Saturday morning quotes 4.28: Why music?
As we continue to be waylaid by the aftereffects of this year’s premature winter weather, we reflect on why we bother investing heart, soul and our few remaining cents in old music. One grows weary with the attempt to gain and maintain a foothold in performing early music, a field that has become as tawdry and commercial as any other aspect of life in these United States. Credentials and connections seem to take precedence over music-making in the world of early music, and it has simply become tiresome to those of us who care about aesthetics.
It has always been thus. According to Gioseffo Zarlino (1517 – 1590) author of the important treatise Le istitutioni harmoniche (1558), even his teacher, the famous Adriano Willaert (c.1490 – 1562), suffered insulting behavior when singers discovered he was the the composer of a piece that was mistakenly attributed to Josquin:
“I shall now relate what I have heard said many times about the most excellent Adrian Willaert, namely, that a motet for six voices, Verbum bonum et suave, sung under the name of Josquin in the Papal Chapel in Rome almost every feast of Our Lady, was considered one of the most beautiful compositions sung in those days. When Willaert came from Flanders to Rome at the time of Leo X and found himself at the place where this motet was being sung, he saw that it was ascribed to Josquin. When he said that it was his own, as it really was, so great was the malignity or (to put it more mildly) the ignorance of the singers, that they never wanted to sing it again.”
Having just recorded two pieces by Willaert, “O magnum mysterium” and the sublime “In tua patientia,” we can report that his compositions do indeed hold a candle to Josquin’s music. And as a roundabout answer to the question posed by the title to today’s post, we offer these words from another notable Hungarian-American, János Starker (1924 – 2013).
“[If] It is part of our lives in a way that we cannot wake up in the morning and go through life without music and without having this essential aspect of it, that music means just as much as eating and drinking or living then that person should not be involved in music.”
We hope to once again exhibit the usual joie de vivre and be back on track after the snow melts just a little.