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Saturday morning quotes 4.26: Musical hero

November 8, 2014

Our weekly posts are offered in the spirit of sharing our admittedly skewed perspective and commentary on the precarious state of our precious cultural heritage. To that end, we share quotations and worthy examples of wise words gleaned from writers of the past and the present—instructive ideas indicating how we as intelligent and aware artists might retain our humanity and avoid a hellish descent into the Digital Dark Ages.

Ours is the age of electronic noise—the byproduct of the flashing and buzzing transmission of clockwork music and phony imagery for the purpose of selling insubstantial fluff while collecting metadata. The lute and its music offer an alternative and a metaphorical portal through which we may view the rich tapestry of our shared cultural legacy.  The committed concentration required to play the lute well does not fit the modern lifestyle.  The instrument is quiet, unwieldy and highly reactive to whims of the weather, the technique is nothing less than uncompromising, adjusting the tuning is a constant endeavor, and the music is never less than demanding.

The resulting music, when thoroughly understood and well-played, is simply elevating and a shining example of what may be realized through hard work, persistence, inspired artistry and attention to the finer details.  Thinking, feeling humans need to hear this reminder of what was and is possible, and artists who commit their lives to sharing the music are no less than modern-day heroes.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We quote from one of our modern-day heroes, Jordi Savall, pioneering early music specialist and master of the lute’s bowed relative, the viola da gamba.  Savall recently refused to accept the Spanish Premio Nacional de Música 2014, sacrificing a monetary award of 30.000 Euros in order to draw attention to the Spanish government’s woeful neglect of promoting cultural heritage and lack of investment in cultivating the arts among Spanish youth. Below find an English translation of notable excerpts of his statement:

“We are living through a very serious political, economic and cultural crisis, a consequence of which is that one fourth of Spanish citizens find themselves in a precarious financial situation and more than half of our young people don’t have any possibility of finding a job that would ensure them a minimally dignified life. Culture, art, and especially music, are the basis of an education which allows us to find ourselves personally and at the same time, be present as a cultural entity in an increasingly globalized world.

“I am absolutely convinced that art is useful to society and that it contributes to the education of the young, and to elevating and strengthening the human dimension and spirit of human beings. But how many Spaniards have been able, some time in their lives, to listen live to the sublime musicians Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, or Tomás Luis de Victoria? Maybe a few thousand privileged people have been able to attend a concert as part of the very few festivals that put on this kind of music. But the vast majority will never be able to benefit from the fabulous spiritual energy that is transmitted by the divine beauty of these musicians.”

“…Music lives only when a singer sings it or when a musician plays it; musicians are the actual living museums of musical art…That is why it’s so necessary to give these musicians a minimum of stable institutional support, because without them, our musical heritage will continue sleeping the sad slumber of ignorance and ignominy.”

“I believe, as Dostoevsky said, that beauty will save the world, but for that to happen, one must live with dignity and have access to Education and Culture.”

Prior to his publication of these words, we held Jordi Savall in the highest esteem for his musical artistry, his innovative interpretations, and his many years of dedication to the aesthetics of historical music.  With his public stand on these important issues, we now consider Jordi Savall a hero as well.

  1. Sue E. Generis permalink

    Seems to me that Savall could have used the money to set up a scholarship.

  2. Sui generis indeed. Our preference is that common taters use their real names.

    Jordi Savall could have quietly accepted the money and, as you suggest, endow a scholarship. But such an action would have blown the opportunity to hold the leadership responsible for their misdeeds. In point of fact, the act of courage lies in the public humiliation of the government, and Savall’s action is much more likely to achieve results.


  3. Bruno permalink

    Yes I think Jordi did the right thing. Refusing the money attracted more attention to the musician’s cause than if he had donated it to an institution.

    • Thank you, Bruno. We agree wholeheartedly.

      Sadly, our culture’s current dependence upon social media both for information and communicating interactively on important issues does nothing meaningful towards positive change. Clicking a “Like” button is not the same thing as looking a politician in the eye and telling them that his or her policies and actions are cowardly, dishonest and completely deplorable. Public humiliation is the only effective way to hold politicians responsible for their actions – or for their inaction. Jordi Savall understands this fact and we applaud him for his courage.


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