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Saturday morning quotes 8.37: Old Ideas

March 12, 2022

As specialists in old music, we represent a dying breed: thinking persons who read books, absorb and discuss the contents, and attempt to apply old ideas to our music and our lives. In an age when a few ridiculously wealthy and absurdly influential over-privileged brats foist upon the public stolen ideas, rampant consumerism, and the principles of draconian population control, others cruelly tout themselves as harbingers of the future. We find that day by day we are distancing ourselves further from modern popular culture. We want nothing to do with the imposition of modern monetary schemes or dwelling in pretend cartoon worlds that are blatantly contrived to prevent otherwise intelligent persons from noticing that their wallet is being emptied while their basic human rights are eliminated.

Out of step with modern sensibilities, our aim is to learn from the past and preserve the cumulative good. We continue to read books that reveal how human existence has always been a puzzle, and that thinking persons will always question received ideas. When we see how modern modes of commercialism affect our choices and impinge upon our lives, we take conscious steps to insulate ourselves from the message of modern snake oil salesmen and carnival hucksters who attempt to pass off their manipulative wares as technological solutions to age-old problems.

In the realm of early music, we have taken pains to point out how what began as a genuine effort to preserve a slice of historical aesthetic beauty was eventually highly commercialized by individuals who stood to profit from their scheme. What we know about money laundering in the world of art most certainly permeated the niche market of early music—which has always been a subcategory of classical music—with self-appointed gatekeepers who selected certain individuals as “stars” to advance and created nonprofit organizations to shelter funds, while they took active steps to deny a platform to any performers who might appear to encroach upon their scheme. Fortunately, these individuals have cashed in and are retiring and retreating to their several palaces. Unfortunately, they have pulled their funding in support of early music, allowing the preservation of historical aesthetic beauty to wither and die: Blithe neglect is the true legacy of these gatekeepers.

But enough of that. We offer a few quotes that express old ideas drawn from an article by early music pioneer Michael Morrow (1929 – 1994), an article we have quoted in the remote past.

“With several happy exceptions, I have always found it difficult to work with singers. This is partly due to my ignorance of 20th-century vocal technique: articulation from the diaphragm rather than the throat, expression by means of the eyebrows instead of the voice. I find it hard to come to terms with the British baritone…; the gorgeous contralto-tenor turning his best profile to the audience; the soprano attacking a high note like a screech owl pursued out of a tunnel by an express train.”

– Michael Morrow, “Musical Performance and Authenticity,” Early Music, Vol. VI, No. 2, April 1978, p. 237.

“In order to form some idea of past vocal styles it seems to me valuable, if not essential, to familiarize oneself with the enormous variety of sounds that the human voice can produce, with the many highly sophisticated vocal techniques that are found in traditional musics throughout the world. It should be remembered that although a good voice may be the result of a fine technique, it can—and should—also have that indefinable quality to move the listener. And this quality need not necessarily spring from a flawless technique—indeed by its conviction it can often override technique altogether.”

– Michael Morrow, p. 241.

We leave you with an example of a performance that reflects the distillation of these timeless thoughts and ideas, J’ay prins amours a ma devise.

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