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Saturday morning quotes 5.51: Another year

May 7, 2016

Parable of the fig tree After five years of tending our figurative fig tree, we stop for a moment to spread a bit more fertilizer around its roots.  Is it worth the trouble to sacrifice a few hours of our Saturday mornings despite a busy schedule and other unforeseen impediments?  Have we made a difference with our weekly alternative insights into early music, its historical context, and its relevance in the current century?  And besides, do our many readers here in the US and across the globe really care a feather or a fig?

Putting these questions aside for a moment, we  can’t resist applying a touch of retrospective summation as we approach the conclusion of our fifth year of weekly Saturday morning quotations, touching on a few of our designated categories.

Musings about lute music

Throughout the past year, our series of quotations has somehow managed to maintain a thematic focus on the many aspects of music for solo voice and lute, which is really our bread and butter.  This is no mean feat since music for the lute is such an arcane field, and particularly since we seem to avoid discussing the topics that usually attract the interest of lutenists (selfies, strings, and free music).  But we continue to research and explore the lute’s historical repertory and its context, and we anticipate sharing a great deal more of interest in the coming year—more about that later.

While having been sidelined to a degree this year due to health issues we have not been idle, but we are at last returning to performing and touring.   We have also been called upon to perform music associated with Shakespeare and it seems that our Shakespeare’s Lutebook has generated a bit of interest among other lutenists in the US during this, the anniversary year of the author’s death.  We’ve also had the opportunity on several occasions to delve into some of our favorite repertory of 16th-century French, Italian and English airs, including more music by Dowland.  But we are very pleased to be returning this year to music of the late 15th century for our new ensemble of a cappella voices in addition to our tried and true format of solo voice and lute. We’ll keep you posted on some very interesting projects on the horizon.

In memoriam

“It is clear that when you write a story that takes place in the past you try to show what really happened in those times. But you are always moved by the suspicion that you are also showing something about our contemporary world.”

“Take a lot of WikiLeaks papers. I was very amused because I published the novel in Italy one year ago, exactly one month before the WikiLeaks affair blew up. Simonini is a forger, and understands that in order to tell secret information to a secret service you always have to tell what is already known. Otherwise they will not believe you. From what I have seen, all the WikiLeaks communications sent by the American embassies to Hillary Clinton were just saying exactly what was published in Newsweek the week before! So you see that there is a sometimes a slight difference between fiction and reality.”

– Umberto Eco, interviewed by Andrew Martin in The Paris Review, November 15, 2011.

Over the last twelvemonth we have experienced the loss of far too many friends, family members, colleagues and heroes.  Among the latter, Umberto Eco (1932 -2016) will be sorely missed in our household.  Nearly all of his writing is worthwhile but Eco’s The Prague Cemetery (2011) and Numero Zero (2015) represent shining examples of how the format of a novel can used to present a tangled mess of seemingly unrelated historical strands that are brilliantly and entertainingly woven together to reveal truths about the past and the present.  Some may mourn the loss of pop music icons; we mourn the loss of Umberto Eco, an intellectual giant.

On Politics

“Last night I thought about all that kerosene I’ve used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up. A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper. And I’d never even thought that thought before.”…”It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life and then I come along in two minutes and boom! it’s all over.”…”We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Our musically-inclined readers always seem to transmit vibes by return of telluric current; vibes that translate to an almost palpable curl of the lip whenever we mention politics.  To us, that just means we must be doing our job effectively because we believe all things are connected.  Although we are normally circumspect when it come to expressing our political points of view, these are times when it simply can’t be helped.

Donald Trump represents an unfortunate result of the badly skewed and wayward trajectory American politics has been tracing for several decades now since our last president who actually wanted to do some good.  History indicates that from the earliest beginnings of our experiment in self-governance, our leaders were the deepest thinkers and the best orators, although there have been periods where our leadership has not always been of the highest caliber.  But things took a very bad turn in the late 20th century.

Television made it possible for political candidates to create a false impression that was transmitted into the homes of the receptive masses.  But if television made the American consuming public dim-witted and isolationist, the advent of the internet amplified the problem to a degree of magnitude far beyond the threshold of absurdity.  If this is the Information Age in which any data and all imagery is available to anyone with a phone and by the merest swipe of a greasy fingertip, we have to ask, “Do you trust the information?”  If you trust the information, your reward is Donald Trump and the manifestation of Ray Bradbury’s nightmarish book-burning future.

On what used to be the more reasonable side of the aisle, we have a candidate who is an unrepentant warmonger with firm connections to the banking-military-industrial complex whose social policies are quite a bit further to the right of old-school conservatives like Ronald Reagan.  This person, we are told, is simply the frontrunner and we are wasting our time and energy to think otherwise.  We find this tone to be distinctly and inexcusably undemocratic.

Then there is Bernie Sanders, who has made an incredible dent in the established system merely on the strength of his message and the passion with which it is delivered.  Sanders’ message has suffered an inexcusable blackout on the part of the American press and, sadly, one of the worst offenders is not US press at all but rather The Guardian.  A once-respected source of news, the recently hired managing editor of The Guardian must have materialized in a puff of sulfurous smoke sent (collect on delivery) from the Mephistophelian school of objectivity.  The particular relentlessness of their negative reporting (meaning almost none) and their snarky attitude towards the Bernie Sanders campaign has forever tarnished the reputation of a once-trusted source of news.


Back on track, our sixth year of weekly posts may feature more elaborate monthly podcasts dedicated to selected topics in historical music.  This will give us the opportunity to delve more deeply into the subject matter and offer a bit more insight into our musical methods.  It will also be an opportunity to feature sound clips and present our growing library of unique scores of music for voices and lutes. If this endeavor is of interest to you, please let us know your thoughts.

  1. Erika permalink

    Those of us who are not American cannot understand how anyone would vote for Trump as a presidential candidate. The idea of that man having access to The Button is truly terrifying.

    So I think monthly podcasts on aspects of historical music will be an essential antidote..

  2. Your plans sound very promising and well-considered. And Erika is absolutely right. I’m eager to learn more about your selected topics and insights when the time has come. To put it in a nutshell, this is one of the few blogs really worth reading, thank you.

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