth and substance of early music, and fewer still offer up performances of the real thing without the added dog and pony show.
“In an ideal world one would take a work and ask, ‘What does this music require?’ Instead – and this is true of so much performance of pre-Baroque music – we start with a ready-made ensemble or choir and ask, ‘What will we sing or record next?’ When there is little room for flexibility, there is always the possibility for compromise. This cannot be the way forward.”
– John Milsom, “Byrd on record: an anniversary survey,” Early Music, vol. XXI, no.3, August, 1993, p. 448.
Our reaction as committed performers is to further divest ourselves from the trappings of our modern age by metaphorically “going dark.” Our gimmick is living with the literature and languishing with the lute, but from this moment forward even further off the grid. You can expect to see and hear the fruits of our labors this year as we continue our series of recordings. You can also expect to see our forthcoming book on the many joys and sorrows of performing historical music in this modern age.