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Saturday morning quotes 7.32: 2020

January 4, 2020


Happy New Year, such as it is.  Four days into a new decade, we find ourselves observing a continent on fire and a surfeit of irrational behavior on the part of the unwholesome element that has insinuated itself into a leadership role while citizens were busy being distracted by their phones. It would be a truly difficult task to top the level of absurdity that dominated the airwaves throughout 2019, but we appear to have a good start just ninety-six hours into an entirely new decade.

While the general population remains glued to their plastic screens, at least we have the calming influence of historical music that serves as a welcome antidote to the mess we’re in.  We are optimistic.  Having just released volume one of the Mignarda Songbook: English Ayres, we are now nearing completion of a performing edition of the entire corpus of lute songs of John Dowland: an entirely new transcription directly from the facsimiles that also includes transcription of the lute parts into keyboard notation.  A particularly special feature is that we have used as a source for the First Booke, Dowland’s 1597 print which includes several more idiomatic variants from the more commonly used hybrid versions now in print.  Dowland’s First Booke went through a series of reprints after he sold his rights to the book in 1597 and therefore lost all control over later emendations, thus the 1597 print truly represents what Dowland had in mind for the accompaniments.

Bringing musicians and listeners closer to the historical context of our chosen music has been our mission from the very beginning of our duo, and we hope our Dowland edition will help achieve that goal.  As we like to remind our readers:

“The truth is we invented the early music vocal sound based on what we wanted it to be like, and on the voices of a small number of singers with particular talents. . . Even when singers began to look at pedagogical sources and so on, they (we) chose to ignore those bits that didn’t fit the model we had in our heads.

– Richard Wistreich and John Potter, “Singing early music: a conversation,” Early Music, Vol. XLI, No. 1, February 2013

This leads us to question in the larger context of the world just what it is we are observing, and question whether it is even real.

“…A basic element of quantum mechanics was that man created reality by observing it.  Before that observation, what truly existed was all possible situations.  Only through observation did nature become concrete, take a stance.  There was, inevitably, inherent indetermination, of which man was more the witness than the protagonist.  Or, to put a fine point on it, both things at once: victim as well as guilty party.”

– Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Painter of Battles, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

And looking back toward historical examples, perhaps we can calm the current tensions if we only heed the lessons of the past.

“…It was necessary for the people of Israel to be in captivity in Egypt to make evident the quality of Moses; for the Persians to be oppressed by the Medes to prove the great heart of Cyrus; and the anarchy of the Athenians to launch the leadership of Theseus; so today, if the excellence of the Italian genius is to be made manifest, it needed the degradation of Italy to the pass in which she is at present, that she should become more captive than the Jews, more helot than the Persians, more anarchic than the Athenians, leaderless and lawless, defeated, despoiled, mangled, overrun, and the victim of every kind of disaster.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe, 1513, Envoi.

As we observe the decline and fall of all the tangible remnants of our cultural past, we like to point out that Early Music is really nothing more than another marketing phenomenon.  There is an audience of people in possession of the means and the inclination to appreciate our cultural past, and there are musicians capable of interpreting old music to general satisfaction.  We strive for a unified approach that places greater importance on the enlightening and essential calming effect of historical music on a world gone mad.

One Comment
  1. World has always gone mad and music has (almost) always prevented madness from reigning supreme. Madness and music often go hand in hand – after all, music accompanies madness very well: he is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone.
    And sometimes it takes very little to go mad: tis women makes us love, tis love that makes us sad, tis sadness makes us drink, and drinking makes us mad.

    Someone claims that Auld lang syne was written by David Rizzio, the unfortunate italian musician, born in Turin, who became the private secretary of Mary Stuart and was stabbed to death by the queen’s husband – in La donna della domenica (The Sunday Woman), their first crime novel, set in Turin, Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini argue that a man from Turin is inevitably behind every disturbing event in the history…

    Anyway, I’m from Turin too: maybe I’m mad, but love Dowland’s music and look forward to your next CDs with real interest.

    Good job and happy new year!

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