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Saturday morning quotes 8.34: Gatekeepers II

January 22, 2022

We have discussed the stark reality of gatekeepers in early music briefly in a previous post, but this issue has become even more pervasive as time marches on and audiences fade away. A limited audience for what amounts to a niche market in music could easily be cultivated with a coordinated effort on the part of collegial performers who share resources and maintain an optimistic outlook. But, sadly, the examples we have seen reflect the unpleasant sniping so commonly found in the academic world, with territorial types who maintain their relevance not by eye-catching innovation and useful research, but rather by manipulation and whisper campaigns.

Gate-keeping today has taken a very ugly turn in what has become known as “cancel-culture” an unfortunate phenomenon that routinely spreads rapidly via social media. “Canceling” individuals or organizations because of a perceived slight or misstep is the mark of group-think led by persons wielding a fundamentally underdeveloped intellect and patently immature socialization. Full stop. This is why one of us steadfastly refuses to participate on social media, and will never take part in a format that encourages individuals to be ruled by the lowest common denominator. It is sad indeed that in 2022 the internet has enabled a global society that is increasingly less kind and certainly less intelligent.

Returning to music, we have had an interesting dalliance with the music industry for many years now, and it is always enlightening to see how access to different genres of music can be regulated and by whom. Some ten years ago, we posted a series of essays on the book, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music, by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, and laid bare the role of music critic as gatekeeper:

“We wanted to influence the performers, the record-buying public and through them the record companies, and…we spared none of the instrument-based groups whose records came our way  The tone may be scornful or patronisingly sorrowful, lofty or irritated, but the message was unmistakable: buy Gothic Voices, the Taverner Consort, the Hilliard Ensemble, and leave the rest.”  (MIMM, p. 138)

Ideally, a music critic should not have an agenda. Since Leech-Wilkinson was a very active recording reviewer in the journal, Early Music, such overt bias should have been reason enough to send him packing. But we do not live in an ideal world. We dwell in a world that is skewed toward elite control of every aspect of life, and the fact that Leech-Wilkinson publicly crowed in his book about his past manipulative gatekeeping tactics demonstrates that there are no repercussions for bad behavior if you run with the right crowd.

As for the importance of music as a cultural commonality, we need only look to the not-so-distant past to see how music was regarded, regulated and employed to control society.

“Music affects the heart and emotions more than the intellect.  Where then could the heart of a nation beat stronger than in the huge masses, in which the heart of a nation has found its true home?”
– Joseph Goebbels

Recently, we had a particularly egregious example of the use of pop music to help shape the public perception on the anniversary of the gross stupidity that was the January 6th “insurrection”. Setting aside whether the music was good or bad, or the composer worthy or worthless, this was a blatant homage to Goebbels’ observation, and sadly yet another indication that we are being ruled by a cadre of out-of-touch persons who gladly indulge in hollow public gestures but can’t seem to get anything of importance done.

Nevertheless, we continue to successfully bring deeply moving historical music to our audience, despite the roadblocks and obstructions. We will comment that we noticed a review of our generally well-received album, Unquiet Thoughts, in the UK Lute News by an disengaged reviewer who apparently did not listen to the entire album (that sounded different to what he is accustomed), or he would have noticed that there were 3 lute solos. Here is the one he missed.

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  1. Steve Stubbs (not the famous one) permalink

    Regarding the Joseph Goebbels quote:

    Have you ever read: On Music In Three Books
    by: Aristides Quintilianus

    Translation , with Introduction, Commentary, and Annotations by Thomas J. Mathiesen

    ISBN 0-300-02893-8
    copyright 1983 by Yale University Press (New Haven and London)

    To the Ancient Greeks, music was a science, not an art as such.

    There were rules one could follow to have your music bring out specific emotions in the listener and encourage specific actions by the listener. In effect, bypass the brain and go straight to the specific emotion that you want to bring out in your listener.

    I don’t know if Goebbels ever read Quintilianus, but Goebbels certainly understood the principle involved. Perhaps Goebbels rediscovered what the Ancient Greeks knew.

    After reading On Music In Three Books (and it put me to sleep in very short order), I no longer questioned a culprit’s court defense when the culprit states, “The Music made me do it”.

    The Ancient Greeks would have agreed with that defense.


  2. Christopher S. Barker III permalink

    My lady said the we may have won militarily, but the Nazis won the prize for the best uniforms and songs! Cancel culture/wokeism/antifa/etc. is working on just that right now! Best to you, Chris

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